Monday, January 7, 2013

Lodges in Mexico: A Land of Diversity

Freemasonry in Mexico has an interesting history. Scratch that. Freemasonry in Mexico has a fascinating history. Much to my embarrassment, because I have friends who have studied the subject, I admit to knowing relatively little about the history of the craft in Mexico. The small tidbits I have been aware of thus far, guarantees that I will be working to correct this gap in my education. You should, too. In order to spark your interest, you will find here a few interesting photographs of Masonic Lodges and Masons in Mexico.

Being a Mason in Mexico was sometimes a Deadly Serious Matter
The first Masonic Lodge was founded in Mexico in 1806, established in a building whose address is Callejón de las Ratas, No. 4.  It had been founded by Don Enrique Mugi, a Spaniard, in the house of Don Manuel Luyando, an alderman of the city, who also hailed from Spain.
The rather inauspiciously named Alley of the Rats, No. 4, appeared to be not only inauspicious, but also unfortunately predictive. More on that in a minute, though.

The members of the lodge, which practiced the York Rite, included the Marquess of Uluapa, Gregorio Martinez, Feliciano Vargas, José María Espinosa, Miguel Betancourt, Ignacio Moreno, Miguel Domínguez and others. Apparently, they were also involved in political intrigue. Whatever influence politics might or might not have had in the matter, a neighbor who lived across the street, denounced them to the authorities, reporting that a lodge was meeting there. (Remember that at this time, Freemasonry was illegal in the Spanish Empire.) A number of the members were jailed and brought before the Holy Inquisition. One brother, Lic. Primo de Verdad, was ultimately sentenced to death, in 1808.

Masonry become a major factor in the politics of the republic. The Scottish Rite or Escoceses had been the organization to which most prominent Mexicans belonged. As the Escoceses became more and more involved in political activities, many liberals sought an alternative. They were determined to join the York Rite. The rapid increase of this group, the York Rite or Yorkinos, soon gave them a larger following than that of the Escoceses. One reason for this strength was that the Spaniards, as distinguished from the Creoles, were aligned to the Escoceses.

Freemasonry has had other rocky times since then. During the period of WWII, under the influence of Right Wing despotism, laws were put forward to make Freemasonry illegal again, as demonstrated by the image of the anti-masonic poster shown here.

More recently, Freemasonry has again been growing, and a variety of Rites, including the French Rite and Mixed Freemasonic obediences as well as a thriving rural tradition of house masonry exists in the modern Mexico of the 21st Century.

Mixed and Feminine Freemasonry Past and Present

It should be noted that while Freemasonry today includes Mixed and Feminine lodges, it should not be mistakenly assumed that this is something of an innovation.  As the photo shown here, darkened with age, of Logia Constancia Zaragoza, dating back more than 70 years, Mixed  Freemasonry was practiced in the Mexico of the 1930s and before. This demonstrates that the influences of continental Freemasonry was a continuing influence in Mexico despite the proximity of the United States to the north with its dominating environment of Anglophone conventions.

Feast your eyes on a number of lodge buildings and some young and enthusiastic masonic initiates, both male and female. A wide variety of rites are performed in Mexico. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Scottish Rite, as well as the York Rite are practiced there, the result of influence from Mexico's not always friendly neighbor to the north. The Modern Rite, Memphis Misraim, and the Hermetic Rite, in this case actually a version of the Scottish Rite, are also practiced.

The image at right is from inside the Puerto Vallarta No. 34 in Jalisco. This lodge was recently closed. It shows however both a utilitarian aesthetic and a robust architecture demonstrating both native and colonial influences.

The architecture of Freemasonry is diverse, albeit generally a little more homegrown than what would be normal in larger cities in the United States. Vernacular architecture prevails. The former lodge, the Palacio Nacional, is a notable exception to that rule. At the other extreme, there are lodges in rural areas, which meet in people's homes, in a throw back to the early days of Freemasonry, not only in Mexico, but also in Europe.  To the left is an entrance to the Palacio Nacional showing wording that demonstrates its former use as a Masonic Lodge. To the right below is the Acacia Lodge No. 8, dating from 1941, also doubles as the Shriner's Temple, in Tecate.

House Masonry and Presidental Rites

President of Mexico during the late 1930s, Lázaro Cárdenas, has numerous Masonic lodges named after him and he is even credited with the  establishment of a entire Masonic movement or rite, a claim which has been critically examined and found, by some at least, to be lacking in substance.  However, if President Cárdenas was not as involved in Freemasonry as he might have claimed, many of Mexico's founding fathers were profoundly involved with the craft and this involvement even pitted the York Rite against the Scottish Rite at one time.

One variety of Freemasonry in Mexico is called White Masonry, or House Masonry, and although the term is used loosely, it does cover lodges that meet in private homes -- sometimes with touches of astrology and even faith healing. It is also called by some, perhaps with a bit of disdain, as "White Magic Freemasonry."

Mexico is one of our closest neighbors and it is easy to visit by land, water, or air. Head south and check it out. You'll be glad you did!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hello. I am looking for information on my great grandfather, Frank J. Sauter. He was in your area working as a mining engineer around 1919. We are looking for information as to when he joined the Fraternity, and suspect that he may have joined your Lodge.

Would you be able to search your records for his name? We would really appreciate it.

Thank you very much.

Hola. Estoy en busca de información sobre mi bisabuelo , Frank J. Sauter . Estaba en su área de trabajo como ingeniero de minas alrededor de 1919. Estamos en busca de información acerca de cuándo se unió a la fraternidad , y se sospecha que puede haber unido a la Logia .

¿Sería capaz de buscar sus archivos por su nombre? Realmente apreciaría.

Muchas gracias.