What did the Spanish-American war look like from Spain's perspective? Did the general population support the war? What were the reasons why Spain lost, was the general public aware of these reasons during/after the war, and what did they do about them? Thanks!
How would it matter if people support war when Spain was not the aggressor? They supported it as it was a defensive war. In these times it was obvious to fight.
I read a Polish book, some years ago, later on the evening (I live in CET zone) I will provide this as a source if someone is interested, but the main idea was that Spanish knew they were about to loose. EDIT: I added this below as UPDATE 2
It was just a matter of honour for them. I think, however, they did not expect it would end so soon and in such decisive way.
The reasons were obvious: long distance from Spain both to Cuba/Puerto Rico and Philippines, much worse navy and fighting (on Cuba) in fact on enemy terrain. After losing the core of her navy, Spain was not able to continue fightings.
The Wikipedia states
You might want to read it further, as it is shown, that the war led eventually to economic success for Spain. Please also read about Generation of '98.
As Felix Goldberg noticed in his comment below the post, the problem seems to be more complicated than I expected at first.
It is clear that US wanted to control Cuba and did some provocations (like USS Maine), but it was Spain who declared war. In the Library of Congress there is a timeline of events and shortly the Cuban insurrection (but this could be some disorder) began, than Philippine revolution started.
It seems that Spain asked European powers for assistance, eg. on 1896-08-09
(The last part proves Felix's note about not losing core of her fleet but core of expeditionary forces. Spain could have had some knowledge and the threat of attack in Europe could be serious).
This suggests that USA made aggressive policy against Spain, while Spain was attempting to find (after military suppression, however) peace solution, for example on 1898-01-01
It was obvious that Spain could have not accepted it. It was a common practice, and such ultimatum was a direct reason of the WW1. This was also backed by newspaper propaganda. What I may suppose, such ultimatum was not welcomed in Spain and moreover, on 1898-04-13
This is obviously aggressive policy against interior policy of Spain. So on the same day or before April 19th
This eventually led to declaration of war by Spain.
The book I was referring to was "Wojna amerykańsko-hiszpańska na morzu 1898" by Paweł Olender.
Some citations (translated by myself):
In the Cuba herself there were also anti-American riots:
(later a memo of Cervera taken from S.G. Nunez The Spanish-American War. Blocades and Coast Defence, Washington 1899, pp. 33-34)
The book says nothing about common people in Spain. It seems, that as military officers were against the war, they were forced to act by politicians.
I am not really an expert on history but I can give you a insider view (I am Spanish) from what we study at school and from what my grandfather told me.
Spanish-American war is known informally as "The Cuban War". It mainly represents the end of the Spanish Empire as we lose the last colonies. We still had at that time some colonies in Africa (Morocco, Sahara and Guinea) but for some reason it was considered "The End of the Empire", probably because we consider America as our empire...
About the Maine explosion
Maine explosion was an accident or originated by Americans to have a Casus Belli. The theory of an inside job was widely spread about population in that moment. Nowadays most of the people think that was an accidental explosion.
About the war itself
The general feeling is that we were drawn into war by Americans. Even if the Spanish Army in Cuba was ok, the Spanish Navy was clearly obsolete, they had no chance against modern warships. The Spanish Admiral Cervera was ordered to break the blockade. He thought it was a suicide, he sent a telegram to Government in Spain but honored the order. He sailed close to the coast to make easier for sailors to save their lives. Spanish government tried to prosecute Cervera but he was so popular that charges were withdrawn.
Everybody in Spain thought that Cervera was a hero with an impossible task by corrupt politicians.
After the war
As Voitcus correctly indicates, Cuba was another province of Spain with same rights as regions like Madrid or Galicia. Most of the Spaniards felt humiliated.. by their own country. People thought that there were to Spains: The official one, a fake Spain and the real one, sad, poor and pessimistic.
This war is the origin of "Generation of 98", an important cultural movement.
I studied this at school buy I remember my grandparent telling me this history. He was born in 1920 and he really felt, influence of his father and the rest of the society, that pessimistic view and sadness. He told me that Spain had an incorrect approach about colonies and we should had followed a different approach as the British did with the Common Wealth.
20 years later something similar happened again in Spain when the Annual Disaster, where irregular troops from Morocco defeated the "superior" Spanish regular army, again because of corruption.