Puerto Rican flag

Puerto Rican flag

Puerto Rico
Name Current flag of Puerto Rico
Variant flag of Puerto Rico
Name (1892 Flag version with light blue tone)
Variant flag of Puerto Rico
Name (1952-1995 flag version with dark blue tone)
Use Civil and state flag and ensign
Design Five equal horizontal bands of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; a blue (tone of blue may vary) isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bears a large, white, five-pointed star in the center.

The flags of Puerto Rico represent and symbolize the island and people of Puerto Rico. The most commonly used flags of Puerto Rico are the current flag, which represents the people of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico; municipal flags, which represent the different regions of the island; political flags, which represent the political beliefs of the people; and sports flags, which identify Puerto Rico as the country represented by its athletics during competitions.

The origins of the current flag of Puerto Rico, adopted by the commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952, can be traced to 1868, when the first Puerto Rican flag, "The Revolutionary Flag of Lares", was conceived by Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances and embroidered by Mariana "Brazos de Oro" Bracetti. This flag was used in the short-lived Puerto Rican revolt against Spanish rule in the island, known as "El Grito de Lares".[1][2]

Juan de Mata Terreforte, an exiled veteran of "El Grito de Lares" and Vice-President of Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee, in New York City, adopted the flag of Lares as the flag of Puerto Rico until 1892, when the current design, modeled after the Cuban flag, was unveiled and adopted by the committee.[3] The new flag, which consisted of five equal horizontal bands of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bears a large, white, five-pointed star in the center, was first flown in Puerto Rico on March 24, 1897, during the "Intentona de Yauco" revolt. The use and display of the Puerto Rican flag was outlawed and the only flags permitted to be flown in Puerto Rico were the Spanish flag (1492 to 1898) and the flag of the United States (1898 to 1952).

In 1952, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico adopted the same flag design, which was unveiled in 1892 by the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee, as its official standard without specifying the tones of colors to be used. The color of the triangle that was used by the administration of Luis Muñoz Marín was the dark blue that is used in the flag of the United States, instead of the original light blue, thus creating a political controversy which has lasted throughout the years.[4] In 1995, the government of Puerto Rico, issued a regulation in regard to the use of the Puerto Rican flag titled: "Reglamento sobre el Uso en Puerto Rico de la Bandera del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico" in which the government specifies the colors to be used but, does not specify any official color tones or shades. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see the flag of Puerto Rico with different shades of blue displayed in the island.[5] Several Puerto Rican flags were aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery during its flight into outer space on March 15, 2009.[6]

Each of the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico has adopted flags which represent the region and its people. Most of the designs of these flags derive their symbolism from the regions Coat of Arms. Most of the political parties in Puerto Rico also have their own flags, which represent and symbolize the political ideals of its members. These flags are usually displayed in public during rallies, meetings, or parades in show of political strength and unity. Various sports associations in Puerto Rico have adopted flags which represent them and which are also used during competitions and sports events.

First flags used in Puerto Rico

The introduction of a flag in Puerto Rico can be traced to when Christopher Columbus landed on the island's shore and with the flag appointed to him by the Spanish Crown claimed the island, which he named "San Juan Bautista", in the name of Spain. Columbus wrote in his logbook that on October 12, 1492, he used the Royal Flag, and that his captains used two flags which the Admiral carried in all the ships as Ensign, each white with a green cross in the middle and an 'F' and 'Y', both green and crowned with golden, open royal crowns, for Ferdinand II of Aragon and Ysabel (Isabel I).[7] The conquistadores under the command of Juan Ponce de León proceeded to conquer and settle the island. They carried as their military standard the "Spanish Expedition Flag". After the island was conquered and colonized, the flag of Spain was used in Puerto Rico, same as it was used in all of its other colonies.[8]

Once the Spanish armed forces established themselves on the island they began the construction of military fortifications such as La Fortaleza, Fort San Felipe del Morro, Fort San Cristóbal and San Gerónimo. The Spanish Army designed the "Burgundy Cross Flag" and adopted it as their standard. This flag flew wherever there was a Spanish military installation.[9]

