Author: Melvin E. Silverio, Logia Libertad
Greetings from Club Masonico Libertad
As this new year begins, and with the assistance of my other brothers in the Club Masonico Libertad, let me take you on a journey through Freemasonry in Latin America. I would like to begin introducing Spanish speaking Latino Freemasons, their contributions to the world and their impact throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. For this first chapter, we will begin with Francisco de Miranda (full name Sebastián Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez de Espinoza).
Francisco de Miranda, the precursor to the South American Independence was born on March 28th 1750 to a father from Spain and an upper-class mother whom was a Creole, a mixed ethnicity of European and African descent. Being born to the upper class afforded Francisco with the opportunity to receive the best education during this colonial time period. He studied Catechism, grammar, history, religion, geography and arithmetic. His childhood presented him with the struggles of not fitting in with either the Spaniards, as he was not born in Spain, or the Creoles, as he was part of a higher and wealthier social class. These two factors or treatment were influential throughout his life’s decisions and ideology.
Once of age and with the wealth to explore the world, Francisco set out to Spain where he paid to be commissioned and join the Spanish Army at the age of 22. Most of his military campaigns were in North Africa with his regiment. Spain was heavily invested in the American Revolution against the British as well as the expansion of their territories into Louisiana and Florida. De Miranda was ordered to report to Havana, Cuba where the Spanish commanded campaigns against the British Army along the Gulf of Mexico. During his time in the Caribbean and Southern United States battles, he earned the rank of Coronel in the Spanish Army. It is noted that Francisco and his regiment were also contributing factors in the battle at the Chesapeake Bay. With a failed invasion in the Caribbean island of Jamaica, he was exiled to the United States in July 1783, where he became involved in the final battles of the American War for Independence which lasted from Apr 19, 1775 – Sep 3, 1783.
It is during these travels where he meets other luminaries of the time such as Marquis de Lafayette, Georges Jacques Danton and Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand.
It is during his time in the United States where Francisco de Miranda has a connection to us in Rhode Island. As he traveled throughout the newly formed states and cities to include, Philadelphia where there is a statue of him located at 20th Street and Ben Franklin Parkway for his support during the American Revolution, Cambridge, Newport and Charleston. Here he was able to meet the upper class and influential Enlighted (Freemasons) leaders of the time such as George Washington, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Adams. Impressed through his travels in this newly independent world, when he arrived to Southern New England, two distinct locations fascinated him here in our small state of Rhode Island which were the Library of Newport and Brown University (which was named at that time Rhode Island College from 1764–1804). During this time, he envisioned a liberated Latin America and began to strategize against the colonization of Spain.
In his return to Europe, Francisco de Miranda traveled throughout the continent and beyond in the 1790s to include Italy, Hungary, Austria Greece, Germany, even making his way to Russia. In Russia he was named a Russian ambassador or diplomat in London. Miranda also served a period of time in the French Revolutionary Army with the rank of General. It is there that Miranda was made a Freemason in France. It is during these travels where he meets other luminaries of the time such as Marquis de Lafayette, Georges Jacques Danton and Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand. While in London out of his residence he founded to what became known as the Lodge, Great American Reunion. At this lodge the ideology and promotion of the liberation of the South American colonies was heavily developed. Prominent Latin American personalities of the time met and conferred in brotherhood their plans and ideas. It was a place of elevated education and independence dogma. Such members were Simon Bolivar of Venezuela and Colombia, Bernard O’Higgins of Chile, Jose de San Marti from Argentina, Carlos Maria de Alvear from Brazil and Tomas Guido also from Argentina to name a few. Hint, some of the names we will discuss in further chapters. Nonetheless, throughout his time, Francisco was said to be very lucky and well benefited from his political and social relationships, ever evasive of capture by Spanish authorities and other political prosecutions. He fled and resurfaced many times more for a span of a decade.
Francisco de Miranda traveled back to the United States between 1804-1808 where he met with several leaders to present his plans in support of the liberation of Latin America in the Spanish territories starting in Venezuela, to include the President of the Republic during this time, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison which was the Secretary of State. However, his plans were not supported. Francisco and a close friend named William S. Smith continued forward with expeditions to South America and the Caribbean, there securing weapons, soldiers, supplies and volunteers. Miranda did not succeed at single handedly liberating Venezuela from Spanish colonialization, but he had sparked the idea of liberty not only in his home country, but throughout Latin America.
Around 1810-11 the Supreme Junta of Caracas, this was the organization that governed Venezuela after the removal of the Captain General Vicente Emparan in April of 1810. This was the beginning of the Venezuelan War for Independence. Miranda was called back to his native country by a very young Simon Bolivar who stated “Let us lay the cornerstone of American freedom without fear. To hesitate is to perish,” and Andres Bello a Chilean-Venezuelan diplomat. Miranda was received in his native land excitedly by the people along with Bolivar and other members of the Junta. It is during his return to Venezuela that he forms along with other like-minded men, what came to be known as The Patriotic Society which was founded on the model of French Revolutionary clubs. First Republic of Venezuela and Congress was established on March 2, 1811. In the span of a year since his return, Venezuela officially declared its independence and became a Republic. Venezuela held formal elections for their Congress, which Miranda was elected to the Barcelona Province and adopted tri-colored national flag. He was one of the founding fathers of the first Venezuelan Constitution.
Unfortunately, the newly formed Republic of Venezuela would fall back into disarray due to political, economic factors that persisted throughout its first year as well as a devasting earthquake rattled the country to crumbles figuratively and literally. The First Republic as this time period was called, was met with strong opposition from multiple fronts. Later losing control, Francisco was given larger then usual political power, which to his fortune he used unfavorably when he saw his idea of a liberated Venezuela and Latin America consumed by the turmoil that ravaged the region. He signed an armistice on July 25th 1812 the Royalist, of which action was claimed treasonous by Simon Bolivar and his followers.
This was the beginning of the end for Francisco de Miranda. With a very distinct comparison to Christ and the denial of his apostles, him being Christ-like in the form of how his persona was exalted by his followers and his apostles-like in Bolivar and other Junta members. They philosophically denied and crucified him for the armistice. In an effort to save something of the liberation ideology, Bolivar and the other members of the Junta offer Francisco to Spain. Francisco was condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison. Lord Byron’s Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte is said to have been inspired by Miranda’s perseverance to never abandon his life goal in liberating his people from foreign colonization. Francisco’s de Miranda died at the age of 66 in a Southwestern Spanish prison. But his enlighten ideology continued with no other then his student, Simon Bolivar.
Brethren there is definitely a lot more information on Francisco de Miranda, from his travels to almost every country along the Atlantic Ocean to his military service in at least three different Army’s as well as being part in the American and French Revolutions. Francisco de Miranda, is named the Father of Freemasonry in Latin America. I hope you find this brief introduction of Francisco de Miranda as an opening to a broader world of the importance and influences of Freemasons in Latin America.