Option 5

In class the other day we looked a whole bunch of images that were printed in the US with regards to the fight for Cuban independence from Spain. Today we look at them and are disgusted in a way, that these images were even printed, but also used as a way to promote American intervention in the battle between Cuba and Spain. Despite the clear racism depicted in each of these images, they did sway a lot of peoples thought, and even though the explosion of the USS Maine was ultimately what brought Americans into battle, the thought and idea was around much before that event, in large part due to these images used for propaganda.

The image The Cuban Melodrama is a great representation of a piece of propaganda used in the US as a way to advocate for US intervention in Cuba. In the image you see a man who is downed in all black, and just not looking like a very friendly figure, to say the least, represents Spain. Compare that to Cuba, who is represented by an innocent woman, dressed in a white gown. Of course right in the middle of this painting is Uncle Sam. Here he is like a father figure, comforting innocent Cuba, from big, bad Spain.28912v

Comparing this image to what Hoganson argued in her article is that first of all, women in both America and Cuba had a huge role. In America, people felt as though chivalry was a dying breed, both men and women. On page 44, Hoganson writes, “Americans often viewed Cuba metaphorically, as a maiden, longing to be rescued by a gallant knight.” In the painting discussed above, you can see the chivalry when you think about it. The way Uncle Sam is consoling, comforting, and protecting the woman from the enemy can be seen as very chivalric in my opinion. By using a woman in the image, it also is showing how Cuba is in need of the help of American men. This is important because as Hoganson says, “To many Americans, chivalric standards represented the highest ideals of manhood and womanhood.” This ideal is why images like this are so important. By using an ideal like “chivalry”, it was easy to depict in propaganda like this to enter the war.

One issue you see in a lot of these propaganda images is racism. The war itself is a premise of racism, and you see it here, like in the “Spanish Politeness” image. While the racism is not completely outrageously out there, it is present. The way the Spanish man is presented is as dirty, ugly, and with a knife hidden behind his back.cartoon-7 Compare that to Uncle Sam, who is looking scared at the Spanish man, with the USS Maine sinking in the background. In a nation ramped with racism, its not a surprise it is seen here against Spain too.

What makes this war unique, according to Hoganson, is that there was not that element or racism on the Cuban natives as there was on people of color within America, or on Spain. Instead this is where chivalry comes in. Rather than viewing the inhabitants of Cuba, through a race lens, they are viewed as though there need the help of American men.

The two images I selected are part of media and communications in a huge way. These images were a piece of propaganda, and used as a tool for people to advocate for war in Cuba. These were how ideas were spread, and were so important in times like the end/beginning of the 19th and 20th centuries. People would see these in their local newspapers, and posted in places. Images like these were how events like the Spanish-American War happened.


  • Hoganson, Kirsten L. Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars(New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998), 44-46
  • Jay Taylor, The Cuban Melodrama, Puck, 3 June 1896
  • Spanish Politeness

2 thoughts on “Option 5

  1. You picked up on one detail in this image that I don’t think we mentioned in class: the American man is consoling the Cuban woman. At one point, Hoganson wrote about how vulnerability was part of this chivalric idea of femininity. These concepts of male stoicism and female emotionality fit in with the sort of romantic picture that American’s painted, and what you wrote highlights this.


    • That romanticism is so key! It fueled most of the propaganda and ideas swirling around in society at the time. What I think is super interesting about that partical depiction is that the idea of paternalism in American society is everwhere! We see in in the depiction of Uncle Sam looking mortified in the cartoon of the USS Maine because even if there was a woman to console in the photo it is the male representative in the photo that should be seen bearing the weight of political pressure on his shoulders. Going back to the first photo the ideas of paternalism and even a little bit of sexism I am driving back just the same. These ideas are reflective of the time and give us even more context culturally along side political context. I can’t get over the idea too that it would be possible as well to see this kind of depiction of a female in Cuban propaganda as well, because like I stated above, these cartoons come from a period in history where women were stll viewed as lesser than men.


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