In Kristin Hoganson’s Piece Fighting for American Manhood she makes the case that “the key to the Cuban’s appeal can be found in the numerous press accounts that treated them and their cause sympathetically.” When Hoganson says that the Cubans were portrayed sympathetically she means that in all of these magazines and news articles the Cubans are depicted in a chivalrous light. This is important because at the time chivalrous romance novels were being read by just about every person in America; to Americans these chivalrous tales “represented the highest ideals of manhood and womanhood.” As women began to thirst for more political agency and power in America they tended to reject the chivalrous ideals that women were weak and in need of protection. One would think that in doing so they would have weakened the “chivalrous support” that was being presented by Americans to the Cubans. In fact quite the opposite happened, the people who wanted to display this kind of “chivalrous support” to women were being rejected in America, so they turned that support to the Cuban cause. All of the reasons for American support of Cuban liberation can be attributed to media and communications, particularly American portrayal of Cubans as in need of “chivalrous support” from America. The images that I have selected portray Cubans as in need of American assistance in popular forms of media during this era. My first selection is from the magazine Puck, it depicts Cuba as a pure and virtuous victim pleading for the help of the hero depicted as the United States.
This is one of the images that perfectly depicts the romantic and chivalrous nature with which Americans viewed the Spanish-Cuban conflict. Media like this magazine had a great deal of influence when it came to how Americans thought about Cuba, it even allowed people in America to look past the racial differences between them and the Cubans. Hoganson says that writers of the age took advantage of the stories of victimized Cuban women and morphed them into “accounts [that] portrayed the entire island as a pure woman who was being assaulted by Spain.” In printing this material, magazines like Puck did a lot to influence public opinion and sway it towards support for Cuba; by painting the Cubans as a damsel in distress they allowed the “chivalrous nature” of Americans to outshine their focus on race.
The second piece that I chose outlines how Americans thought of themselves and other nations as above the Cubans in the sense that they could fend for themselves as well as fight for others.
It depicts Uncle Sam and a British man carrying the Filipinos and the Cubans up a mountain towards civilization. Media at the time was constantly depicting Cubans and other peoples as weak and in need of help from more powerful nations. This again relates back to Hoganson’s thoughts about chivalry; she wrote that, “[t]he Cuban sympathizers who portrayed the Cuban struggle as a struggle over chivalry tapped into Americans’ anxieties about themselves.” Men in America at the time were feeling inadequate in terms of chivalry, they feared that a lack of manly character in government would result in the corruption of the nation’s political system. It was the media that invoked this feeling of chivalrous inadequacy and a need to express chivalrousness among Americans at the time. That chivalrousness, as Hoganson argues, was directed at Cuba for a multitude of reasons, the circulation of Pro-Cuban media being one of the upmost. Magazines and cartoons like the ones that I selected display the immense effect that the media of this era had, not only on the American people but on American foreign policy also.
- Kristin Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998), 44.
- Hoganson, American Manhood, 45.
- Hoganson, American Manhood, 48.
- Hoganson, American Manhood, 51.
- Hoganson, American Manhood, 54.