Monday, March 15, 2010

Handshakes All Round: Masons in Mallorca

It is doubtful that many of you will have been aware of a meeting that has just taken place in Palma - it was the 29th annual assembly of the Gran Logia de España. The grand lodge. Freemasons. A new grand master has been elected. Despite the secrecy that surrounds masonry, both the assembly and the election have been given some prominence in the Spanish press, and "brothers" have been quite willing to talk.

This has been the first occasion that the lodge has gathered in Palma, which probably explains the publicity that the assembly has attracted. But there are other reasons for the column inches, most notably the history of masonry in Spain during much of the last century. At a time when symbols of Franco's era are being dismantled - under terms of the law of historic memory - the masons are also symbolic of that era, in that they were persecuted and murdered. Franco had any number of elements of society in his sights, but none more so than masons. The generalísimo may not have shared Hitler's extreme anti-Semitism, but this didn't stop him perceiving a Jewish-masonic conspiracy alongside the communism of Republicanism. In the same way as Jews were once offered the chance to convert to Catholicism as a way of avoiding the Inquisition, so masons among Franco's supporters at the time of the Civil War were given the option to renounce the brotherhood. Some chose not to and went into exile; others were not so fortunate.

The relative openness of current-day masonry in Spain and Mallorca is indicative of societal changes since Franco's time. Yet it is questionable as to how well it sits with this "new" Spain. The exclusion of women is one aspect of this. Elements within the arch-conservative Catholic right have portrayed the country as now being under the control of socialists, communists and masons. From both ends of the spectrum - liberal and reactionary - the masons continue to be controversial. Masonic influence, real or imagined, is not difficult to understand. Secret societies in Spain have wielded influence. One other, Opus Dei, was virtually a Francoist think-tank of technocrats that moulded economic transformation. The Spanish grand lodge, on its website, does though insist that it is not a secret society.

In the Balearics, there are eleven masonic lodges, five of which use English as their language. One other uses German. Roughly a half of Balearic masons are in fact British or German. This does rather hint at an essentially social-club style of island masonry. In one of the press articles about the grand lodge - from "The Diario" - it has been revealed that there are some 400 members of these eleven lodges and that the average age of a "brother" is between 35 and 40. The age may suggest that masonry is in relatively good health in the Balearics, but 400 members hardly represent a mass movement, so the chances of encountering a funny handshake are probably remote.

As I know you do of course like all this stuff, you will want to know about the Spanish entry for this year's Eurovision. And continuing to bring you some musical item, here it is. Inspiring. Nul points beckon - if there's any justice. (And what is that girl doing with the rocking horse at 1.28?) Daniel Diges, "Algo Pequeñito":

Yesterday - Pat Benatar,

Any comments to please.

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