The first flag of Puerto Rico

The independence movement in Puerto Rico gained momentum with the liberation successes of Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín in South America. In 1868, local independence leader Ramón Emeterio Betances urged Mariana Bracetti to knit a revolutionary flag using the flag of the Dominican Republic as an example, promoting the then popular ideal of uniting the three caribbean islands into an Antillean Confederation. The materials for the flag were provided by Eduvigis Beauchamp Sterling, named Treasurer of the revolution by Betances.[10] The flag was divided in the middle by a white Latin cross, the two lower corners were red and the two upper corners were blue with a white star in the upper left blue corner. According to Puerto Rican poet Luis Lloréns Torres the white cross on it stands for the yearning for homeland redemption; the red squares, the blood poured by the heroes of the rebellion and the white star in the blue solitude square, stands for liberty and freedom.[11] The "Revolutionary Flag of Lares" was used in the short-lived rebellion against Spain in what became known as El Grito de Lares (The Cry of Lares).[12] The flag was proclaimed the national flag of the "Republic of Puerto Rico" by Francisco Ramírez Medina, who was sworn in as Puerto Rico's first president, and placed on the high alter of the Catholic Church of Lares, thus becoming the first Puerto Rican Flag.[1] The original Lares flag was taken by a Spanish army officer as a war prize. Many years later it was returned and transferred to the Puerto Rican people. It is now exhibited in the University of Puerto Rico's Museum.[1]

In 1873, following the abdication of Amadeus, Duke of Aosta, as King (1870–1873) and with Spain's change from Kingdom to Republic, the Spanish government issued a new colonial flag for Puerto Rico. The new flag, which was used until 1873, resembled the flag of Spain, with the difference that it had the coat of arms of Puerto Rico in the middle. Spain's flag once more flew over Puerto Rico with the restoration of the Spanish kingdom in 1873, until 1898 the year that the island became a possession of the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1898) in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War.[13]

History of the current flag of Puerto Rico


Juan de Mata Terreforte, a leader of the Grito de Lares revolt who fought alongside Manuel Rojas, was exiled to New York City. He joined the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee and was named its Vice-President.[3] Terreforte and the members of the Revolutionary committee adopted the Flag of Lares as their standard. In 1892, the Committee was presented with the design of the current flag of Puerto Rico. The new flag's design has been attributed to various Puerto Ricans who were members of the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee in New York City.

Some sources document Francisco Gonzalo Marín with presenting a Puerto Rican flag prototype in 1895 for adoption by the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee in New York City. Marín has since been credited by some with the flag's design.[14] There is a letter written by Juan de Mata Terreforte which gives credit to Marin. The original contents of the letter in Spanish are the following:[15]

"La adopción de la bandera cubana con los colores invertidos me fue sugerida por el insigne patriota Francisco Gonzalo Marín en una carta que me escribió desde Jamaica. Yo hice la proposición a los patriotas puertorriqueños que asistieron al mitin de Chimney Hall y fue aprobada unánimemente."
Which translated in English states the following: The adaptation of the Cuban flag with the colors inverted was suggested by the patriot Francisco Gonzalo Marín in a letter which he wrote from Jamaica. I made the proposition to various Puerto Rican patriots during a meeting at Chimney Hall and it was approved unanimously.[15]

According to other accounts on June 12, 1892, Antonio Vélez Alvarado was at his apartment at 219 Twenty-Third Street in Manhattan, when he stared at a Cuban flag for a few minutes, and then took a look at the blank wall in which it was being displayed. Vélez suddenly perceived an optical illusion, in which he perceived the image of the Cuban flag with the colors in the flag's triangle and stripes inverted. Almost immediately he visited a nearby merchant, Domingo Peraza, from whom he bought some crepe paper to build a crude prototype. He later displayed his prototype in a dinner meeting at his neighbor's house, where the owner, Micaela Dalmau vda. de Carreras, had invited José Martí as a guest. Martí was pleasantly impressed by the prototype, and made note of it in a newspaper article published in the Cuban revolutionary newspaper Patria, published on July 2 of that year. Acceptance of the prototype was slow in coming, but grew with time. Francisco Gonzalo Marín, who decided to have a proper flag sewn based on the prototype, presented the new flag's design in New York's "Chimney Corner Hall" a gathering place of independence advocates two years later. The Puerto Rican Flag (with the light blue triangle) soon came to symbolize the ideals of the Puerto Rican independence movement.[16]

