Independence Day is celebrated on October 10th each year to remember the beginning of Cuba’s struggle in 1868 to free itself from Spanish colonial power.
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Cuba’s fight for freedom has been long and arduous. For more than 30 years from 1868, the island fought Spain for its independence. By the end of 1897, the Spanish army had virtually been defeated by the Cuban Liberation Army. In January 1898, a rebellion in Havana led the United States to send its warship, the USS Maine, in order to protect the country’s interests in Cuba.
On 15 February, 1898, the USS Maine exploded, killing 260 of the 400 crew members. An inquiry found that the explosion was caused by a mine and, although the inquiry report did not specifically name them, Spain was thought to be responsible for the explosion.
The explosion led the United States to join Cuba in its fight for freedom. The Spanish-American War ended on December 12, 1898 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The United States was given Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines in the treaty. Cuba was to gain independence, but the island was not part of the negotiations for the treaty. In essence, the treaty also gave the United States control of Cuba.
Elections were held in 1900, but the restrictions placed by the United States on who could vote meant that less than ten percent of the Cuban citizens were eligible. Voter fraud was rampant and two of the three candidates for president dropped from the race. Only Tomas Estrada Palma remained as a candidate.
In 1901, the Platt Amendment was proposed, giving Cuba the choice to become a territory of the United States or remain under military occupation. The amendment also gave the United States the right to military intervention on Cuba’s behalf. It was the United States who declared Cuba independent on 20 May 1902, something many Cuban’s did not believe.