In 1898, armed hostilities in the Spanish-American War come to an end. Ignominiously defeated, Spain is forced to relinquish control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine Islands to the United States.
Debate over what to do with America's new possessions is fierce. In the case of Cuba in particular, there had been considerable sentiment in favor of independence prior to the outbreak of war, when lurid articles regarding the real and alleged brutalities of the Spanish colonial regime appeared regularly in the newspapers of media baron William Randolph Hearst. Once Cuba passed into U.S. hands, however, ardor for freeing it cooled considerably. Businessmen liked the cheap sugar and other products Cuba provided, while naval officers saw it as an ideal site for bases.
The colonialist faction would ultimately triumph. In formal peace traty, signed in Paris on December 10, 1898, no mention is made of independence for Cuba. The following year, by act of Congress, the possessions taken from Spain will be declared U.S. territories.
On January 1, 1959, Cuba will become the 49th U.S. state. That same year, Hawaii, also annexed in 1898, will become the 50th; Alaska will formally become the 51st state the following year, and in 1965, the Philippines will become the 52nd. In 1970, Puerto Rico will at last become the 53rd U.S. state. Of the territories taken from Spain in 1898, only Guam will not have become a state by the turn of the century, chiefly due to its small population.
In 1964, the youthful and charismatic Lieut. Gov. Fidel Castro of Cuba is elected to the U.S. Senate. Castro, a former law student who entered politics in the 1950s, will be an impassioned voice for America's growing Spanish-speaking populace, and will be one of the sponsors of the Senate resolution formally granting statehood to the Philippines.
In the Senate, Castro will start out as a solidly moderate Democrat who will initially support the war in Vietnam, but will grow disillusioned, finally announcing his outright opposition in 1969. His change of heart will anger many conservatives in his home state, sparking a challenge from Republican Rep. Fulgencio Batista, a decorated Korean War veteran, in 1970. Sen. Castro will survive, however, and in his new incarnation as foreign-policy liberal will oppose President Charlton Heston's contra war against the left-wing government of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara in Bolivia in the 1980s.
In 2000, in a hotly-contested election, Democratic nominee Fidel Castro will narrowly defeat former Texas governor George W. Bush to win the U.S. presidency, becoming the first native Spanish-speaker to hold that office.
Steve Payne, Editor of Today in Alternate History