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Puerto Rico

Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico

Last modified: 2002-11-02 by dov gutterman
Keywords: puerto rico | united states | america | cuba | star | stripes | hoist triangle | usa |
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[Flag of Puerto Rico]
by Antonio Martins and Zeljko Heimer, 21 September 1999

See also:

The Flag

From <>:
The National Flag is the highest expression of Nationality and pride for the Motherland. Back in 1511, Spain issues an official flag for Puerto Rico, based in the Coat of Arms authorized by the spanish monarchs.
On December 22, 1895, a group of 59 Puerto Ricans gather at "Chimney Corner Hall" in New York City and organizes a political group, attached to the Cuban Revolutionary Party to organize the Pro-Independence movement in Puerto Rico, still under Spanish ruling. According to the meeting acts, the flag " same as the cuban, but the color stripes are inverted..."
There are different theories regarding the origins of our flag, one of them names Manuel Besosa as the designer , in a letter written by his daughter she says, " father asked me to sew together some pieces of cloth, white, red and blue that he brought himself , this tiny flag had 5 alterned stripes, red and white, and a triangle with a five point star within it...".

This is the symbolism according to the 1895 meeting:

Red Stripes - The blood from the brave warriors.
White Stripes - Victory and peace after obtaining indepence.
Blue Triangle - Our sky and coastal waters.
White Lone Star - Our beautiful Island.

It wasn't but until 1952 that our Legislature approved the final symbolism of our flag:

Red Stripes - stands for the "blood" that nourishes the three branches of our government; Legislative, Executive and Judiciary.
White Stripes - represents individual liberty and the rights that keeps in perfect balance our form of government.
Blue Triangle
- stands for the "Republican Government", represented by the three branches.
White Lone Star - represents "The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico".
Dov Gutterman , 28 December 1998

There has been an issue during recent years regarding the blue tone of the triangle in the Puerto Rican flag. The 1895 original design used a sky blue, however when the flag was adopted officially by the Commonwealth in 1952 it featured a dark blue very similar to that of the US flag (which is the one depicted above). I dont know the exact reasons for that change but I suspect that the new commonwealth governement of the time did not want to use what had been a revolutionary independence flag. Nonetheless, with the celebration of the flag's 100 aniversary in 1995 the current pro- statehood administration decided to go back to the original sky blue tone. Still, there are many different tones of blue used around the island, even among those in public buildings. Most government buildings have switched to the sky blue but many still use the dark tone. Also, independence supporters like to use a very light blue tone while commonwealth and statehood supporters prefer darker tones. It has become possible to identify the status preference of people based on the flag that they use.
Victor Quinones, 24 March 2000

After this digression, the original PR flag was simply the Cuban flag with the colors reversed.  The blue was not dark but sky blue, as in the Cuban flag.  The PR flag was forbidden in the island from 1898 until 1952, but was flown in defiance by the black-shirted Cadet Corps of the Puerto Rico Nationalist Party.   After 1952, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico adopted the original flag based on the reverse-colored Cuban one, but changed the hue of blue to dark blue, matching the USA flag.
Esteban Jimenez, 3 November 2000

I suppose the shade of red was also darkened, as the US flag uses "Old Glory Red" and the cuban flag uses a medium shade.
Antonio Martins, 7 November 2000

Variants of the Flag

Dark Blue variant
by Victor Quinones, 6 October 2000

"Sky" Blue variant
by Victor Quinones, 6 October 2000

Light Blue variant
by Victor Quinones, 6 October 2000

Concering the blue tone of the triangle in the Puerto Rican flag, here are the three commonly used variations in the island:
1) Dark Blue: Former official tone (until 1995), still substantially used by government and commerce and prefferred by pro- U.S. groups.
2) "Sky" Blue: Current official tone, used in most government buildings, substantial commercial use. Politically used mostly by pro commonwealth and statehood groups.
3) Light Blue: Preffered and widely used by pro- independence groups.
Victor Quinones, 6 October 2000

Do these two last versions has indeed a derker shade of red, as in the US flag, or do they use medium red, like in the flag of Cuba?
Antonio Martins, 27 December 2000

See also: Puerto Rico - Political Flags

100 Years of the Flag

Puerto Rico's flag is 100 years old on 22 December. The NANDO News service on the net had a short report on the celebrations a few days ago. Some lines from the report:

"The flag was created in 1895, by the Puerto Rican section of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, which advocated independence for Puerto Rico and Cuba from Spanish rule." (...) "Its design is the same as the Cuban flag, but with the colors inverted. It has five horizontal stripes, alternating red and white, with a white star on a blue triangle in the extreme left." (...) "Before 1952, police arrested anyone displaying the flag on charges of insubordination against the United States. When Puerto Rico became a Commonwealth that year, the flag became the island's official emblem."