In a letter written by Maria Manuela (Mima) Besosa, the daughter of the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee member Manuel Besosa, she stated that she sewed the flag. This created a belief that her father could have been its designer. In her letter she described the flag as one which consists of five stripes that alternate from red to white. Three of the stripes are red, and the other two are white. To the left of the flag is a light blue triangle that houses one white five-pointed star. Each part of this flag has its own meaning. The three red stripes represent the blood from the brave warriors. The two white stripes represent the victory and peace that they would have after gaining independence. The white star represented the island of Puerto Rico. The blue represents the sky and blue coastal waters. The triangle represents the three branches of government.[17] Finally, it is also believed by some that it was Lola Rodríguez de Tió who suggested that Puerto Ricans use the Cuban flag with its colors reversed as the model for their own standard.[18]

Even though the local newspaper "El Imparcial" on January 17, 1948, that Vélez Alvarado was the "Prócer Que Creó Bandera Patria" (The Father of the Puerto Rican Flag)[19] it may never be known who really designed the current flag, however what is known is that on December 22, 1895, the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee officially adopted the design which represents the current flag. In 1897, Antonio Mattei Lluberas visited the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee in New York City to plan an uprising in Yauco. He returned to Puerto Rico with a Puerto Rican flag[20] and on March 24, 1897, a group of men, led by Fidel Vélez, carried the Puerto Rican flag and attacked the barracks of Spanish Civil Guard of the town Yauco during the revolt against Spanish rule which became known as the "Intentona de Yauco" (Attempted Coup of Yauco). The revolt, which was the second and last major attempt against the Spaniards in the island, was the first time that the flag of Puerto Rico was used in Puerto Rican soil.[21][22]

Puerto Rican flag is outlawed

From 1898 to 1952, after the December 10, 1898 annexation of Puerto Rico by the United States, it was considered a felony to display the Puerto Rican flag in public; the only flag permitted to be flown on the island was the flag of the United States.[23] However, the Puerto Rican flag was often used in the political assemblies of the pro-independence Liberal Party of Puerto Rico and in defiance by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. In 1932, the Nationalist Party used the flag as its emblem during the elections and in their parades. The Puerto Rico legislature presided by then President of the Puerto Rican Senate Luis Muñoz Marín, passed a bill on May 21, 1948, known as Law 53, making it illegal to display the Puerto Rico Flag, sing a Puerto Rican patriotic song and talk of independence for the islands of Puerto Rico. On June 10, 1948, the United States appointed Governor of Puerto Rico, Jesús T. Piñero, signed the bill which became known as the "Ley de la Mordaza" (Gag Law).[24] Later that same year Puerto Ricans were permitted to elect a governor and they elected Luis Muñoz Marín. During the Jayuya Uprising of 1950 against United States rule, members of the Nationalist party placed the Puerto Rican flag on top of the town hall; the flag was later taken down by a soldier.

Adoption of the Puerto Rican flag

In 1952, Governor Luis Muñoz Marín and his administration adopted the Puerto Rican flag which was originally designed in 1892, and proclaimed it the official flag of Puerto Rico. The official adaptation of the flag has been interpreted by some as a ploy by Muñoz Marin to neutralize the independence movement in his own party.[25] There were some differences between the original flag of 1892 and the one of 1952 and the meaning of the colors was officially changed. Now the white bars stood for the republican form of government, rather than representing the victory and peace that Puerto Ricans were supposed to have after gaining independence.[26] The sky-blue of the triangle in the original flag was changed to dark blue, resembling that of the flag of the United States, to keep it distanced from its revolutionary roots. For nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos, having the flag represent the government was a desecration,[27] while the independence party accused the government of "corrupting beloved symbols".[25] In 1995, the government of Puerto Rico began to use the sky-blue version once more.[28][29] The government of Puerto Rico issued a regulation in regard to the use of the Puerto Rican flag titled: "Reglamento sobre el Uso en Puerto Rico de la Bandera del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico; Reglamento Núm. 5282." (Regulations in regard to the use in Puerto Rico of the flag of Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; Regulation No. 5282). In the regulation's "Artículo 2: Definiciones" and "Artículo 2: Descripción y simbolismo" (Article 2: Description and Article 2: Description and symbolism) the government specifies the colors to be used but does not specify any official color tones or shades and as such it is not unusual to see the flag with either tone of blue flown in official settings in Puerto Rico.[5]

