History of Freemasonry in Latin America
Freemasons are members of a fraternity or brotherhood known as Freemasonry. Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that dates back at least to the 17th century and has spread throughout the world.
Freemasonry has its roots in the guilds of medieval builders, who met in lodges to work on construction projects and to protect their secrets and knowledge. Over time, Freemasonry evolved into a broader organization that not only included builders, but men from diverse professions and social backgrounds.
Freemasonry is based on principles of freedom, equality, and fraternity, and promotes values such as tolerance, justice, and morality. Freemasons use symbols and rituals to convey these values and to help members reflect on their own lives and purposes.
Freemasonry has its own organizational structure, which includes lodges, grand lodges, and other Masonic bodies. Members gather in lodges to perform ceremonies, discuss topics, and carry out philanthropic and charitable work.
Freemasonry is an organization of men, but there are similar Masonic organizations for women and for men and women together. Freemasonry has had a significant influence on the history and culture of many countries, and has included prominent members in areas such as politics, science, the arts, and philanthropy.
The origin of Freemasonry in Latin America
dates back to the time of European colonization of the continent. As European settlers established themselves in Latin America, they brought with them their institutions and organizations, including Freemasonry.
It is believed that the first Masonic lodge in Latin America was established in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, in 1733. This lodge, called “Caballeros Racionales,” was founded by members of the French Masonic lodge “Les Neuf Soeurs” who were in Colombia. From that moment on, Freemasonry began to spread throughout Latin America, often driven by the efforts of European Masons who moved to the continent.
It is important to clarify that, although the French Masonic lodge “Les Neuf Soeurs” (in English, “The Nine Sisters”) played an important role in the founding of the first Masonic lodge in Latin America, it is not known for certain who the members of the French lodge were who traveled to Colombia in 1733.
“Les Neuf Soeurs” was founded in Paris and was composed of notable men of the time, including intellectuals, scientists, and political leaders. The French lodge became one of the most influential Masonic lodges in Europe and was an important center of the Enlightenment.
It is believed that the members of “Les Neuf Soeurs” who traveled to Colombia in 1733 were Masons who were in the country for commercial or political reasons. It is known that the Colombian lodge founded by these Masons, “Caballeros Racionales,” adopted the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, which was popular in Europe at that time.
During the colonial period, Freemasonry in Latin America was an elitist and exclusive organization, reserved for wealthy white men. However, after the independence of Latin American countries, Freemasonry became an important political and social force, as many of the leaders of independence were Masons and used their influence in Freemasonry to support the independence cause.
As Freemasonry spread throughout Latin America, tensions began to arise between the members of the order and local authorities. In some cases, local governments felt threatened by the political and social influence of the Masons and took measures to restrict or prohibit their activities. Despite this, Freemasonry continued to expand in Latin America and, in some cases, played an important role in the struggle for independence of the countries in the region.
Below is an approximate chronological list of some of the Latin American countries that have had Masonic lodges:
- Colombia: The first Masonic lodge in Latin America was founded in Cartagena de Indias in 1733.
- Mexico: The first Masonic lodges in Mexico were established in the early 19th century during the Mexican War of Independence.
- Peru: The first Masonic lodge in Peru was established in Lima in 1824.
- Chile: The first Masonic lodge in Chile was founded in 1844.
- Argentina: The first Masonic lodge in Argentina was established in Buenos Aires in 1857.
- Venezuela: The first Masonic lodge in Venezuela was established in 1842, and the formal inauguration of the Great Masonic Temple of Caracas was conducted by Guzmán Blanco.
- Brazil: The first Masonic lodge in Brazil was established in Rio de Janeiro in 1822.
- Cuba: Masonry arrived in Cuba in the 1850s and became an important political and social force on the island in the 19th century.
- Uruguay: The first Masonic lodge in Uruguay was founded in 1826.
- Paraguay: The first Masonic lodge in Paraguay was established in 1865.
Here are some famous Masons from Latin American countries:
- Mexico: Benito Juárez, president and leader of the Mexican Reform, was a member of the Masonry and used its values and principles in his struggle for freedom, justice, and democracy in Mexico.
- Argentina: José de San Martín, leader of the independence of Argentina, Chile, and Peru, was a prominent Mason and a founding member of the Grand Lodge of Argentina in 1825.
- Brazil: Juscelino Kubitschek, President of Brazil from 1956 to 1961, was a Mason and a member of the Grand Lodge of Minas Gerais.
- Chile: Bernardo O’Higgins, leader of the independence of Chile, was a Mason and a member of the Lautaro Lodge.
- Peru: Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, political leader and founder of the Peruvian Aprista Party, was a Mason and a member of the National Grand Lodge of Peru.
- Colombia: Francisco de Paula Santander, military leader and politician who played a key role in the independence of Colombia, was a Mason and founded several Masonic lodges.
- Venezuela: Rómulo Gallegos, writer and politician who served as president of Venezuela in 1948, was a Mason and a member of the “Rómulo Gallegos” Lodge in Caracas.
- Cuba: José Martí, poet, journalist, and leader of the Cuban independence movement, was a Mason and a member of the “Caballeros de la Luz” Lodge in New York.
- Uruguay: José Batlle y Ordóñez, president of Uruguay between 1903-1907 and 1911-1915, was a Mason and a member of the Grand Lodge of Freemasonry of Uruguay.
- Paraguay: Carlos Antonio López, president of Paraguay between 1844 and 1862, was a Mason and a member of the “Esperanza” Lodge in Asunción.
Venezuela: Simón Bolívar was initiated into Masonry in Cadiz, Spain, in 1803, and later became a member of several Masonic lodges in Venezuela, Colombia, and other countries. Masonry influenced his thinking and his struggle for the independence of Latin America. Bolívar also held several important positions in Masonry, such as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Venezuela and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Gran Colombia.
Similarly, the most universal American, precursor of American independence, Francisco de Miranda, participated in the American independence, the French Revolution and later in the emancipation of his country, being a leader of the Patriot Bank, as well as a ruler of the first Republic of Venezuela. He was initiated into Masonry in Cadiz, Spain, in 1783, and later became a member of several Masonic lodges in France, the United Kingdom, and other countries. Masonry influenced his thinking and his struggle for Latin American independence. Miranda was also one of the founders of the Grand Lodge of Venezuela and held several important positions in Masonry in Europe and Latin America.
Masonry has played an important role in the history and culture of Latin America and has been a positive force in many aspects. Masonry has promoted values such as freedom, equality, fraternity, tolerance, and justice, and has fostered the development of education, culture, and science in the region.
Furthermore, Freemasonry has been a space for encounter and dialogue among people of different backgrounds and beliefs, and has promoted the building of bridges between cultures and peoples in Latin America. Through its lodges and organizations, Freemasonry has supported initiatives of solidarity and humanitarian aid, as well as community development projects and the defense of human rights.
In summary, Freemasonry has left a significant mark on Latin America, and has been a positive force in promoting values and practices that have contributed to the well-being and progress of the region.