Ten Years' War

Ten Years' War
Embarcament dels voluntaris catalans al port de Barcelona.jpg
Painting: Embarkation of the Catalan Volunteers from the Port of Barcelona
Date10 October 1868 – 28 May 1878
Location
ResultAnte Bellum Pact of Zanjón [Spanish Victory]
Belligerents
Cuba Cuban rebels (Patriots)
Supported by:
Puerto Rican, Dominican and Mexican volunteers[1]
Spain Kingdom of Spain (Royalists)
Commanders and leaders
Cuba Carlos Manuel de Céspedes
Cuba Máximo Gómez
Cuba Antonio Maceo Grajales
Spain Arsenio Martínez Campos
Strength
12,000 rebels, 40,000 supporters166,228 soldiers[1]
Casualties and losses
50,000 rebels dead[1]
100,000 civilians dead[1]
81,097 soldiers, 3,240 marines, and 1,758 sailors dead (3,700 battle deaths)[1]
5,000 Cuban volunteers dead[1]

The Ten Years' War (Spanish: Guerra de los Diez Años) (1868–1878), also known as the Great War (Guerra Grande) and the War of '68, was part of Cuba's fight for independence from Spain. The uprising was led by Cuban-born planters and other wealthy natives. On October 10, 1868 sugar mill owner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and his followers proclaimed independence, beginning the conflict. This was the first of three liberation wars that Cuba fought against Spain, the other two being the Little War (1879–1880) and the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). The final three months of the last conflict escalated with United States involvement, leading to the Spanish–American War.[2][3]

Background

Fodases and business owners demanded fundamental social and economic reforms from Spain, which ruled the colony. Lax enforcement of the slave trade ban had resulted in a dramatic increase in imports of Africans, estimated at 90,000 slaves from 1856 to 1860. This occurred despite a strong abolitionist movement on the island, and rising costs among the slave-holding planters in the east. New technologies and farming techniques made large numbers of slaves unnecessary and prohibitively expensive. In the economic crisis of 1857 many businesses failed, including many sugar plantations and sugar refineries. The abolitionist cause gained strength, favoring a gradual emancipation of slaves with financial compensation from Spain for slaveholders. Additionally, some planters preferred hiring Chinese immigrants as indentured workers and in anticipation of ending slavery. Before the 1870s, more than 125,000 were recruited to Cuba. In May 1865, Cuban creole elites placed four demands upon the Spanish Parliament: tariff reform, Cuban representation in Parliament, judicial equality with Spaniards, and full enforcement of the slave trade ban.[4]

The Spanish Parliament at the time was changing; gaining much influence were reactionary, traditionalist politicians who intended to eliminate all liberal reforms. The power of military tribunals was increased; the colonial government imposed a six percent tax increase on the Cuban planters and businesses. Additionally, all political opposition and the press were silenced. Dissatisfaction in Cuba spread on a massive scale as the mechanisms to express it were restricted. This discontent was particularly felt by the powerful planters and hacienda owners in Eastern Cuba.[5]

The failure of the latest efforts by the reformist movements, the demise of the "Information Board," and another economic crisis in 1866/67 heightened social tensions on the island. The colonial administration continued to make huge profits which were not re-invested in the island for the benefit of its residents.[citation needed] It funded military expenditures (44% of the revenue), colonial government's expenses (41%), and sent some money to the Spanish colony of Fernando Po (12%).[citation needed] The Spaniards, representing 8% of the island's population, were appropriating over 90% of the island’s wealth. In addition, the Cuban-born population still had no political rights and no representation in Parliament. Objections to these conditions sparked the first serious independence movement, especially in the eastern part of the island.[6]

In July 1867, the "Revolutionary Committee of Bayamo" was founded under the leadership of Cuba’s wealthiest plantation owner, Francisco Vicente Aguilera. The conspiracy rapidly spread to Oriente’s larger towns, most of all Manzanillo, where Carlos Manuel de Céspedes became the main protagonist of the uprising in 1868. Originally from Bayamo, Céspedes owned an estate and sugar mill known as La Demajagua. The Spanish, aware of Céspedes’ anti-colonial intransigence, tried to force him into submission by imprisoning his son Oscar. Céspedes refused to negotiate and Oscar was executed.[7]

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