Eduardo Camareno, Jr., 32°
By any standard, Brother Manuel Fernández-Juncos
was one of Puerto Ricos most extraordinary men and Masons.
In 1858, an orphan born in 1846 in the province of Asturias, Spain, arrived aboard a Spanish vessel on the island of Puerto Rico which was discovered by Columbus during his second voyage to the New World. The little boy was Manuel Fernández-Juncos who became a Puerto Rican by adopting the island as his country. He went on to become a prolific writer and newspaper editor, statesman, Master Mason, 32° Scottish Rite Mason, and the founder in 1893 of Lodge Patria No. 61 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was also the Lodges first Worshipful Master.
This year, 1998, 100 years after the SpanishAmerican War, commemorates the change of Puerto Rican sovereignty from Spain to the United States. A century ago, Puerto Rico become an American territory. Thus, this year it is especially appropriate to remember Bro. Manuel Fernández-Juncos, one of the great heroes of Puerto Rico and a founder of Freemasonry in Puerto Rico.
Some of the most relevant traits of this extraordinary man were his knowledge of the social problems of the rural man, a knowledge acquired behind the counter of his uncles general store. His vocation as writer was the result of his constant communication with townspeople and his understanding of their particular problems. An eye illness was a turning point in his life. That is when he met Dr. José Gualberto-Padilla, a renowned poet known as "El Caribe," who cured his sight and became his friend and teacher, orientating him toward a literary vocation.
As editor of his newspaper El Buscapié (The Firecracker), Bro. Fernández-Juncos was instrumental in publishing what was, in effect, an adult education program consisting of informative newspaper articles on health, society, and government. It was the only newspaper that stood up when the local government, dominated by Madrid, hindered the economic, social, and political progress of the island.
During the tenure of Romualdo Palacios as Spains Military Governor of Puerto Rico, Bro. Fernández-Juncos was the Worshipful Master of Estrella de Luquillo, Star of Luquillo, Lodge No. 5. In 1887, all Masonic Lodges were closed by the governor. Civil rights were suspended generally, and the Civil Guard was authorized to imprison and physically abuse Puerto Rican citizens. Any two or more persons meeting were subject to immediate arrest. This obscure episode lasted almost a year until the Queen of Spain appointed a new governor. In the history of Puerto Rico, this year is often called "The Year of Terror."
|Puerto Ricos first self-governing cabinet was composed of several famous men, including Bro. Manuel Fernández-Juncos (seated right).|
Ten years later in 1897, the Spanish Government implemented an autonomous government for the colony of Puerto Rico. This first self-governing cabinet was composed of local patriots such as Luis Muñoz-Rivera, Juan Hernández-López, José Severo-Quiñones, Francisco Mariano-Quiñones, Manuel F. Rossy and Manuel Fernández-Juncos, the latter as Secretary of the Treasury.
But the life of the cabinet was short. In 1898, following the explosion of the USS Maine in the harbor of Havana on February 15, 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out, and after the conquest of the island by the United States, an American military government took over. The cabinet immediately resigned, but General John R. Brooke, the American Military Governor, requested its members to stay in order to form a bridge between the two governments. For the most part, the Americans didnt know the laws and customs of the people nor the Spanish language.
On the other hand, Puerto Ricans didnt know English and couldnt understand the purposes and means of the new government because of their previous experiences with the Spaniards. Thus, the many laws promulgated by the Americans to benefit the people were initially seen with distrust. During this critical change of sovereignty, Bro. Fernández-Juncos, seeing the Spanish language was in jeopardy as the vehicle for learning, took over the enormous task of adopting, translating, and writing books for use in the schools.
For this patriotic service, Bro. Fernández-Juncos is considered a true Puerto Rican though he was born in Spain. His dedication to Puerto Rican culture and to the betterment of Puerto Rico was of extraordinary service in preserving the islands rich past and assuring its secure, prosperous future. This outstanding Freemason is also the author of the words of "La Borinqueña," Puerto Ricos national anthem.
In addition, he founded San Juan citys Casa Manuel Fernández-Juncos for Orphaned Children, a charity all Puerto Ricans know and cherish. Bro. Fernández-Juncos was honored when the second most important avenue in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, was named after him as Manuel Fernández-Juncos Avenue. The citys most important avenue was named after Juan Ponce de León, the first governor of Puerto Rico.
Brother Fernández-Juncos died peacefully at his home in the Santurce suburb of San Juan on August 28, 1928. All Masonic organizations and people of all walks of life were present at his funeral. By any standard, he was an extraordinary man and Freemason.
|Eduardo Camareno, Jr.
is a member of the Valley of San Juan, Orient of Puerto Rico, and has twice been Worshipful Master of his Lodge, Patria No. 61 in San Juan. A Shriner of Abou Saad Temple, he is the Secretary of the Shrine Club of Puerto Rico and also the Chairman of the Hospital Committee for the Outreach Clinics of the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Puerto Rico.