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Coupé and Leibman

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Curaçao’s Masonic Cemetery The last type of cemetery we address is that of the Masons—a group that transcended religious boundaries. The Masonic cemetery is one of a small cluster of non-religious burial grounds in Otrobanda. (The other non-religious cemetery is a military cemetery that was built following the disastrous explosion in 1778 of the docked Dutch frigate Alphen that resulted in the loss of the ship with nearly all hands [Fig. 4, No. 8]).58 Unlike the military cemetery, the people interred in the Masonic cemetery were often long-term island residents. While some Jewish and Protestant Masons could choose to be buried in their denominational burial ground and mark their graves with Masonic symbols, the Masonic cemetery was the last refuge for all Catholic Freemasons. On the surface, the Masons are strikingly egalitarian: their organization (and hence cemetery) cuts across racial, religious, and ethnic boundaries and indeed one island lodge was called Igualdad (Equality). Another way of understanding the Masons, however, is as a retrenchment of privilege particularly following emancipation: as racial assignment became more fluid on the island, the Masons offered a way to regain control of social status and privilege through secret and private means. Thus, we argue that the Masonic cemetery, established a mere five years after slavery was abolished, should be seen a way that social elites reinforced boundaries. Although Freemasonry was popular on the island since the 1750s, it was not until 1868 that the Freemasons of Curaçao procured a cemetery of their own. By this time, the island was home to several lodges. The small burial ground’s location attests to the multiple religious alliances of the interred. The cemetery shared a common wall with the Protestants, but also was across the street from one of the Catholic burial grounds (Fig. 4, Nos. 5, 6, 7). Walking west down Otrobanda’s Roodeweg Street, past the Catholic Cemetery, along the Protestant cemetery’s two-meter-tall wall, we could have easily missed the change in the barrier’s color from the ubiquitous goldenrod to a more somber beige. This subtle shift demarcates one border of a separate graveyard. Compared to the Protestant burial ground with which it shares a common wall, this cemetery boasts a grander entrance and covers less than half the area. Also in contrast to its Protestant neighbor, the locked gate offers no visitor information, thereby reinforcing the sense of the Masons as a “secret” organization. Freemasonry was formally first brought to Curaçao in 1757 when Amsterdam Lodge member Jacobus Buys established lodge l’Amitié, though the possibility has been raised that a group of New World Jews with connections to the island were familiar with a form of Masonry as early as the seventeenth century.59 Many lodges were established and revived on Curaçao over the following two and a half centuries with varying degrees of longevity

Profile for Chris Davis

Markers XXVII  

Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies

Markers XXVII  

Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies

Profile for cvdavis
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