Welcome to the web archive of the SA Historical & Philatelic Association.
We hope you will enjoy reading the articles and information on Salvation Army history and
heritage that will be published here over the coming months.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Salvation Army in Latin America

The Army's involvement in Latin America has now extended over 110 years, and at present covers eighteen of the twenty "traditional" republics. On November 25, 1889, Colonel and Mrs. Henry Thurman were dedicated by General Booth under the Argentine flag, for service in that republic, and embarked five days later. By the end of December, a hall had been secured. The first years were stormy, a revolution the very first year, an officer stabbed, smallpox and other dangers assailed them but the seed was planted, and flourished.

Within a very short time, Swiss comrades in Uruguay - "a little troop of soldiers who received the War Cry", and had obtained "S's", asked for officers to command them BY the end of the year, Captain John McCarthy arrived, and premises were obtained - these were very soon packed for meetings, and within three months three corps were established shed in Montevideo.

Whilst the Panama Canal was being built thousands of labourers were employed on the project and a West Indies Territory officer asked if the S.A. could commence work amongst the men. By the end of 1904, Adjutant and Mrs. Jackson opened the first corps, in Cristobal; a few months later, the work started in Panama City.

Costa Rica was the next country to receive an S.A. presence. In 1896 three Salvationists from Hadleigh Farm Colony arrived in San Pedro, to manage a large market and flower garden. They hoped that the SA would start work in their adopted country, and in 1907 Major John Clifford called, and conducted a Salvation Army meeting at their request. Towards the end of the year Captain Eduardo Palaci, a Peruvian and Lt. George Stewart, a Jamaican, officially commenced operations at Port Limon, and the work was well received by the President of the Republic.

In September 1909, Brig. and Mrs. William Bonnett were appointed to commence work in Chile, and the first open-air meeting was held in Santiago, on November 26. Within two years, 131 soldiers had been enrolled.

S.A. activities were commenced in Paraguay the following year, by Adjutant Thomas Frisch, a native of Uruguay, and he too was welcomed by the President of the Republic. As in many other South American republics, the Army helped to care for the wounded and homeless during a revolution in 1912.

In the Spring of 1910, Adjutant and Mrs. Thomas, with Lt. Zacarias Ribeiro, commenced S.A. work at Callao, in Peru. A suitable hall was secured, in one of the poorest areas of the town; the first open-air meeting was held at the end of August, in Lima, the capital, and the work quickly spread to other towns.

Cuba was the next republic to host The Salvation Army. Brother Alexander Hay a Jamaican, started meetings in his own home at Santiago. Later, he conducted Sunday meetings, with a friend translating his testimony into French, which the Cubans understood. In due course he got permission to hold meetings in the United States naval yard at Guantanamo. Adjutant Elmer Johnson, of the United States, did pioneer work in Havana in 1912, but official operations were not commenced until 1918 when the local people bought a dwelling, and opened it as ‘The Salvation Centre’. Shortly afterwards Adjutant and Mrs John Tiner, working in Panama, were appointed to Cuba as C.O.s., based at Santiago. The first ten years were very difficult but many relief agencies were established and the work stabilized. It is worthwhile to note that, with Fidel Castro in power, the work continued, though open-air activities have been forbidden.

Two years later, Adjutant and Mrs Ahlm (Swedish) and Captain Gregersen (Norwegian) were appointed, to start the work in Bolivia and two corps were opened in La Paz one Spanish and the other Indian. Following this latter success, a new S.A. Territory was formed, of Chile, Peru and Bolivia.

Brazil proved to be fertile soil in which to plant new S.A. seed. On May 8, l922, Lt. Col. Miche arrived in Rio de Janeiro and, with later arrivals, was able to establish a meeting hall, and to start open-air work. Within five years, nine corps had been opened, with 175 soldiers and 99 recruits.

In 1929, a Japanese couple received a call to settle in Columbia and Genshiro Tanaka was commissioned as Envoy to commence the Army's work there. After some years Tanaka felt that the time had come to retire, but when the Territorial Commander arrived at his home with a certificate of merit, the housekeeper would not let him in: he was unable to gain admission and so the work lapsed. It was not until April 21, 1985 that this was recommended.

Mexico had long been considered for The Salvation Army's work - as long ago as 1898; but nothing took root until October 5, 1937, when an Army flag was presented to Alejandro Guzman, for use in Mexico City. The early soldiers had their own uniforms flags, and ribbons, collar S's, and even miniature cap crests. The work has prospered, and in 1998 there were in the country 80 centres, with over 2,000 senior and junior soldiers and adherents.

The tiny republic of Haiti became the next to welcome the S.A. to its shores. In 1941, a married evangelist established a mission in Port au Prince and after eight years cabled the S.A. in New York:

"We wish to affiliate with you. We have 350 members. Reply urgently. Carrie Guillaume" International HQ was notified and after an inspection officers arrived to open the work. French and Creole Articles of War were printed, and Creole choruses were prepared, and the first meeting was held on February 2nd 1950, in a hall full to overflowing. The following day, 200 of the mission's member signed their Articles, and were, as one would expect given their Cartridge envelopes for their free will offerings!

Early in the morning of February 4, 1976 a violent earthquake shook Central America and Guatemala was devastated. Sixteen officers from Mexico the Caribbean and the United States, with many helpers, were rushed in to help with relief work. Within twelve months of the disaster the S.A. provided over 600 permanent houses. From that terrifying start, the S.A. established its work in June, when thirteen soldiers were sworn in. The first Commanding Officers were Captain and Mrs. Stanley Melton. At the 1985 Territorial Congress in Santiago, Chile, Captain and Mrs Elisio Flores Morales were presented with a Salvation Army Flag to fly in Ecuador, and on October 30, the work was opened in Quito. As in Guatemala in 1976, an earthquake struck El Salvador in October 1986, and The Salvation Army rendered emergency assistance. Following this, Salvationists stayed to minister to the spiritual needs of the people and a Corps was opened on April 1st, 1989 with social service outreach, and a computer centre!

The last Latin American country to see the Salvation Army open fire was the Dominican Republic, where work started on July 1, 1995. Of the twenty republics there seems to be little information regarding Honduras and Nicaragua, except that work started in 1919 and 1928 respectively. Any information regarding these two countries would be greatly appreciated.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What a valuable information. I would like to add that I served the last 5 years in Dominican Republic and I meet a man who was Vice-admiral in the Dominican Navy; very sharp mind for a 92 year old man who vividly described the Salvation Army in in 1921 when he was about 12 years old in San Pedro Macoris Town. The band,a salvation army funeral, the flag, the uniforms and the social action; something the vice-admiral de Windt says was unknown to common people to help each other and strangers. He was deeply impressed and admired The Salvation Army since then.

The oldest information I had of the Army in Dominican Republic was about 1950, but this news brought to me great joy about God´s hand upon us.

Major Gerardo Gochez
Public Relations Officer
Latin America North Territory