Jorge Luis Landing

It surprised me to find members of the Masonic Lodge witnessing for independence at the United Nations Decolonization Committee hearings. But then I met Jorge Luis Landing, himself a Mason, who explained it all to me. Did I not know that Masons supported the cause of independence as far back as the French Revolution? "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" was their motto. They were in support of the American Revolution, as well. Many of the early patriots for freedom were Masons: Dr. Betances, Benítez Juárez, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. Masons, Landing told me, could be of any religious faith, but must believe in independence. Racial discrimination is not permitted in the Puerto Rican chapters, one reason for their separation from the North American chapters. I learned later that the designer of the Statue of Liberty, Auguste Bartholdi, was a Mason. The torch, the book in her left hand, the seven pointed diadem around her head are all Masonic symbols.

A veteran of the independence movement, Landing belonged to PIP (Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño) from its very beginnings under Concepción de Gracia, and served as vice-president in 1965. By 1967, PIP fell under the leadership of three men: Concepción de Gracia, Rubén Berríos and Landing.

At the death of de Gracia, Landing pulled out to form his own party, Authentic Sovereignty Party. Berríos carried on with PIP with a philosophy of legal and nonviolent solutions. However, though a lawyer, Landing was unwilling to support any law he felt to be immoral. He saw, also, the need of bringing in the poor people, and of giving them more access to local government. Berríos took an anti-communist stand and sought the approval of the American government.

Landing's greatest inspiration came from Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos. He saw him as a man of great spiritual stature, with deep compassion for the poor and little concern for material gain. Muñoz Marín had begun his career with a promise to foster independence, but failed to follow through. Albizu never wavered, despite the temptation to gain political power.

When Albizu returned to Puerto Rico after years of imprisonment and illness, Landing was a student at UPR and serving as president of the student council. In celebration of the event, Landing raised the Puerto Rican flag. For this act in support of Albizu, he was sentenced to sixty days in prison.

By 1949 Landing had finished his legal studies at George Washington University, Washington, D.C. There he was a classmate of Juan Mari Brás. Both he and Mari Brás were later questioned by the FBI about Collazo's attack on Blair House in 1950, and the attack by four Nationalists on Congress in 1954. Though not in any way associated with those acts, they viewed them as morally justifiable in a desperate attempt to get the attention of the American people.

When Albizu was imprisoned in 1954, Landing tried to get him released through habeas corpus. All attempts failed. Albizu was to remain in prison until his death.

As a result of his activities, Landing was temporarily disbarred at one point, but reinstated. Now continuing his private law practice, he no longer takes leadership in the independence movement, but does hold firm to his national pride and passion for freedom.

Landing had the privilege of adding his signature to a statement by the National Grand Lodge of Puerto Rico [Masons], presented in hearings before the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs of the United States government, July of 1986.

In this presentation, the Masonic organization draws a distinction between a country that is free and one in slavery. "There does not exist a middle state between freedom and slavery. This is so, because in the life of every nationally identified society, as in that of any individual, there is, or there is not, a master," it stated. "As regards nationalities, when deprived of their freedom, the master is either a Metropolis from outside, or a dictator from inside.... The Gran Logia Nacional de Puerto Rico is certainly conscious that the great majority of the Puerto Rican people have been feeling deeply the damaging aspects and indignant situation to which our country has been subjected during the eighty-eight years of United States dominion over the essential aspects of Puerto Rican life. With the exception of very ignorant, insensible, or morally deprived individuals, the Puerto Ricans in general condemn and reject every type of colonialism or subjugation, be it political, economic, cultural or otherwise."

The statement goes on to express the necessity of Congress acknowledging Puerto Rico's sovereignty and transferring all powers to the people of Puerto Rico. The United States must negotiate with Puerto Rico in fairness for a true "free-association" based on mutual respect and fair dealing. "If you do it, we beg the Great Architect of the Universe to duly reward you; if not, He Himself shall demand it from you."