One picture that I choose to discuss was The Cuban Melodrama. In this picture we see The United States, poised as a strong and noble hero, protecting the innocent and “virgin” Cuba from the creepy and dark Spanish villain. As stated in class, propaganda is a constant feature of war. It is one thing to win a war, but the other part of it, is convincing people that you have won. I believe that this piece of propaganda taken from the Spanish-Cuban War is a representation of how powerful propaganda is. For one, America was not even involved in the war, and Hoganson states that Cuba believed that they should only offer moral support and perhaps some supplies. However, this conflict was seen as a chivalry reboot by American men. Michael Hunt and Amy Kaplan provide some insight on why Americans were so sympathetic to Cuba. Since chivalry was viewed as the highest ideals of manhood and womanhood (1) and was slowly dying out in the country, it gave America a sense of fulfillment and duty by caring for the helpless, Cuba, since this theme was so romanticized and popular at the time. Soon, women in Cuba were seen as heroines and the model of femininity, and the American males as knights protecting the fragile beings of society. In addition, it is stated that American men looked at Cuban men as adventurous and masculine, something that they felt had been taken away from them due to the US’ industrialized society. Although Americans had no problem denying rights to those of color within the United States, the country believed that it had a duty to protect and intervene during the Spanish-Cuban War. This can be related to “The Manifest Destiny” which was created in 1839, stating that white European men had the god given right to expand. Another reason why America sided with Cuba and wanted to assist them is that in 1890 the Frontier has been closed and conquered. Due to the fact that America could no longer expand, many of its civilians saw that helping and supporting Cuba put their energy elsewhere. In addition, many historians believed it was because Cubans wanted humanitarian rights and democratic government, and it was the United State’s duty to help them. However, it is confusing to me that the United States had their own issues at home, such as poverty and housing problems, yet still felt they had to add to the war in one way. Another aspect of this picture that I found interesting is that Cuba is depicted as a white female. As we know today, Afro-Cubans take up a majority of the Cuban population, so I cannot help but question if this was purposely done to convince Americas that Cubans were white. I can assume that many Americans did not know what Cubans looked like, this may be a way of stating that they were just like us or showcasing the effects that our help has had on the people of Cuba.
It is amazing to me that even over one hundred years ago, propaganda still existed and had great effects on society. Before taking this class, I had no background knowledge on Cuban and American relations except The Cuban Missile Crisis that happened during the 1960s. Comparing the relationships from the 1890s to just 70 years later showcases a completely different relationship because as I was growing up Cuba was always talked about as an enemy. Media and Communications can be seen all throughout history and helps us understand the themes that were popular during the time, and what caused different countries and people to perform certain actions.
- Fighting For American Manhood. Kristin L Hoganson