When the subject of Freemasons or Freemasonry is addressed in Venezuela, the conversation generally never goes beyond the expression that says that “Francisco de Miranda was the first Freemason in Venezuela” or that “El Libertador Simón Bolívar belonged to the Freemasonry”, and in a certain way it is understandable, since very little has been disclosed about this practice through writings or through the different media, despite being officially established in the country since 1824.
That is why, in addition, on many occasions, the common man assumes Freemasonry as a religious cult, in the best style of medieval times, in which the occult, obscurantism and exclusion were part of everyday life, when in reality it is quite the opposite, that is, that this lodge admits people from Catholicism to Islam, even practitioners of the so-called “Santeria”, as long as they meet the requirements to be accepted in this congregation.
This perception must have changed somewhat this weekend, after the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Venezuela took the initiative to organize the First Inter-American Masonic Meeting in Caracas 2023 at its headquarters, an event to which several foreign ministers from the continent and other countries.
This day was accompanied not only by the traditional conversations between its members, but also by the Venezuelan lodge carrying out various activities outside the walls to establish greater contact with the community.
In this regard, Últimas Noticias spoke with José Gregorio Sardelli Bravo, Grand Master of the Venezuelan Grand Lodge, who in January of this year was re-elected for a period of three years as the highest representative of the national congregation.
Sardelli briefly recounted the history of Freemasonry in the country, which will celebrate 200 years of active presence on June 24, 2024, inspired by the legacy of the Precursor of Independence, Sebastián Francisco de Miranda, who was the first to treat from Europe the moral and philosophical foundations of the organization.
The interviewee accompanied the story with the exposition of the main activities carried out and about this, he previously stated that there was always concern regarding the fact that, “being Venezuela the founder in 1947 in Montevideo of the Inter-American Masonic Confederation, a meeting had never been held here ( in Caracas), and that is why we dedicated ourselves to holding this event, which we had spent almost a year trying to achieve here.”
He noted that, among the guests, came representatives from El Salvador, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia and Chile, which are nations where many lodges have traditionally operated.
The Grand Master referred that “the first two days of the event (22 and 23) were dedicated to the Venezuelan Freemasons and to receive the different delegations, while on the 23rd and 24th international guests participated, where the Venezuelan Freemasons will also be present.”
He added that this Saturday they visited the Federal Legislative Palace, in addition to a tour of the historic center of Caracas that included the birthplace of the Liberator, the Municipal Palace and Plaza Bolívar, the place where Abel Sarabia presented a work on Bolívar as a child. and the four pillars that support Venezuelan Freemasonry.
On this, Sardelli Bravo considered it necessary to present to the guests the details that exalt the libertarian imprint of Bolívar.
Likewise, they moved to the National Pantheon, where they placed a wreath before the Liberator’s sarcophagus and offered an exhibition on all the 40 Masons whose bodies have been transferred to the sacred site, to whom homage was also paid, and later it was held a short parade from the Pantheon to the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Venezuela, located between the corners of Jesuitas and Maturín.
The new officials who will be in charge of the Grand Lodge of Venezuela for the next three years were also installed in the place, and a reception was offered to foreign representatives.
During the tour of the historic center of the capital, visitors were received in front of the Capitol by a group of boys and girls between five and eight years old with a small recital of llanera music with harp.
Likewise, a group of young people performed a central joropo dance session, and a “six by right” and later, in front of the Casa del Vínculo, a group with the indigenous demonstration known as “El Sebucán” performed, while in the birthplace of the Liberator, a recreation of the story of the relationship of the child Simón with the black Hipólita and the black Matea was made.
The Venezuelan Freemasons did not overlook one of their fundamental values: fraternity and for this reason, parallel to the event, an entrepreneurs’ fair organized by relatives of its members was installed in the interior patio of its historic headquarters.
In the aforementioned exhibition, figures made with metals and other allegorical materials were put up for sale to the characters of Venezuelan Freemasonry, among them Miranda, Bolívar, Ribas and Mariño, fundamental pillars in the feat of Venezuelan independence.
Merchandise for women, men and children, hand painted, was also exhibited.
Likewise, chocolates made with Venezuelan raw materials were offered in different presentations, as well as artisan products such as Cumanés tobacco, goldsmithing and various ornaments.
“Knocking on the door” is the first step to enter the lodge
The process to enter Freemasonry is very simple, explains one of its members, who preferred not to be identified to preserve the institution’s codes of conduct; however, he clarified that the lodge is not a secret entity, but discreet.
In this context, he specified that the first step is to be guided by a “brother” (the way they refer to their members), although if the request is made in another way, this act is called “knocking on the door”, that is, , approach one of the headquarters of the 169 lodges that exist in the country, where you will be attended by “the brother” on duty, who indicates all the steps to follow.
In this way, the inquiry process becomes longer to ultimately determine if the applicant has sufficient virtues and moral solvency to finally be admitted.
Once this step is completed, he is assigned to an induction workshop and then participates in a so-called “laid table”, referring to morality.
Another interesting fact is that to be admitted, the applicant must have a belief in a superior entity (name Allah, God, Jehovah, and even Changó or any other).
Within the discretion that characterizes Freemasonry, it is established not to address issues of a political or religious nature during its meetings to preserve the spirit of fellowship.
Likewise, during the work sessions, the social condition, level of education or professional level reached by the participants who must be treated as equals is left aside.
in the time line
The genesis of Freemasonry in Venezuela is closely linked to the struggle for American independence, in which Venezuelan Freemasons participated intensely and actively. Not only the references refer to Miranda, Bolívar and Mariño, among others, in Venezuela, but in Colombia the name of Francisco de Paula Santander appears; José de San Martín in Argentina, and Bernardo O’Higgins in Chile. Also Andrés Bello, who was also a Freemason, was largely the architect of the independence of the language.
After the War of Independence, in 1824, Diego Bautista Urbaneja created the Grand Lodge of Venezuela, which was previously the Grand Lodge of Gran Colombia, to carry out uninterrupted activities, bringing together characters from the country’s political, military and intellectual life, to participate decisively in the constitution of republican life from the year 1830.
Product of the consolidation of the Masonic lodges in Venezuela, the institution reaches the 21st century with the aim of continuing to expand and face the challenges implied by the need to adapt to technological advances and the needs of society in general and make contributions for the construction of the country
Francisco de Miranda. Sebastián Francisco de Miranda is considered not only the Precursor of Independence, but also the precursor of Freemasonry in Venezuela, after his passage through Europe and the dissemination and combination of the values of Freemasonry with the independence cause of Venezuela and America.
Simon Bolivar. Although the account of the story can often be inaccurate and contradictory, there are research elements that demonstrate the Liberator’s link with Freemasonry, and there are even documents that prove that he achieved the highest level, called “33rd Degree” or Sovereign Grand Inspector General. .
Diego Bautista Urbaneja. The lawyer and politician, co-manager of the independence cause, was the founder on June 24, 1824 of the Masonic Grand Lodge, giving rise to the congregation in Venezuela, which at the time was part of Gran Colombia. He held the position of Grand Master until 1844.
Antonio Guzman Blanco. Faithful to European customs and lifestyle, he was one of the main promoters of Freemasonry in Venezuela and was the one who ordered the construction in 1876 of the main temple that still stands in the capital city.