The Masonic temple that survived the Franco regime in Tenerife and that will be recognized as a space for historical memory


One of the first points to be taken by the coup leaders in July 1936 in the Canary Islands was the Masonic temple of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The day before, the spaces of the Freemasons were also confiscated in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and later the same was done in Santa Cruz de La Palma. The speed with which action was taken against these people leads historians to conclude that they were premeditated acts and to this was added the subsequent Law for the Suppression of Freemasonry and Communism, which lasted from 1940 to 1978, with the dictator Francisco Franco now deceased. “The truth is that it is a miracle that the Masonic temple has been maintained for so long because after the uprising it was the Falange barracks, prison, military pharmacy and later a warehouse,” Emilio Fresco, president of the recently constituted Association of the Recovery of the Masonic Memory of the Canary Islands.


The fight against the stigma of Freemasonry, the discreet cult that was demonized by Francoism

The fight against the stigma of Freemasonry, the discreet cult that was demonized by Francoism

Further

The repression of the Freemasons, who were prohibited from meeting and who suffered arrests in the Islands if they were suspected of being them, is an issue that has gone more unnoticed in the recovery of historical memory. That is why, as a sign of justice and reparation, Fresco insists on the importance of their inclusion. Recently, the Technical Commission for Historical Memory of the Archipelago has approved the strategy that will be followed in the coming years in this matter, a document that will also include that the Masonic temple of Santa Cruz de Tenerife be recognized as a space for memory. “It is the only one that remains in the Canary Islands as a vestige of what was the repression of the Freemasons,” says Fresco, who celebrates this inclusion in that document that is soon expected to be official.

In the temple, torture was practiced in the stage in which it was a barracks during the Franco regime. “It was one of the places where, especially in the first days of the uprising, things happened that have gone down in history and cannot be repeated,” Fresco remarks. “It is important not only as a Masonic monument but for all that is historical memory,” insists the president of this association, adding that its inclusion in the strategy is a first step in designing the future use that it will be given.

Among these uses, it stands out that exhibitions and all kinds of activities related to the recovery of historical memory can be held. “The position that we have is that this monument goes beyond what is a Masonic temple, that it must continue to have activities as a Masonic temple but also as a reference point for historical memory for all those who were retaliated at that time and there are groups that They should feel represented.” An initiative that he believes will come to reverse this “ostracism and oblivion into which many Freemasons who have contributed a lot to Canarian society have been able to fall.”



A rehabilitation in its centenary

The rehabilitation of this space started late last year and is financed by three million euros by the state government, the Canary Islands and the Santa Cruz de Tenerife City Council. When the project to carry out the works began, there was no talk of historical memory as such, but the importance of recovering this space for its artistic and historical value. Now, with this new strategy, that meaning will be given to it.

It should be remembered that the construction of this temple began in 1900 by the architect Manuel de Cámara and was completed, with the completion of the façade, in 1923, so this year marks the centenary of its construction. In 2001, the Santa Cruz de Tenerife City Council bought the property from the Government of Spain and in 2022 the funds for its restoration were obtained. The vice president of the Canarian Government, Román Rodríguez (NC), was in 2022 at the beginning of the reform together with the mayor José Manuel Bermúdez (CC).

The repression of the Freemasons

The historian José Martín Culebras, who has studied Freemasonry in the Canary Islands, highlighted this week in a meeting organized by the Association for the Recovery of the Historical Memory of Arucas (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary) that the persecution of Freemasons did not begin with Francoism, but rather it has been experienced at different stages of history, and its repression is accentuated under the power of dictatorships and fascism or Nazism. In addition, he stressed that although in the Canary Islands there is no record of executions of Freemasons as it did in the rest of the State, there were numerous arrests in the Gando concentration camps or the Fyffes prison.



Likewise, he emphasized Franco’s incomprehensible obsession with Freemasonry, which led to its inclusion in the same title of the Law of Repression, a rule by which more than 25,600 Freemasons throughout Spain were prosecuted. Among those repressed during the Franco regime, he listed several Masons such as Alfredo Galán Moreno, who left the Gando concentration camp to die in his house and who is therefore not listed as a victim of the repression. Likewise, he listed the purges that were produced against Freemason officials, especially teachers, and recalled José Chacón de la Aldea or Demófilo Medero Pérez.

The historian Manuel de Paz Sánchez, quoted by José Martín Culebras, has inquired about the history of Freemasonry in the Canary Islands, who points out that in 1740 the first Freemason to be brought before the Inquisition was found in the Canary Islands, the Dutchman Alexander French Linch, who He was in Tenerife when he was prosecuted by that court and was finally acquitted. A piece of information that vindicates the presence of Freemasons throughout history in the Islands, which although it is not a massive community, has indeed had a presence in most of the Islands.



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