MIRELA ELENA ENE
MAR SÁNCHEZ BERGUA
Grand Master of Women Freemasonry in Spain
Good evening. We are here today with the Grand Master of Gran Logia Femenina de España, Mrs. Mar Sánchez Bergua. We are very honoured that you have accepted to grant this interview.
Tell us about the evolution of women’s Freemasonry in Spain. How many women’s masonic structures currently exist in Spain? Are there mixed lodges?
The history of women’s Freemasonry in Spain begins at the end of the 19th century with what is today the Grand Lodge of Spain, the Spanish Grand Orient, which introduced the adoption lodges. From then until the Second Republic, the period before Franco, it was very important, but during Franco’s time, as everybody knows, for 40 years, it was totally forbidden.
In 1984 the first women lodge was created in Barcelona and from then on it continued to spread the women freemasonry, in dependence on France until 2005, when we were constituted as an independent obedience and recognized as the GL of Women Freemasonry in Spain.
Regarding the organisations that exist in Spain, on the one hand there is the Grand Lodge of Spain, which comes from England, then you can find what is called dogmatic and liberal Freemasonry, where we are, as the only recognised women’s freemasonry in Spain – the Grand Lodge of Women from Spain, and then there are mixed lodges, mixed obediences. There is the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Spain, which is almost one of the most important in terms of membership, then there is the masonic order Le Droit Humain, and there is also the Grand Orient of France, which has several lodges in different parts of Spain. So there is an area called Espacio Masónico de España to which all those masons who are adogmatic and liberal, the mixed ones and ourselves belong.
Tell us about the principles that guide Freemasonry in Spain.
For us the principles are the mottoes of liberty, equality, fraternity, to which we add tolerance and secularism. Why do we add these two? Because each country has its own culture and we believe that in Spain it is very important that the religious issue, one’s faith, remains in the personal sphere and it is fundamental to have this sense of laicity, especially to gain the respect of others.
Do you think that the appearance and development of women’s Freemasonry was linked to the fight to achieve real and de facto equality with men? Can you name women masons who have played an important role in the evolution of Spanish society?
Absolutely. Women’s Freemasonry is a reflection of society and has advanced in line with society and, logically, has been linked to the progress that has been made in the fight for equality between men and women. We were talking about the 19th century and I can name some of the most important women who have distinguished themselves, let’s call them feminists, mainly because they fought for women’s rights: Rosario de Acuña, Esmeralda Cervantes, all at the beginning of the 19th century, Ángeles López de Ayala, Amalia Domingo. Ángeles López de Ayala, who was a writer and poet, a republican and feminist activist, Amalia Domingo, who was part of the spiritualist movement at that time in Barcelona, we are talking about the end of 1919, when the spiritualist line was also very important; Teresa Claramund who belonged to the anarchist workers’ movement. These three women, together, founded the Autonomous Society of Women of Barcelona, which was an important feminist association trying to help women.
In the first part of the 20th century we have Rosario de Acuña, Clara Campoamor who was a lawyer and a politician, she was part of the republican tribunals for the Radical Party and thanks to her Spain got women’s suffrage in 1931, much earlier than in most other countries, Carmen de Burgos, who was also a writer and a very advanced and feminist person, she was the first journalist in Spain, Aurora Bertrana, who was cellist and writer. All of these were women and, logically, feminists who fought and pushed for a fairer society, to try to achieve equality between men and women. We are trying to follow in their footsteps. Therefore, the history of women’s Freemasonry is logically linked to the fight for equality.
How many lodges and how many members do you have, what rituals do you practice, are there any rites of perfection?
There are about 300 or so of us, there are about 12 lodges here in Spain and Andorra and we have two triangles: one is in Malaga, the other is in Murcia. The ritual we are doing at the moment is the Ancient and Accepted Scottish.
As far as the higher degrees are concerned, we don’t have a Supreme Council yet, we belong to the Supreme Council of Women in France and we have up to 18th degree in Spain, and after 18th degree we belong to France. Certainly in a year’s time we will be able to go up to 30th degree in Spain and we hope that in 2-3 years we will have here our own Supreme Council.
What is the relationship between the Grand Lodge of Women of Spain and the Grand Lodge of Spain? Are there common activities for the progress of society in which the two Grand Lodges participate?
As you know, there cannot be an official relationship, they cannot visit us in our ritual work and we cannot visit them, but we have a very cordial relationship. Moreover, we collaborate in Spain because of the situation we have, for one of the fundamental things, the normalisation of Freemasonry. In other countries, this phase has already passed, but we are still trying to eliminate the dark legends about Freemasonry in general. We even organise joint conferences attended by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Spain and ourselves.
In Spain a law on democratic memory has recently been passed, which is very good, but it is also a little sad that this law recognises Freemasonry as a victim of Franco’s regime for the first time since the end of the civil war in Spain in 1939. During Franco’s regime, Freemasonry was attacked in a terrible way, there were many people who had to leave the country, others who died, who were eliminated and even people who were not Freemasons at all, but who had a relationship with members of the Craft, were punished for it, sometimes with their lives. So, to be recognized today for the first time as some of the victims of the Franco system is part of the normalization, and with this law we are also thinking of doing a kind of collaboration project with all the obediences in Spain.
How do you “recruit” new members to the Grand Lodge of Women in Spain? Is there any activity that the Grand Lodge carries out in universities to facilitate the recruitment of new members, as it happens in the UK, for example?
Of course, we are not on the same level to Great Britain. We are delivering lectures in universities, in prestigious places, or in cultural centres, and on the other hand, are organising non-ritual meetings, once a year, in many lodges; we are writing articles in newspapers, making ourselves known.
