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The period from 1896 to 1900, the period prior to, during, and immediately following the Spanish American War, which became known to Americans as the “splendid little war,” was a momentous time. An in-depth study of this five-year period--the events leading to the Spanish American War, the War itself and its aftermath--yields a rich and deep understanding of themes at the core of LatCrit theory. This is a key turning point in racial formation of Latino/as, American foreign policy, and American democracy. The U.S. abandoned its isolationist stance, and awkwardly embraced its “duty and obligation” as a “benevolent” world power. Thus, the United States became an equal among European imperialist countries like Great Britain, Germany and France, which were already carving up Africa, Asia, and the Pacific and subjecting these peoples to the colonialist experience. Some would argue that the Spanish American War is the pivotal historical event for LatCrit theory.

This article provides a historical brief of the Spanish American War, and describes the many ways that the Spanish American War is just not dead history, but continues to impact Puerto Rico and Guam, native Hawaiians, the Philippines, Cuba, and Latin America. The article discusses just how important the Spanish American War is to the issues that concern the LatCrit enterprise. The article also generally discusses the importance of historical analysis to the understanding of the construction of race. Further, the article sets forth how LatCrit can contribute to the historiography of the Spanish American War, and in turn, looks at what the project of studying the Spanish American War can contribute to LatCrit. This enterprise offers the possibility that LatCrit could build better interracial and interethnic coalitions because such historical work could lead to better intellectual empathy for other Latino/a subgroups. But as well, Spanish American War historiography can offer a centering axis to this project of LatCrit.

Finally, the article applies the same critical lens to LatCrit that the prior parts of this article applied to American historiography. LatCrit and Critical Race Theory (CRT), as well, can be said to take a disciplinary perspective overly preoccupied with race. A balance can be struck if LatCrit theorists have greater awareness of the perspectives inherent to the race theoretic efforts and the analysis of American historians.

Publication Citation

78 Denver L. Rev. 195 (2001).