Sunday, March 19, 2006

What sparked the interest

My wife graduated from UTPA with a degree in History. Understandibly, we often have discussions about historical events. Lately, she has been watching a novela on Univision named La Alborada. Part of her interest is the novela, and part is how the people of that period are portrayed. Our discussion started over the period of the novela. It takes place back in the mid 1800s when France occupied Mexico under Napoleon III. At this time, Napoleon tried to install the Emperor Maximilian, who was a Habsburg. Obviously, the Mexicans under Benito Juarez did not recognize the Emperor. This is the French occupation that led to La Batalla de Puebla on 5 de Mayo, which Mexicans don't really celebrate but Mexicans on this side of the Rio Grande jump all over.

The Emperor prior to Maximilian, Agustin de Iturbide, is the person responsible for granting Stephen F. Austin and his settlers permission to settle around San Felipe. Austin had permission from the Spanish prior to their overthrow, but the new Mexican government refused to recognize the grant until Iturbide. Iturbide had been a General, who in conjunction with Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, was instrumental in throwing off the yoke of the Spanish. Not suprisingly, Santa Anna along with Guadalupe Victoria issued the Plan de Casa Mata to overthrow the new emperor to establish a republic. He was successful, forcing Stephen F. Austin to renegotiate the grant.

Maximilian is the reason why Mexico has the Chapultepec Castle. His reign was during our Civil War. He was executed in June 1867. So, during this period of time, Texas had already declared independence (1836) and dealt with Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The United States and Mexico had already had a war (1846, Mexican-American War). The US made the Gadsden Purchase in 1953.

All this began with a novela. My interest was sparked because Sam Houston, who captured the Mexican President and forced him to sign the Treaties of Velasco, was a mason, and so was the Mexican President. In fact many notable people in history have been masons. There is speculation that Santa Anna was going to be executed. What saved him, it is said by some, is that he gave the sign of a mason in distress, which obligates other masons to help if they can. There is no written record of this, and there wouldn't be, but the legend persists. Going forward, I wondered if the Emperor Maximilian was also a Freemason. It is likely, but I haven't found out yet for certain. I say that it is likely because it was fashionable amongst influential people to be masons during that time. Members often included royalty and other elites, thus the likelihood.

You can find out more about Texas masons at http://www.grandlodgeoftexas.org and about the history of freemasonry at http://www.grandlodge-england.org. Mexican masons practice the craft in a different fashion, they follow the French tradition in which business is conducted in the Entered Apprentice lodge. In the U.S. we do it the English way and conduct lodge business in the Master's Lodge. Anyway, I'm still trying to find out if there was any influence by freemasons on the Rio Grande Valley. There is tons of history out there about Freemasons and Texas. I'm afraid that I'll have to visit individual lodges here in the RGV to find out their histories directly. The Mission Lodge, for example, I think was built back in the 1910s, around when Mission was established. McAllen's lodge might be a bit older. I know Edinburg has a lodge. So do Rio Grande City and Donna. Brownsville's lodge is probably the oldest in the RGV. I think it was chartered back in the 1850s followed by the Rio Grande City lodge in the 1870s. You can guess this because army officers typically established lodges at bases or forts like Ft. Brown and Ft. Ringold. I'm telling you, there is a secret history in the Rio Grande Valley that historians purposefully ignore. I don't know why the bias amongst academics. My wife noticed this too.

If you don't believe me, ask grandpa or an old tio about what they know of the masons. It's possible that they may be masons, or had an uncle or father who was one. It's also possible they my tell you to stay away for whatever reason. I don't know what happened that the fraternity simply stopped getting new members. The problem with the organization is that recruiting is not encouraged. Members need to join of their own interest. That's why to be one, you ask one. But then, if nobody knows, why would they ask?
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