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Sugarcane fields were tough and tall. Laborers, like those depicted in this photo, endured long days of back-breaking work to harvest fields in Hawaii. Courtesy of Brigham Young University - Hawaii via Mountain West Digital Library.

From the Mayflower pilgrims to western pioneers, the US perfected the art of colonialism. This era of American imperialism distinguished itself because the nation labored to keep its new lands at a distance. This section explores the divisions between American citizens and subjects. How did the US employ, "civilize," educate, and control the peoples of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines? How did they fight back?

Much of America's control began on the ground with farms and labor. In Hawaii, for example, the US created so-called sugar societies—regions dominated by American plantations whose hold over farmland and sugar exports provided influence over local politics. Most sugar society elites were the descendants of missionaries and farmers who arrived decades earlier. Following annexation, Puerto Rico was similarly transformed into a hub for sugar and coffee farms with elite planters dictating the island's policies with the US. Trade also favored the mainland. High tariffs supported American businesses exporting manufactured items to the Pacific and Caribbean and kept industries in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines at a competitive disadvantage. With these economic systems in place, the colonies could not be seen as American. As noted by the Boston Herald: "we can never make...of the islands what we have made of Louisiana and California, states have an equal right."