Cuba was at war with Spain since 2/24/1895. In fact, it was the third war against Spain for their independence. US arrived to the war in 1898, after the Maine's explosion. Very wise when Cubans had the war almost won.

But the other side of the history is that this war is known as Guerra hispano-cubano-norteamericana in the period when US entered in the war.

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    The Philippines had similarly been fighting for independence since 1896. The US was fighting the entire Spanish Empire, taking advantage of internecine conflicts. Mar 21, 2014 at 12:48
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    We weren't fighting the Cubans. Just the Spanish.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 17, 2014 at 23:20

4 Answers 4


Naming conventions can seem a bit weird. For example, here in the States we know the Seven Years' War (well, to the extent that we know it at all) as the French and Indian War because... it was fought between the French and... the English, with various Native American tribes joining in on the French side. Southern sympathizers liked to call the American Civil War the War of Northern Aggression. I'd imagine that the English don't really care to call the Revolutionary War by the same name (or perhaps even refer to it as a war).

If anything, I'd say the Spanish-American War is more descriptive than a lot of those names. The US did, in the end, fight against the Spanish, even if they did so primarily in Cuba, and the spoils of that conflict certainly indicate that the USA was up against all of Spain - they took home not just Cuba but also the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. In fact, there were even a couple of (relatively minor) pitched battles in the Pacific Ocean:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Manila_Bay http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Manila_(1898)

For that matter, Puerto Rico saw some action:


I'm sorry, but this was flat-out not just a war (however short) about only Cuba. It was the United States' first real foray into imperialism (setting aside the "Manifest Destiny" expansion across the North American continent).


It's called the Spanish-American War because it was a war between the USA and Spain. While Cuba was part of it, a center of much of the action, the goal was to "liberate" the "oppressed" "natives" of the tattered remains of Spain's global empire from their "despotic" "masters". The proof in the pudding was Spain's behavior in Cuba.

The United States had just fulfilled it's "Manifest Destiny." Therefore the time had come to take up the "White Man's Burden" and "spread democracy" to the places that could use it most and were easiest to take over. Once the democratic occupiers had "raised up" the "natives" to an appropriate level of self-government (or fought hard enough for liberation, as the case may be), they would be eligible for independence - Cuba in 1902, Philippines in 1946, Puerto Rico and Guam, never.

Back in 2003 I was surprised at a used book sale to find a history of the Spanish American War from very shortly after the war, in which the discourse to justify US actions was a dead ringer for George W. Bush vis-a-vis Iraq. I even read paragraphs of it to my Western Civ class and they couldn't tell that it wasn't about Iraq. Sorry I don't have more info on that book, I've long since given the book to the person I would turn to for a better answer to this question: Jason Colby, author of The Business of Empire: United Fruit, Race, and U.S. Expansion in Central America", available on Kindle.


The Spanish-American War took place in 1898. Cuba became independent only in 1902. History records February 24, 1895 as the date, when the (preceding) Cuban War of Independence began. The latter war turned into the former when America intervened.

If one were to refer to the Spanish-Cuban-American War instead of Spanish-American-War, others could perhaps make the argument that it should be the Spanish-Cuban-American-Catalan (or even Spanish-Cuban-American-Catalan-Texan) War on the (off) chance that Catalonia (and even Texas) will become independent countries one day.

  • Could you please expand a little more? Mar 20, 2014 at 1:56
  • The thing is that the other side of the history this war is known as Spanish-Cuban-American War(GUERRA HISPANO-CUBANA-AMERICANA) Mar 20, 2014 at 2:11
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    Why not put this information (plus your sources) into the question? I guess naming wars is not a science, but an art :) Are you saying that it is referred to as Spanish-Cuban-American War in Cuba? Now that would not seem to be be all that surprising. On the other hand: "History is written by the victors." (Churchill)
    – Drux
    Mar 20, 2014 at 2:15
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    @EmilioGort Either a newspaper or a historian named it that way. Wars have different names to different cultures and in different time periods. WWI used to be called the Great War. The US Civil War was the War Between States and all the battles have two names. I kind of think this name sounds like the Spanish were fighting some Cuban Americans-its a weird image.
    – Razie Mah
    Mar 20, 2014 at 3:47
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    @RazieMah Maybe for an english speaker sound in that way, I learned from school since I have 8 years the other name, because that I was curious about why in engliah is called without the cuba part, but is clear as churchill said: history is written by the victors. In this case US won. Mar 20, 2014 at 3:55

To a Cuban, it looks like a "Spanish Cuban, (North) American" war.

But to a (North) American, it looks like a war on several fronts against Spain, of which Cuba was one. Other battlefields included Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

To the American way of thinking, it was a transfer of Spain's (remaining) overseas empire to the rising Americans. Cuba's revolution was advanced enough for her to assert her independence from America (although this was somewhat nominal until 1959). But the others just fell into the lap of the victors, and history is usually written by the victors.

From an American point of view, Cuba was what America didn't get, which is why Americans would likely omit "Cuba" from their description of the war.

  • Interesting point in the last sentence. Jun 30, 2014 at 17:22
  • It was never a US War Aim to annex Cuba, but to support the revolutionaries already there.
    – Oldcat
    Jun 30, 2014 at 21:53
  • @Oldcat from the history that I learned in Cuba, was very suspicious the Maine's explosion. Like a pretext to enter to the war against Spain, and apply the Monroe Doctrine. that is what they teach in elementary school in Cuba. Aug 25, 2014 at 23:59
  • @EmilioGort It's also what I was taught in school in America...
    – reirab
    Jan 4, 2017 at 6:56
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    In addition to the answer, from an Spanish point of view it is the Cuban war ("la guerra de Cuba").
    – Pere
    Mar 11, 2017 at 23:10

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