Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies


Southern Studies

First Advisor

David Wharton

Second Advisor

Andy Harper

Third Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Relational Format



This paper is an investigation into North American tourism in Cuba between the “Spanish-American War” in 1898 and the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The research it presents was prompted by a set of photographs taken at the grand opening of the Habana Hilton in March 1958, part of the Bern and Franke Keating Collection, held in the Archives and Special Collections at the University of Mississippi. Many of these photos are also included throughout the text of the paper. I begin with an overview of the relationship between Cuba and the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, since the nation’s military presence and political authority on the island were the foundation for its economic expansion and cultural influence there during the period this paper examines. Early in the century, elite Cubans and U.S. investors led the first concerted efforts to establish a tourism industry in Havana, and I consider both the impact of this development on the island and the North American cultural imperatives it reflected. I trace the similarities between this early boom and tourism’s resurgence in 1950s Cuba under Fulgencio Batista, and I explore the role of tourism in Cuban rebels’ opposition to his U.S.-backed dictatorial regime. I am also concerned with the particular symbolic significance of the Habana Hilton, suggested by the fact that Fidel Castro occupied the hotel and ran Cuba’s provisional government from it in the months following the revolution. I consider the Hilton Corporation’s international expansion at mid-century, the tourist experience its hotels orchestrated, and the Cold War ideology that underpinned both. If North Americans saw the Habana Hilton as Cuba’s latest and grandest monument to U.S. superiority and righteousness, I argue, it was a symbol of empty North American promises to many Cubans.

Included in

History Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.