120 Years of Rocky US-Cuba Relations, in Pictures

What a long, estranged trip it’s been.

A brief history of the long, rocky relationship between the United States and Cuba, from the Spanish-American War through the recent reestablishment of diplomatic relations, as told in pictures.

Sixth Infantry in San Juan creek bottom under Spanish fire from San Juan Hill, July 1, 1898.

Teddy Roosevelt made a name for himself when his Rough Riders charged San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. Above, the Sixth Infantry under Spanish fire from San Juan Hill in July 1898. William Dinwiddie/Library of Congress


1900 Campaign poster for the Republican Party depicting American rule in Cuba

At the end of 1898, Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris, marking the end of the Spanish-American War. This 1900 campaign poster for the Republican Party trumpets the benefits of “American rule in Cuba.” Wikimedia


Students form revolutionary army in Havana, holding rifles on steps.

Students outside the University of Havana with their rifles in September 1933. President Garado Machado was overthrown in a coup in 1933. AP


President Carlos Mendieta of Cuba, in white linen, exchanges greetings with U.S. Ambassador Jefferson Caffery in Havana upon hearing of the signing of the Cuban-American Treaty in Washington, May 31, 1934.

In May 1934, Cuban President Carlos Mendieta (third from left) exchanges greetings with the US ambassador in Havana after the signing of the Cuban-American Treaty, which secured American rights to Guantanamo Bay. AP


Fulgencio Batista with Family

Cuban President Fulgencio Batista with his family. Batista was elected in 1940, kicking off a period of close cooperation between Cuba and the United States. He left office in 1944, and in 1952 he launched a successful military coup. Harold Valentine/AP


Partying on a flight to Cuba

With Batista back in power, Cuba became a party destination for Americans. Above, a troupe from the Tropicana Night Club entertains passengers on a Miami-Havana flight in 1953. AP


American tourist in 1950's Batista-era Havana, Cuba

An American tourist in ’50s Havana Constantino Arias/Wikimedia


American novelist Ernest Hemingway meets the press at his Cuban home in San Francisco de Paula, a suburb of Havana, October 28, 1954, after announcement was made that he is awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in literature. Hemingway said he "broke the training" and took a drink to celebrate the honor.

Ernest Hemingway at his home in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, after being awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in literature. The author said he “broke the training” and took a drink to celebrate. AP


dead insurgents

In July 1953, a group of revolutionaries led by a young lawyer named Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack failed and Castro was imprisoned until 1955. AP


A line of Cubans extending around the corner wait their turn at the Godoy-Sayan Bank in Havana  April 5, 1958 which bore the brunt of heavy withdrawals. Many depositors fearing for the safety of their savings with the treat of civil war hanging over the island republic are withdrawing their savings.

After fleeing to Mexico, Castro and his fellow insurgents returned to Cuba in 1956 to continue their civil war against Batista. Above, Cubans wait to withdraw money from a bank in April 1958. AP


These young rebels are shown training a variety of weapons out windows of one of numerous cars that ranged Havana's streets, January 2, 1959, in the unrest attending plans for inaugurating a revolutionary government.

Young rebels cruise Havana’s streets in January 1959 AP


A young unidentified woman patrols near a headquarters building in Havana, Jan. 4, 1959.

A young woman patrolling Havana in January 1959. After leading a guerilla campaign in the Sierra Madre mountains, Castro’s forces defeated the government forces and Batista fled the country. AP


Fidel Castro (right) entered Havana with fellow revolutionary Camilo Cienfuegos on January 8, 1959. Wikimedia


Fidel Castro talks with Ed Sullivan, television variety show host and N.Y. Daily News columnist, January 6, 1959.

Shortly after assuming power, Castro visited the United States, Canada, and a number of Central and South American countries. Above, Castro talks with Ed Sullivan. Harold Valentine/AP


Cuban Premier Fidel Castro, center, and Oklahoma Creek Indian missionary, W.A. Reiford, wear war bonnets, July 17, 1959, when Reiford came to Havana to open an orphanage. Reiford holds a peace pipe.

Castro and W.A. Reiford, a Creek missionary from Oklahoma who came to Havana to open an orphanage in 1959. AP


Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara, center, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, left, and Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticos, right, attend a reception at an undisclosed location in Cuba, 1960.

Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara (center) confers with Castro and Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticos in 1960. Prensa Latina/AP


unidentified U.S. embassy employees rolling up a U.S. flag as the embassy transfers American affairs to the Swiss government, in Havana, Cuba.

In 1960, the United States enacted a trade embargo on Cuba. The following year, it closed its Cuban embassy, formerly ending diplomatic relations between the two countries. Above, an American flag is rolled up as the US embassy in Havana prepares to close. AP


John Kennedy speaking at lecturn.

