The Spanish-American War (1898)

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

The Spanish-American War (1898) revolved around the Spanish Caribbean colonies of Puerto Rico and Cuba, as well as around Guam and the Philippines. Economic and political conditions in Cuba triggered the war. At the encouragement of American owners of sugar plantations in Cuba, the U.S. Congress passed the McKinley Tariff Act (1890), which eliminated tariffs on imported refined sugar from Cuba, then a Spanish dependency. See legislation, historical; plantations, sugar; and sugar barons. The Cuban sugar industry was more efficient than its counterpart in the United States, and with an open market, Cuban sugar-plantation owners ramped up production, and exports to America soared. Under pressure from American sugar producers, Congress reversed direction in 1894 and passed the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act, which levied a 40 percent tariff on imported sugar from Cuba, making Cuban sugar more expensive than sugar produced in the United States.