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Cuba: Jose Marti and the War for Independence, 1895-1902
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > Toward Independence, 1868-1902 > Jose Marti and the War for Independence, 1895-1902


Jose Marti realized very early that independence from Spain was the only solution for Cuba and that this could only be achieved through a quick war that would at the same time prevent United States intervention in Cuba. His fear of a military dictatorship after independence led in 1884 to a break with Maximo Gomez and Antonio Maceo, who were at the time engaged in conspiratorial activities. He withdrew from the movement temporarily, but by 1887 the three men were working together, with Marti assuming political leadership. In 1892 he formed the Cuban Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Cubano-PRC) in the United States and directed his efforts toward organizing a new war against Spain.

Marti's pilgrimage through the Americas in the 1880s and early 1890s helped to unite and organize the Cubans, and with Gomez and Maceo he worked tirelessly toward the realization of Cuban independence. So well had they organized the anti-Spanish forces that their order for the uprising on February 24, 1895, assured the ultimate expulsion of Spain from the island. The war, however, was not the quick and decisive struggle that Marti had sought. It took his life on May 19, 1895, dragged on for three more years, and eventually prompted the United States intervention (1899-1902) that he had feared.

After Marti's death, the leadership of the war fell to Gomez and Maceo, who were now ready to implement their plan to invade the western provinces. In repeated attacks, they undermined and defeated the Spanish troops and carried the war to the sugar heart of the island. From January to March of 1896, Maceo waged a bitter but successful campaign against larger Spanish forces in the provinces of Pinar del Rio and La Habana (see fig. 1). By mid-1896 the Spanish troops were in retreat, and the Cubans seemed victorious throughout the island. Then came a change in the Spanish command: the more conciliatory Marshal Arsenio Martinez Campos was replaced by General Valeriano Weyler, a tough and harsh disciplinarian. Weyler's policy of concentrating the rural population in garrisoned towns and increasing the number of Spanish troops allowed the Spaniards to regain the initiative after Maceo's death on December 7, 1896, in a minor battle. Yet they were unable to defeat the Cuban rebels or even to engage them in a major battle. Gomez retreated to the eastern provinces and from there carried on guerrilla operations. He rejected any compromise with Spain. In January 1898, when the Spanish monarchy introduced a plan that would have made Cuba a self-governing province within the Spanish empire, Gomez categorically opposed the plan.

Last Updated: April 2001

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Cuba was first published in 2001. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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