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Cuba, The Pursuit of Freedom
Hugh Thomas's sweeping history of post-conquest Cuba makes a number of curious references to Freemasonry, often in such vague or irrelevent terms that the author's intent must be questioned. Like so many popular historians, he fails to provide specific sources for many claims.
In 1762: "The English also seem to have introduced Freemasonry into Cuba." [p. 36.]
Considering the English were in and out of Havana in a matter of eleven months, and any travelling warrants carried by soldiers would have precluded the initiation of locals, the reference to Freemasonry is irrelevent.
"The third epoch-making event was the formation, in 1809, of the first movement for outright independence in Cuba — led by Román de la Luz, a Mason." [p. 57.]
Román de la Luz, was a member of the first masonic lodge in Cuba, warranted by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Of greater relevence to the independence movement was his involvement in a mutual-aid society originating in Nigeria and Cameroon, called Abakuá, something the author fails to mention.
Between 1816 and 1820: "Exiles returned from the US and the mainland empire, while secret reform societies, especially Masons, proliferated." [p. 62.]
In 1823: "Back in Cuba, with constitutional freedom still miraculously and uniquely surviving, a new and formidable movement for actual independence had by this time grown up. It was led by José Francisco Lemus, a republican who, though a habanero, had risen to a colonelcy in tjhe Colombian Army of Independence backed by other Colombian reformers. He had also a lieutenant from Haiti. His movement, the Soles y Rayos de Bolívar, was carefully organized chiefly by Masons throughout Cuba on a cell basis, appealing primarely to students and to the poorer white Cubans, urging them to unite with the Negroes, slave and free." [p. 66.]
"The biggest slave merchant in the 1830s was probably Joaquín Gómez, a native of Cádiz, co-founder of the first bank in Havana, an anti-clerical and Freemason whose Masonic name was 'Aristides the Just' and who 'arrived at Havana — about the age of thirteen or fourteen years old, almost naked'; he was the first importer of horizontal sugar mills with iron rollers from Fawcett and Preston of England in 1830 and bought several productive cafetales and sugar mills himself." [p. 98.]
"Intelligent Cubans [in the 1840s] had been sending their sons to US schools or universities for a generation, and Cuban and US Freemasons were formally connected." [p. 129.]
"Two internal Cuban uprisings planned for the same time [1850] were crushed and their leaders captured and executed — the chief, Joaquín de Agüero (a Freemason) being betrayed by his wife's confessor. The flags of independence — a single star like that of Texas on the background of a Masonic triangle — were unwisely laid on altars ready to be blessed." [p. 132.]
"The centres, as in rebellious Spain, were the Masonic lodges, well established in the eastern province, especially in Bayamo. An exile society in New York, the Republican Society of Cuba and Puerto Rico, backed by North American abolitionists, secured circulation of their paper, The Voice of America, which demanded liberty of white and black. The newly formed [1868] Junta Revolucionaria of Bayamo (organized by the Masonic lodge) sent an emissary, Pedro Figueredo, to negotiate with the Reformers." [p. 145.]
"[José] Marti appears to have been a Freemason and an agnostic though his attitude to religion was one of unconcern, not of hatred." [p. 170.]
"Augusto Rodríguez Miranda, a leading Mason" was in the leadership of the Partido Uníon Revoluvionaria [1937] [p. 438.]
"The meetings of these men [followers of Castro] at Artemisa took place [1953] in the Masonic lodge because one of the members (the printer Ponce) was a Mason: the others were not." [p. 535.]
"The press leaders' offers of mediation [1957] were supported by all varieties of persons — presidents of the coffee merchants, Rotarians, Freemasons, chambers of commerce, the Havana University council — most of whom coupled their appeals for mediation with a denunciatoion of terrorism." [p. 601.]
"Civic bodies from the Masons to the Spanish exile colony, the Chamber of Commerce and the suger planters, all those who had so recently fawned on Batista, testified their support of the Revolution. [January 1959] [p. 691.]
"Foreign governments assumed that, since they were men of the middle class, their government would be middle class; and Urrutia certainly settled in quickly to the agreeable tasks of a Cuban president in the old style, his days spent receiving journalists and old friends, the Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge, priests and bishops, ex=President Prío, and occasionally the new ministers." [p. 720.]
"Freemasons, and Veterans of 1898, department stores and textile firms, insurance companies and Bankers saluted the Revolutionary Government with fervour." [1959] [p. 524.]
The most extensive entry on Freemasonry, and the most curious, appears about halfway through the book.
"Cuba in general lacked, apart from the Spanish clubs, the solid voluntary institutions, the benevolent societies and the independent groups of middle-class worthies which characterize North America and Europe and help greatly in limiting executive power. But there were some professional groups of importance, such as the Freemasons. The Havana Lodge was supposed to be the biggest in Latin America. It was a powerful and dignified group of business companions, perhaps 50,000 strong, all more or less rationalists. Some of its leaders still believed that in being anti-catholic they were being revolutionary. They recalled with complacency their confrère, Martí,* and their heroic role as a division of the rationalists of Spain in the last days of the Inquisition. Their Grand Master, Carlos Pineiro, had founded a big technical college, the so-called Universidad José Martí, in Havana. Like the Baptists, their links with North America were close. There was an English-speaking lodge in Havana, founded during the US military occupation. In the 1950s, the Masonic Temple held few secrets. Like the Masons of Continental Europe, they rejected the idea of 'The Grand Architect'. Their headquarters were of use even in the struggle against Batista; for instance, the group of Ortodoxo Youth who provided the backbone of revolutionaries at Moncada had been wont to meet in the Freemasons' Hall at Artemisa. In January 1959, the lodge Hijos de América demanded that the Masons of the world unite to back the revolution, but the Masons, unlike the workers, had much to lose." [p. 756.]
The Grand Lodge of Cuba was a member of the Conference of Grand Masters of North America and, as a requirement would have professed a believe in the Great Architect. Nothing in the Committee on Recognition's reports of the period suggest otherwise.
"Marti, a Mason and an agnostic, had been excommunicated." [p. 766.]
Not all of the quotes above are found in the index;
Freemasonry: Castro's group, 535; Cuban independence movement, 57; Cuban-US connections, 129; FONU offices, 690; Havana Lodge, 756; influential masons, 57, 98, 132, 170; introduction by English, 36; Junta Revolucionaria, 145; Martí, 170, 756; proliferation, 62; support for Revolutionary Government, 724.

Cuba, The Pursuit of Freedom, Hugh Thomas. London : Pan Macmillan Ltd, Picador, 2001. [1971: Eyre and Spottiswoode]. hc 1151pp. ISBN 0 330 48417 6 [Hugh Thomas, Cuba, Or, The Pursuit of Freedom. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. hc. 1st Edition. First US edition. ISBN-10: 0306808277. 1710 pp. [Da Capo Press, 1998]]. Also see Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba Ivor L. Miller. University Press of Mississippi, United States, 2012.
* José Julián Martí Pérez (January 28, 1853 – May 19, 1895) is a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, essayist, journalist, revolutionary philosopher, translator, professor, publisher, and political theorist. He was also a part of the Cuban Freemasons. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba's bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence.


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