On October 16, 1896, Jose Aramendi Arraiza, a Basque soldier on the island of Cuba, passed away at the age of twenty-two. In the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898), soldiers of Basque birth or descent served in the Spanish armed forces. From the beginning of the colonial crisis in Cuba in 1868, the loyalty of Basques to the Spanish crown, reflected in their participation in its armed forces, responded primarily to economic and constitutional issues. Generally, the enrolled men defended the preservation of the traditional political and economic status quo in the Basque Country. Between 1868 and 1898, because the Cuban crisis was a prominent threat to a particular Basque oligarchy, the Basque provincial councils demonstrated a capacity to mobilize their citizens for war to fight the secessionist movement in the Caribbean territory. In this context of transformative change, those traditional classes feared the loss of their social status. In 1898, United States declared war on  and eventually defeated Spain, followed by the independence of Cuba. Then Cuba became a protectorate of the United States.

cuba map

Map of Cuba

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Col. Theodore Roosevelt and American soldiers after the fighting at San Juan Hill in Cuba, 1898


The Cuban War of Independence and its ramifications in the Basque Country is discussed in some detail in Basque Nationalism and Political Violence: The Ideological and Intellectual Origins of ETA, by Cameron J. Watson.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.