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1868-1878: Ten Years' War in Cuba

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Rebel leader Maximo Gomez

Since its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1493, Cuba was considered the "Pearl" of the Spanish Empire--not only for its beauty, but also its sugar plantations. However, by the middle of the nineteenth century, the powerful Spanish empire was in decline and Cuba had grown increasingly restless. In 1866, the Madrid government organized the Junta de Informacion to respond to the protesting voices of Cuban born nationalists. Although the Spanish government claimed that it would recognize the Junta's calls for equality and the emancipation of slaves, and equality in criminal codes for Cuba, the Spanish government instead responded by increasing taxes and banning all reformist meetings in Cuba.

The need for reform soon gave way to the need for revolution. Led by sugar planter Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the Cuban Revolution began in 1868. Cespedes proclaimed independence and formed the Republic of Cuba on October 10, 1868. By 1869, Cespedes had written a constitution that abolished slavery and annexed the country to the United States. Other revolutionary leaders who were active in the movement were Maximo Gomez and Antonio Maceo y Grajales. .

Though not officially recognized by the United States government and consciously ignored by President Grant, the Cuban Junta was active in the United States. Raising money around the country and Sugar Cane Farmersspreading pro-Cuban propaganda, the Junta provided moral and monetary support to the Cuban rebels.

The rebel movement's most serious problem was in its inability to organize around a single goal. Rebel leader Maximo Gomez was controversial in his calls to burn sugar plantations to destroy the Spanish economy. As Afro-Cuban rebel leader Antonio Maceo gained popularity among Cuban blacks, many Cuban white nationalists worried about the consequences of a racial rebellion and socio-economic revolution. By 1877, tensions among rebel leaders weakened the Cuban independence movement and the rebels had run out of material resources. In 1878, the rebel leaders and Spanish government signed the Pact of Zanjon which officially ended what became known as the Ten Years' War. Cuban Soldiers

Although the Ten Years' War failed, the events proved that the Cubans could organize against Spain. Beginning primarily as a poorly organized guerrilla war, the Ten Years' War eventually engaged over 12,000 fighters and bred several powerful leaders. Clearly, the tensions and energies of the Ten Years' War were not forgotten and laid the groundwork for future revolution.


Dyal, Donald H.. Historical Dictionary of the Spanish American War. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 1996.

O'Toole, G.J.A., The Spanish War: An American Epic-1898. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1984.

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