Excerpt from "Cuba: A Short History"
Drawn from the Cambridge History of Latin America
Edited by Leslie Bethell, Cambridge University Press
from chapter 2, page 21
During the 1840s and 1850s, some hacendados had placed their hopes for continued slavery on annexation by the United States, and had even helped to organize armed U.S. expeditions to Cuba, but the victory of the North in the American civil war put an end to that particular brand of annexationist thought. After 1865, the hacendados were fighting a rearguard action, trying to delay abolition and to obtain guarantees of compensation for the loss of their slaves.
Thus by the mid 1860s the majority of the Cuban economic elite concentrated their efforts on obtaining the necessary reforms from Spain to assure them free trade, the gradual abolition of slavery with compensation for their losses, and increasing participation in the colonial government. Opposing them, the most intransigent penisulares (Spaniards), who dominated trade and colonial administration, denounced every reform as a step towards independence. One of the arguments most frequently used by the penisulares was that any rebellion against Spain would reproduce in Cuba the fate of Haiti, where in the 1790s a struggle among the whites ended with a devastating and successful rebellion by the blacks.
Convinced that Spain was unwilling or incapable of conceding any reform, a minority of Cubans did in fact favor independence. Some of them, influenced by a nationalistic sentiment seeded at the beginning of the century by philosophers like Félix Varela and poets like José María Heredia, envisaged a free sovereign Cuba, with close economic ties to the United States. Others wanted to end Spanish rule and then, as Texas had done in the 1840s, seek annexation by the United States, a nation which symbolized for them both economic progress and democracy.
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