Jan Oskar Engene, 21 December 1995

Coat of Arms

from <>

From <>:
Our Coat of Arms uses symbols of our history, culture and religion. It was first recognized by the Spanish Crown in 1511, but it wasn't until March 9,1905 that al law, establishing the official Coat of Arms was signed. After numerous investigations and amendments to that statute, the final version was approved and signed into law in 1976.The green background stands for our vegetation, our hopes and courtesy. Within the background there's a lamb on top of the Book of Revelations, holding the seven seals of The Apocalypse. The lamb symbolizes peace, purity, humble, integrity, and holds a white flag with a red cross. The flag means "truce", or knowledge to stop fighting. Both, the lamb and the flag, are symbols of  "John The Baptist" or San Juan Bautista, the original name given by the Spanish settlers.
The rim is covered by 16 symbols: castles signifying the "Kingdom of Castilla" and lions, representing the "Kingdom of Leon" and a flag, with both, lions and castles, representing the unity of both kingdoms, also shows the "Cross of Jerusalem" used by the Monarchs to expel the "non christians" from the Spanish peninsula. The crown on top symbolizes the "Royalty" who authorized this shield. To the right, an "F" for Fernando, to the left, a "Y" for Ysabel, the King and Queen of the Spanish Empire. The motto reads: "Joannes Est Nomem Ejus", it means "John is it name", the original name of the island.
Our Coat of Arms is the oldest in use in America, other countries created a new Coat when they became independent, ours is the only one that remembers the Spanish presence in the "New World" or America.
Dov Gutterman, 28 December 1998

There exists a slightly different version of the CoA of Puerto Rico.  The two differences are found on the shield's border:
1) The Cross of Jerusalem has a small cross at each corner. 
2) Instead of the flag of Castile and Leon there is a flag of Aragon and Sicily.
An example can be seen at <>.
Also it is interesting to note that when this CoA was granted to P.R. it included a flag based upon the same.  While the original drawing no longer exists, luckily the original description does.  Part of the description can be read (in Spanish) at <>.
Marcos Obregon, 19 Febuary 2002

It is true that this version existed previous to the declaration of the present CoA as the official one.  But it was not an accurate representation of the original one given to the Island by the King of Spain.  The present and official one is thought to be the most accurate version so far.
It's a pity that the source of this information is not mention, if there exists one.  To this point, we can only say that this is a putative first flag.  What I can interpret from the description, the flag was divided in two horizontal bands, red the lower one with a white symmetrical cross in the middle (not sure what "dos a dos" or "two by two" means), and green the upper band with a golden castle to the hoist and a golden lion to the fly.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 20 Febuary 2002

The motto on the CoA is "JOANNES EST NOMEN EJUS". It's Latin.  It means "John is his name" and is a quotation from the book of Luke in the Bible.  The elderly Zachary (also spelled Zechariah) was told by an angel that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son, and that they would name him John.  Zachary was struck speechless until the child was born.  When the time came to name the baby, Elizabeth said his name was John, but the rest of the family objected, wanting to name the child after his father and arguing that no one in the family had ever been named John.  They approached Zachary for instructions, and he wrote on a tablet "His name is John."  The baby was the cousin of Jesus and grew up to be known as John the Baptist, one of the most important saints in the Christian religion.  The quotation is pertinent to Puerto Rico as a reference to the island's capital, San Juan, which is Spanish for St. John.  The coat of arms, which shows a lamb with a banner resting upon a book, is also a reference to John, as he was the one who referred to Jesus with the words "Behold the Lamb of God."
Joe McMillan, 22 August 2002

"Dos o dos" refers to a equally divided cross.  I believe it describes a white greek cross over a red background.  This is a design used by the order of StJohn the Baptist also known as the Knights of Malta. This makes sense because the island was then known as San Juan Bautista.
Marcos Obregon, 21 October 2002

The Seal

by Blas Delgado Ortiz , 4 March 2000

I have this book, which I have mentioned before, with the information that I think is mistaken. The book is titled: "FLAGS OF ALL NATIONS" by Cleveland H. Smith and Gertrude R. Taylor, pub. by Thomas Y. Crowell Compnay, NYC, NY, 1946, 1947.
The book shows the rounded shield of Puerto Rico on a white field, in the center, as the Governor-General's flag.
Steve Stringfellow, 12 August 1997

This is regarding the seal appearing in the Puerto Rico home page and wrongly designated the Governor General’s Seal. There is no such thing as a Governor General in Puerto Rico, as in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Just simply Governor.

The round seal is in fact the Seal of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, instituted in 1953, and not to be confused with the CoA. The Governor of Puerto Rico put it in display in front of him every time he gives an official speech. In those instances, the seal circunscribed with the inscription "GOBERNADOR DE PUERTO RICO" is used. In official documents, the seal circunscribed with "GOBIERNO DE PUERTO RICO" in a white circular band is used today. The inscription originally read "ESTADO LIBRE ASOCIADO DE PUERTO RICO."
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 4 March 2000

Air National Guard

Puerto Rico does not have an Air Force but it does have an Air National Guard. I have not been able to find an illustration of any roundel for it on the web, but did find several sites selling decals for Puerto Rico Air National Guard markings, so they must have some sort of unique insignia.
Ned Smith, 19 April 1999

Puerto Rico is a non-incorporated territory of the United States, so it has no Armed Forces of her own. Our Air National Guard planes use the American roundel.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 4 March 2000

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