Symbol of pride, defiance and protest

Among the many occasions in which the flag has been used as a symbol of pride was when the flag arrived in South Korea during the Korean War. On August 13, 1952, while the men of Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment (United States) were being attacked by enemy forces on Hill 346, the regiment unfurled the Puerto Rican Flag for the first time in history in a foreign combat zone. During the ceremony Regimental Chaplain Daniel Wilson stated the following:[30][31]
"Grant us Thy Peace and Power," the chaplain prayed for, "in this conflict against aggression and tyranny. Show us in Thy purpose Peace for all the men in the world. We dedicate this flag of the Associated Free State of Puerto Rico in Thy name."
The Commanding Officer Colonel Juan César Cordero Dávila was quoted as saying:[30][31]
"How beautiful is our flag, how it looks next to the stars and the stripes! Let the communists on the other side of the Yokkok River see it and listen to me those who understand Spanish if these words reach your trenches."

On various occasions the flag has been used as a symbol of defiance and protest. In the 1954 attack of the United States House of Representatives in a protest against United States rule of the island, Nationalist leader Lolita Lebrón shouted "¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!" ("Long live a Free Puerto Rico!") and unfurled the flag of Puerto Rico.[32] On November 5, 2000, Alberto De Jesus Mercado, better known as Tito Kayak, and five other Vieques activists stepped onto the top deck of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, then placed a Puerto Rican flag on the statue's crown in protest of the United States Navy usage of the island of Vieques as a bombing range.[33]

External audio
You may listen to "Que Bonita Bandera" (What a beautiful flag) interpreted by Florencio "Ramito" Morales Ramos

On March 15, 2009, several Puerto Rican flags were aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery during its flight into outer space. Joseph M. Acaba, the first astronaut of Puerto Rican descent, who is assigned to the crew of STS-119 as a Mission Specialist Educator, carried on his person the flag as a symbol of his Puerto Rican heritage.[6] Acaba presented Governor Luis Fortuño and Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock with two of the flags during his visit in June 2009.[34]

The flag is also the subject of the song "Que Bonita Bandera" (What a beautiful flag) written in 1968 and made popular by Puerto Rican folksinger Florencio "Ramito" Morales Ramos. Astronaut Acaba, requested that the crew be awakened on March 19, 2009 (Day 5), with the Puerto Rico folklore song, sung by Jose Gonzalez and Banda Criolla, during their space flight.[35]

Historical flags flown in Puerto Rico

Flag of the Kingdom of Castile (1492)

Burgundy Cross Flag (Spanish military flag)

Flag of Spain (1701-1793) in fortresses and castles

Lares revolutionary flag of 1868

Spanish Colonial Flag (1873–1875)
Flag of Spain (1793-1873, 1875-1898)
Spanish American War flag
Flag of the Batallón Provisional No. 3 de Puerto Rico (3rd Provisional Battalion of Puerto Rico)

Flag of Spain (1873-1874) First Spanish Republic

Original Puerto Rican flag design of 1892
File:Puerto Rican Flag in Space.jpg
Puerto Rican flag aboard the Discovery Space Shuttle
March 15, 2009
Historical flags of the United States flown in Puerto Rico (1898 - 1959)
(from 1898–1952 the American flag was the only one permitted in Puerto Rico)

45-star American flag,
the first U.S. flag flown in Puerto Rico
(1898 - 1908)

46-star American flag
(1908 - 1912)

48-star American flag
(1912 - 1959)

Municipal flags of Puerto Rico

Each of the municipalities of Puerto Rico, including the islands of Culebra and Vieques, have adopted a flag which represents the region and its people. The colors and designs may vary. Some flags contain a coat of arms or images of an object associated with the region, such as a bird, animal, or crop. In the case of Lares, in 1952, the town Municipal Assembly adopted the "Revolutionary Flag of Lares" as their official flag.[36] The barrios of the municipality of Caguas also have their own flags.[37]

