What happened on February 15, 1898

Several Spanish colonies began to seek independence in the 19th century. These included Cuba, but also Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. The people wanted to have a say in what was happening in their country and they wanted to free themselves from the high taxes paid to the motherland. At the same time, the US began to develop economic and political interests outside of its own country. They were looking for new markets. They offered support to the Spanish colonies.


As early as the 1850s, the US offered Spain to buy Cuba. Spain refused. In 1868 the first struggles for independence began, which led to a ten-year war. In 1895 there was another uprising. In 1898 the USA stepped in. They called for an immediate ceasefire and allowed a warship, the "USS Maine", to enter the port of Havana, Cuba.

However, the crew did not leave the ship so as not to irritate the Spaniards. But then on February 15, 1898, there was an explosion on the ship, in which 268 Americans were killed. The Americans believed it was a Spanish attack (which it probably wasn't). On April 19, the United States called for Spain to withdraw, whereupon Spain declared war on the United States.

The war

The fighting began not in Cuba but in the Philippines. Despite successes, the final victory was initially missing. American soldiers then landed in Cuba in June and in Puerto Rico in July. They were superior to the Spaniards everywhere. In the naval battle of Santiago de Cuba, the Americans defeated the Spanish fleet in a single day, July 3, 1898. The mainland had been taken before. Because of its strategic location, the Americans also occupied Hawaii.

Peace: Treaty of Paris 1898

The peace treaty was signed on December 10, 1898 (Treaty of Paris). Spain ceded Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the USA and received US $ 20 million in return. Cuba was formally independent, but initially remained occupied by the Americans and then also dependent on the United States. Until 1934 the USA had the right to intervene in Cuba (Platt Amendment).

Puerto Rico remained under American occupation. With the end of the war, the Philippines were also under American ownership. In the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), the USA was able to confirm its position and suppress the struggle for independence. Since 1898 the USA has been one of the world powers that have appeared imperialist. Puerto Rico and Guam are still outlying areas of the USA to this day. In Cuba, the US remained the naval base of Guantánamo Bay.