Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Report from the 2011 Conference on Latin American Freemasonry at UCLA

A stimulating conference on Freemasonry in Latin America was held last weekend at the UCLA Faculty Center. The Welcome and Introductions were presented by -Senior Grand Warden John Cooper, Masons of California; Grand Master Frank Loui, Masons of California; Margaret C. Jacob, PhD, UCLA, and María Eugenia Vázquez Semadeni, PhD, UCLA. Margaret Jacob noted that the partnership forged between the Grand Lodge of California and UCLA of which this conference was born, has been a good one. She noted that much more work needs be done. There is a role for both the research lodges and papers by non academics and individual masons. The academic can learn much from masonic viewpoints and contextualize them while helping to introduce the masonic writer to a more strenuous written style. There was a strong plea that Masons begin to gain control and centralize documents they were loosing everyday, stored in garages, attics, thrown out the back door of the lodge. This should be complemented with digitization.

Among the significant and informative papers read at this conference were those by Ricardo Eugenio Martínez Esquivel, University of Costa Rica, entitled “Mystical Sociability: Freemasons and Theosophists in the organization of Co-Freemasonry and the Liberal Catholic Church in Costa Rica during the 1920s,” Guillermo de los Rayes Heredia, University of Houston entitled “The Relation Between Mexican and American Freemasonry, Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries,” and two stimulating papers on Freemasonry in Cuba delivered by Eduardo Torres Cuevas, PhD, University of Havana, and Jorge Luis Romeu, PhD, Syracuse University. These were accompanied by nearly a half dozen more excellent papers including one delivered by Dr. Margaret C. Jacob, entitled “Where We Now Are in Masonic Studies.”

The conference was just the beginning and perhaps it is time to begin to consider what next steps might be. Dr. Jacob did not allow the conference to end before proposing a global conference on Freemasonry and civil society coming into modernity.

UCLA Freemasonry and Civil Society Program
The Freemasonry and Civil Society Program is a collaborative
partnership between UCLA’s History Department, the Grand Lodge of
California, and the Institute for Masonic Studies. The Program offers
courses investigating the history of Freemasonry within the context of
civil society. Each year, the Program sponsors a post-doctoral fellow
and a research assistant. The International Conference on American
& Latin American Freemasonry is offered in conjunction with the research of this year’s post-doctoral fellow, María Eugenia Vázquez-Semadini, whose specialties include Mexican political culture in the nineteenth century and the history of Freemasonry.

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