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The Garunda was a Spanish secret society reported to have originated from an apparition of the Virgin Mary in the 1490s to a hermit named Apollinario. At the time Spain was just emerging. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were pushing the Moors southward, Columbus had discovered the New World, and the Jews had been banished from the kingdom. Apollinario was dedicated to removing all that was not Catholic from the land, and in the midst of his veneration of the Virgin Mary, she appeared to him. She told him that the original Moorish conquest of Spain was an act of divine punishment, but that now, through Mary's intercession, the Catholics of Spain were being given a new chance. The recent defeat of the Moors was a sign of the future. She now was asking the hermit to go on a special mission for her.

Apollinario was to gather the patriots and take possession of the Moorish land. As a sign, she gave to the hermit a button that she had removed from the clothing of Jesus. Anyone wearing one like it would be protected from danger and from heresy. The Garunda was organized as a guerrilla army. Members joined in the continuing war against the Moors and attacked the homes of suspected heretics. They killed, looted and burned, all under the belief that they had the backing of heaven. In the subsequent peace after the war ended, they were an embarrassment to the crown, but had become wealthy and powerful enough that King Ferdinand could not move against them.

The Garunda settled in as a secret intelligence network. One target of its spying was the Maranos, Jews who had outwardly converted to Catholicism, but were secretly adhering to Judaism. The Garunda aligned with the Inquisition over the next century and shared any confiscated property and money with it. It also spread to Spanish territories in South America.

In 1821, the Spanish government finally moved against the Garunda, found a set of incriminating books, and the following year executed many of its leaders. The Garunda was effectively suppressed in Spain, but continued to operate in South America through the nineteenth century. It is believed to have re-emerged in Spain during the Franco era (1936-75).


Daraul, Akron. A History of Secret Societies. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel, 1961.

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