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The Ten Years War: the First Transformation of Cuba

The Ten Years’ War, although failing to produce independence for Cuba, nevertheless did produce profound socio-economic changes with in Cuban society.  Prior to the outbreak of this bourgeois war for independence, Cuba was a slavocracy dominated by sugar and tobacco plantations. In 1968, with sugar production on the decline and taxes on the rise, Cuba’s planter class were beginning chafe under Spanish colonial rule.  Louis A. Perez, Jr. pointed out that the creoles elite “changed the means of opposition from the political to military did not signify a fundamental change in the reformist character of Cuban ends.”[1] Yet, the war, despite the best efforts of its elite leadership, did put into motion socio-economic forces that lead to the end of slavery and inciting a long period of transformation and modernization of Cuba’s economy.

The damage and disruption cause to Cuba’s sugar production but the Ten Years’ War was further heightened by the decline of Cuba’s share of the global market.  With the disruption of production in Cuba, sugar consumers were forced to look else where to meet their demand.  Hawaiian sugar and an increase in sugar beet production in Europe caused Cuba’s share in the global market following the war years to shrink for from twenty five percent to eleven percent by the end of that decade of warfare.[2]  To add to the economic chaos, tens of thousands of slaves enter the free labor system follow the war and emancipation in 1886, swelling the ranks of the unemployed.[3] 

        Capitol and credit were scares in postwar Cuba.  Thus, Cuban elites turned to the U.S. to modernize the mean of production and make Cuban sugar competitive on the new world market. In 1891, the Foster-Canovas trade agreement facilitated the inflow of investment.  American investment between 1890 and 1893 increased for 54 million to 79 million dollars, twelve times as must as Spanish investment in the island.[4]

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[1] Louis A. Perez, Jr.,  Cuba:  Between Reform and Revolution 2nd ed (New  York:  Oxford University Press, 1995), 121


[2] Ibid., 130


[3] Ibid. 133.


[4] Ibid., 149.


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