What role do you think Freemasonry plays today? Do you think the world today still needs Freemasonry as in the past?
In Spain it is a very special case because of our history. But I think masonic values make more sense today than before. Freemasonry is timeless.
We are also involved in international Masonic organisations and so there we can do more together to help bring about changes. Values make much more sense today than ever, they always have, but at this time when in general we see how the question of freedoms is regressing, how people are trying to block people from thinking for themselves and how everything is becoming more and more trivialised, well, I think Freemasonry is very important. To get true citizens, Freemasonry and masonic values are fundamental, especially because the values we defend are human values.
Regarding the women freemasonry, there is a big lack of knowledge. We have found that in many places where we go to deliver lectures, many people are surprised that there are women, because they have the idea of a man’s Freemasonry at best. And then they have slightly confused ideas about the things we do, about strange rituals and so on. So as far as women’s Freemasonry is concerned, I think it’s only now being discovered.
Two years ago we organised a conference in Madrid, which gave us a lot of visibility because of the commemoration of Clara Campoamor, the person who obtained the right to vote for women. We managed to organise it in the Spanish Senate and to end it in the Madrid Athenaeum. People from the highest political and non-political level participated, which gave us a great visibility. As a result of this, a lot of curiosity started to emerge, there were many people who didn’t know that women were involved.
What do you think about the association of Freemasonry with the Illuminati? Is Freemasonry being used as a reason for all the problems caused by bad government decisions?
I don’t have much knowledge about the Illuminati, I only know about the black legends that exist and I compare them little with what happens with Freemasonry in general in Spain; I don’t pay attention to these topics.
Behind the Red Cross were Freemasons when it was founded, behind the European Union there were Freemasons, behind the UN there were Freemasons. Example of three organisations, it does not mean that the European Union is Masonic, nor the UN, nor the Red Cross, but who founded it and who started it were Freemasons. So their idealism was embedded in that European Union, or that European Community, or that United Nations.
To fanatical or ignorant people who want to attack us, we must respond either with silence or with very rational things.
From an international perspective, with which other Grand Lodges in the world do you maintain fraternal relations or have you exchanged Grand Representatives?
We are under the umbrella of a European organisation that brings together all the female obediences, which is called CLIMAF – Centre de Liaison International de la Maçonnerie Féminine. It started in France, with Belgium, and from there Italy, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, now there is even Cameroon, Serbia, and soon there will be Switzerland, so we are all European Freemasons and we represent more than 25,000 women. So, what we are doing are joint projects, to have a bigger impact.
Now we have also joined the organization in America, called FAMAF – Federación Americana de Masonería Femenina, where there are Chile, Uruguay, Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia and even the United States. This union aims to have more and more influence at the international level regarding the situation of women in particular and society in general. Then there are others that we work with, for example with what is called the EMA – European Masonic Alliance, which has influence within the European Union and brings together all types of Freemasonry, from all over Europe. We are also in another group called the MMU – Masonic Mediterranean Union, for the mediterranean area, both north and south. In other words, in general, all the women members have a double membership: european and american.
What kind of activities or projects are carried out within these associations?
There are all kinds of projects. First of all, for example, we are trying to influence the European Union to keep alive the fact that human values, these social values that differentiate Europe to a certain extent, should not be lost.
How do you see the future of women’s Freemasonry, taking into account the fact that women were created by Divinity in a relationship of equality with men and, at least for this reason, it is natural that they can stand on an equal footing in any field?
Yes, I totally agree, I think this is the path we have to follow, but I think it is still a long way to go.
Women’s Freemasonry has a long way to go, it has to exist and it can contribute a lot to society in general and to the status of women in particular in almost all societies, not only in Spain, or in Romania, or in Turkey, but also in Germany, in France. When we go deeper, there is still a lot to be done, even if at the legal level we have obtained some laws and we can already be in many positions and in many professions, the glass ceiling still exists in almost all professions.
Finally, please tell us about some aspects of your life outside Freemasonry. Who is Mrs. Mar Sánchez Bergua and how do people relate to her when they hear that you are Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Women of Spain?
I was born in Huesca, near the Pyrenees, I studied there, then I came to Barcelona to study at the university, I graduated History. My family and everyone convinced me that I should do other studies, so I went to ESADE, which is the School of Administration and Management. I started working in this second career, in an american, multinational company. With this company I was lucky enough to gain a lot of international experience, I went abroad, I lived in different countries and you could say that I spent almost half of my professional career abroad.
Then I came back here, I continued with the same profession and I’m CFO, or CEO, depending on the moment and the situation, and apart from that, I collaborate with business schools as a tutor, I’m involved in several associations.
I’m married, I don’t have children. I like to travel a lot, I like to read a lot, to listen music, to play sports, although I can hardly do it now. When I have the opportunity I go to Huesca, where I have my house and I take refuge there, it’s like going back to the origins and this gives me a lot of energy. Family and friends are fundamental for me.
My father was close to Freemasonry, even in the post-war period, and I came to it simply from a personal quest. I didn’t come through anyone, but joined in 2006, just when women’s Freemasonry in Spain had just become autonomous. I immediately told my family, logically my husband supported me from the first moment, my family supports me, but was reluctant for fear of possible consequences, because of the historical problem in my country; my friends all know about it and there is no problem.
Now that I am Grand Master, since the end of 2021, I have had surprises with people who saw it in a newspaper, or on the net, and I have been surprised by their positive reaction, as well as other people you thought would react well, but they just kept silent.
Thank you for granting the interview and I hope that equality in society manifests itself in real life, not just on paper or in theory.
Thank you very much. It was also an honor for me that you thought of us and I think you’re doing a great job and whatever you can do to normalize and raise awareness and all of that is welcome.