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N°53, 2022 – Cuba and the United States: the genesis of a conflictual relationship

Deadline for abstract submission: December 15th 2021

Since the beginning of the 19th century, when it was still under Spanish rule, Cuba aroused the envy of the United States. In 1805, Thomas Jefferson, the young nation's third President, emphasized the island's strategic importance, calling for an “easy conquest”. In 1823, John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State, developed the famous “ripe fruit” theory which recalled the existence of laws “of political gravitation” and the unnatural character of the ties between Cuba and Spain – because of which he suggested that the island could “gravitate only towards the North American Union”. That same year, Jefferson considered “Cuba as the most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of States”.

During the 19th century, Washington made no less than six proposals to Spain to acquire Cuba, making an offer of $ 100 million. During the First War of Independence led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (1868-1878), the United States gave its political and military support to Madrid and opposed the nationalists. During the Second War of Independence (1895-1898) launched by José Martí, when the Spanish army was defeated on the battlefield by the Cuban patriots, the United States decided to intervene militarily in the conflict to seize the island and occupied it until 1902.

The United States decided to impose its trusteeship on Cuba through the Platt Amendment, forcibly incorporated into the new Constitution, which singularly limited the sovereignty of the island by authorizing, among other things, military intervention every time the White House felt its interests were in danger. This was the case in 1906, 1912 and 1916, each time reminding the Cubans of the imperfect character of their independence. A 1920 letter from President Woodrow Wilson to President Mario García Menocal starkly underscored this reality: “The President of the United States does not consider it necessary to obtain the prior approval of the President of Cuba to send a special representative.”.

The advent of the Popular Revolution of 1933, which put an end to the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado, greatly worried the United States, which decided to dispatch several warships to crush the Cubans' desire for greater sovereignty. It was the Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles, sent as Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Ambassador, who undertook this task with the complicity of Sergeant Fulgencio Batista, and overthrew the popular “Hundred Days” government of Ramón Grau. San Martín and Antonio Guiteras. The unpopular and obsolete Platt Amendment was abolished in 1934 in favor of a new doctrine of relying on a strongman to defend US interests on the island. As US Ambassador George S. Messersmith noted, “The 4th of September 1933 has been liquidated”, referring to the revolutionary movement.

Following the adoption of the 1940 Constitution, which replaced that of 1901 imposed under US military constraint, Fulgencio Batista legally conquered the supreme office and became President of the Republic until 1944, while remaining a faithful servant of the interests of Washington in a context dominated by World War II. Ramón Grau San Martín (1944-1948) and Carlos Prío Socarrás (1948-1952) succeeded him at the head of the two governments led by the Auténtico Party, whose reign was marked by corruption and alliance with the powerful neighbor.

In 1952, Fulgencio Batista returned to the national political scene by orchestrating a military coup, with the support of the United States, which put an end to constitutional legality three months before the presidential and legislative elections, while the young lawyer Fidel Castro was a candidate for the Senate. In 1953, the attack on the Moncada barracks heralded the start of the insurrectionary period, which continued in 1956 with the disembarkation of revolutionary troops from the July 26 Movement and the launch of a guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestra mountains. On January 1, 1959, the military regime of Batista was overthrown, creating a new era in Cuban history.

The advent of the Cuban Revolution, which the Eisenhower administration opposed from the start, as well as the process of socio-economic transformation, generated strong tensions with the United States, which imposed economic sanctions and put in place a secret program intended to overthrow the government of Havana in 1960. The conflict between the two countries took on international proportions, notably with the landing operation at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and especially the Missile Crisis in 1962.

Over the years, the diplomatic rhetoric of the United States evolved to justify hostility towards Cuba. Eisenhower’s Republican administration cited the process of nationalization and expropriation as an explanation for the imposition of the first sanctions against Cuba. Democratic President John F. Kennedy relied on the alliance with the Soviet Union to explain the strengthening of coercive measures in February 1962. Subsequently, his successors referred respectively to Havana's support for the revolutionary and independence movements throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and Africa, to endorse the maintenance of a hostile policy towards the island. Finally, since the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the question of democracy and human rights has been brandished by all presidents of the United States, from George H. Bush to Joe Biden, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, to justify the persistence of sanctions against Cuba.

This issue aims to review the dispute between Havana and Washington through the following central question: What are the roots, reasons, expressions, objectives and consequences of more than half a century conflict between the United States and Cuba?

Prominent themes

The articles could relate to the following themes articulated around two main axes:

  1. History of relations between Cuba and the United States (19th to 21st century)

    • Birth of a national conscience

    • Independence wars

    • Revolutionary movements

    • Iconic figures

    • Expansionism and interventionism

    • Diplomatic history

    • Migration and exile

    • Analysis of speech

    • Internationalism

    • Sanctions

  2. Reflections of the conflict between Cuba and the United States (19th to 21st century)

    • Press

    • Literature

    • Cinema

    • Music

    • Visual arts

Articles written in French, English, Spanish and Italian will be subjected to a double-blind evaluation before publication.


  • December 15, 2021: deadline for submission of article proposals (abstract 500 words)

  • June 15, 2022: reception of articles.

  • October 15, 2022: reception of the revised version of the articles.

  • November 2022: publication of the issue.

Guest publishers

Salim LAMRANI (MCF HDR, University of La Réunion)

Article submission

Please refer to the Guidelines for Authors and send your contributions to,

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