President John F. Kennedy declares the United States will be “alert and fully capable” of dealing with any threat from Soviet-backed Cuba, on September 13, 1962. A month later, the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis would bring the United States, Cuba, and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. AP


Police disperse anti-Castro demonstrators in New York’s Times Square area, Sept. 15, 1963. Demonstrators, carrying placards and American flags, were protesting a nearby rally by students who returned from an unauthorized visit to Cuba.

Police disperse anti-Castro demonstrators in New York City in September 1963. AP


The Northwest Orient Airlines plane that was hijacked to Cuba last night with 87 passengers and 7 crewmen, is docked at the Miami International Airport, July 2, 1968 when it arrived from Cuba with only the crewmen aboard.

Hijackings between the United States and Cuba spiked in the late 1960s and ’70s. Above, a passenger plane that was hijacked to Cuba in July 1968 returns to Miami with only the crew aboard. AP


Fidel Castro visited by two U.S. Senators, Jacob Javits and Claiborne Pell in Havana Sept. 29, 1974.

The hijackings prompted some politicians to try to reopen communications between the two countries. Above, Senators Jacob Javits and Claiborne Pell visit Castro in Havana in September 1974. Charles Tasnadi/AP


Pres. Jimmy Carter, right, is surrounded by reporters and photographers at the conclusion of his news conference in the Executive Office Building, Wednesday, March 9, 1977, Washington, D.C. He announced that the administration is lifting the ban on travel by U.N. citizens to Vietnam, North Korea, Cambodia and Cuba effective March 18.

President Jimmy Carter is surrounded by reporters in March 1977 after announcing that his administration would lift a travel ban to Cuba. The same year, the United States and Cuba opened “interest sections” to facilitate communication. AP


Cuban refugees wait aboard a boat at the port of Mariel, Cuba, bound for Key West, Fla., Saturday, April 23, 1980.  Cuban President Fidel Castro has agreed to let the Cubans leave the Communist island to start a new life in the United States.

Refugees headed for Florida wait aboard a boat at the port of Mariel, Cuba, in April 1980. During what became known as the Mariel boatlift, 125,000 Cubans left the country. Jacques Langevin/AP


Democratic presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson sat down with Cuban President Fidel Castro and other high Cuban government official at the National Palace in Havana Tuesday, June 26, 1984, to discuss “peace options” in the area of Cuban-U.S. relations and Central America.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson meets with Castro and other Cuban officials in Havana in June 1984. J.Scott Applewhite/AP


U.S. President George H. Bush signs legislation in Miami, Friday, Oct. 23, 1992 that will tighten the embargo on Cuba. The President is surrounded by supporters in Miami as he signed the bill that he said would "speed the inevitable demise of the Cuban Castro dictatorship." President Bush made an "Ask George Bush" television question and answer appearance following the ceremony at a local TV station.

 US-Cuban relations cooled under Presidents Reagan and Bush. In October 1992, President George H. Bush signed legislation tightening the embargo on Cuba. The president said the bill would “speed the inevitable demise of the Cuban Castro dictatorship.” Ron Edmonds/AP


In August 1994, Castro suggested that any Cubans who wanted to leave were free to do so. More than 30,000 people sailed away on makeshift rafts while authorities stood by. Jose Goitia/AP


Elian Gonzalez held in closet.

Elián González was rescued at sea while his mother attempted to bring him to the United States in 1999. The Clinton administration ordered that Elián be returned to his father, sending border patrol agents to remove him from his relatives’ house in Miami. In 2013, Elián described his time in the United States as “a very sad time for me.” Alan Diaz/AP


FILE - In this March 1, 2002 file photo, a detainee is escorted to interrogation by U.S. military guards at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba.

Following the September 11 attacks and the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, a detention camp for “enemy combatants” was established at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Above, military guards take a Guantanamo detainee to an interrogation in March 2002. Andres Leighton/AP


Members of "The Cuban Five," from left,  Gerardo Hernandez, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Rene Gonzalez and Ramon Labanino, wave to the public, in front of a Cuban flag after a concert of Silvio Rodriguez in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Guerrero, Labanino, and Hernandez flew back to their homeland on Wednesday in a quiet exchange of imprisoned spies, part of a historic agreement to restore relations between the two long-hostile countries.

As part of the December 2014 agreement to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba, the administration approved a quiet exchange of prisoners, including the three remaining members of the “Cuban Five.” Above, the Cuban Five (from left), including Gerardo Hernandez, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Rene Gonzalez, and Ramon Labanino, wave after a concert in Havana on December 20, 2014. Ramon Espinosa/AP


Alan Gross onboard a government plane

As part of the deal, Cuba released Alan Gross, an American aid worker who had been imprisoned since 2009. Above, Gross flies back to the United States with his wife on December 17, 2014. On July 20, 2015, the United States reopened its embassy in Cuba. Lawrence Jackson/White House


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend