Study Guide

Platt Amendment Historical Context

By U.S. Congress

Historical Context

In the Beginning: Cuba and Spain

Poor Cuba has a long history of being bullied by strong European countries, mostly Spain (with a little of Britain thrown in for good measure). As soon as Christopher Columbus arrived on the island in 1492 (thinking he was in Asia, of course), Spain wasted no time enslaving the locals, searching for gold, and setting up huge plantations for all of the sweet sugar and tobacco the land had to offer.

Unfortunately, that's not exactly a rare story in the colonization of the New World (looking at you, Cortez).

Fast-forward four hundred or so years (of Spanish exploitation), and Cuba finally throws off the chains right as the 19th century was ending, around 1895. A lot of other islands and nations got pulled into Cuba's fight—most notably the Philippines and the United States—and the conflict became known as the Spanish-American War.

The result? Spain gets booted out of a whole lot of their islands, from Guam to Puerto Rico to the Philippines to Cuba, and the United States takes over control. Out with one overlord, in with another.

In the End: Cuba and America

If it sounds like Cuba was passed around like a hot potato, well that wouldn't be too far off. Cuba was independent by the start of 1899, but the United States had a thing or two (or seven, actually) to say about how Cuba would be run. That's where the Platt Amendment comes in, holding all of the rules and regulations for the tiny island.

So where does it go from there? Thanks to the Platt Amendment relations between Cuba and the U.S. were icy for a while (figuratively, of course; Cuba is a tropical paradise), but in the 1930s good ol' Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a law that gave Cuba much more freedom.

Cuba and the U.S. entered frosty territory yet again with the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s, and relations are still strained today.

Between arguments over the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and a distrust between the Castros and the American government (although it has been improving lately), things aren't exactly peachy.

But the fact that things aren't exactly peachy…isn't exactly new news.