The United States declared war on Spain in April of 1898. By August, the McKinley administration had invaded the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam and annexed Hawaii. In this four-month orgy of imperialism, the United States became a world power for the first time—became what it is now.
Uncle Sam poses as a schoolmaster in a classroom festooned with a world map in which little American flags are planted on the barely visible dots of Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. A barefoot, frowning boy wearing a dunce cap labeled “Aguinaldo” represents the Filipino revolutionary who began the Spanish-American War as an American ally against Spain; but after Spain surrendered and handed over the Philippines to the United States, Aguinaldo led the guerilla war against his new American colonizers. Uncle Sam is trying to break up a fight between two other barefoot boys, one wearing a satchel marked “Cuban Ex-Patriot” and the other a belt marked “Guerilla” meant to symbolize the unruly discontentment of Cuban freedom fighters also dismayed that their American allies in the fight against Spain for Cuba libre had just become their new colonial overlord. Meanwhile, off to the side, two good little girls, their headdresses identifying them as “Hawaii” and “Porto Rico,” have their noses in the books they are quietly reading. Presumably because well-behaved Hawaii and Puerto Rico have politely and graciously accepted the blessings of annexation without any back talk.
— Sarah Vowell, Unfamiliar Fishes
Hawai’i used to be one of the most literate countries in the world. Approximately 95% of our citizens were literate. I will never stop coming back to that.