By 1898, the Cubans wanted sovereignty over their own island and they were tired of Spanish rule. The Spanish, who were frustrated with Cuban insurgency, started to rule over Cuba more directly and forcefully. Tensions were on the rise in a place that was only ninety miles from American soil. President McKinley understood that American business interests were at stake in Cuba. By 1890, American businesses had a $50 million dollar stake on the island.
President McKinley felt that after riots broke out in Havana, he needed to send the USS Maine back to protect American business and military interests. The Maine was the largest battleship ever produced at an American naval yard and was a symbol of American military power. When the battleship exploded in the Harbor, it was a devastating symbolic blow to the United States.