Many of the municipal flags of Puerto Rico pay tribute to the Cacíques of the Taíno tribes (the native Puerto Rican tribe) who ruled the island before the arrival of the Spaniards and who were the rulers of the land where the town now stands. The flag of Utuado for example has a Taino Sun in honor of the Supreme Taino Cacique Agüeybaná whose name means "The Great Sun".[38] Other flags, such as San Germán's, contain a mural crown. The crown pays tribute to the local caciques who ruled the area.[39]

Flags of the municipalities of Puerto Rico
Adjuntas Aguada Aguadilla Aguas Buenas Aibonito Añasco
Arecibo Arroyo Barceloneta Barranquitas Bayamón Cabo Rojo
Caguas Camuy Canóvanas Cataño Carolina Cayey
Ceiba Ciales Cidra Coamo Comerio Corozal
Culebra Dorado Fajardo Florida Guánica Guayama
Guayanilla Guaynabo Gurabo Hatillo Hormigueros Humacao
Isabela Jayuya Juana Díaz Juncos Lajas Lares
Las Marias Las Piedras Loíza Luquillo Manatí Maricao
Maunabo Mayagüez Moca Morovis Naguabo Naranjito
Orocovis Patillas Peñuelas Ponce Quebradillas Rincón
Rio Grande Sabana Grande Salinas San Germán San Juan San Lorenzo
San Sebastián Santa Isabel Toa Alta Toa Baja Trujillo Alto Utuado
Vega Alta Vega Baja Vieques Villalba Yabucoa Yauco

Political flags of Puerto Rico

Throughout Puerto Rico's political history various parties have designed and displayed flags representing their ideals. Political flags in Puerto Rico are usually displayed in public during rallies, meetings, or parades in show of political strength and unity. The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party flag has a white Calatrava Cross, also known as the Cross potent on the middle of a black background. The Cross of Calatrava was first used by the Crusaders of Calatrava and later by the French revolutionists. The black background symbolized the mourning of the Puerto Rican Nation in colonial captivity.[40] It was usually displayed by the Cadets of the Republic, also known as the Black Shirts (Camisa Negras) because of their black shirt and white trousers uniform. On occasions the Nationalists would also carry the Puerto Rican flag with the light blue triangle, which was outlawed from 1898 to 1952. The three main political parties of Puerto Rico are the New Progressive Party, which favors statehood and whose flag has a blue palm tree in the middle with a white background; the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, flag has a red image of what is supposed to resemble a Puerto Rican jíbaro (farmer) in the middle with a white background; and the Puerto Rican Independence Party, whose flag has a white cross symbolizing Christianity and purity, on a green background which symbolizes hope.[41] Founded in 2003, the flag of the Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Party has a light brown colored "Coqui" as its symbol with the words "Por Puerto Rico" (For Puerto Rico) in the middle. Another political flag is that of the Boricua Popular Army, also known as Los Macheteros an underground pro-independence group which believes and has often resorted to the use of violence.[42] This ensign displays a green machete and a red star imposed on a black background.

Political Flags of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican Nationalist Party
(Partido Nacionalista Puertorriqueño)
founded 1922
Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico
(Partido Popular Democrático de Puerto Rico)
founded 1937
Puerto Rican Independence Party
(Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño)
founded 1946
New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico
(Partido Nuevo Progresista de Puerto Rico)
founded 1967

Sports flags of Puerto Rico

The standard representative symbol carried by Puerto Ricans at international sports events, such as the Olympics, Pan American Games, Central American and Caribbean Games, and the World Cup of Baseball, is the Flag of Puerto Rico. However, various sports associations have adopted flags which are also used during sports events. Prior to the adoption of the Puerto Rican flag, athletes from the archipelago competed under both the United States flag and a special white banner containing a variation of the seal and the words "Puerto Rico" present above it.[43] The symbolism in this ensign includes a green background that represents the main island's vegetation, the Lamb of God symbolizing Jesus of Nazareth, and a book with the seven seals where the lamb sits, in reference to the Book of Revelation.

See also

Puerto Rico portal
Heraldry portal


Primary sources

  • Act No.1, Approved July 24, 1952.
  • Regulations on the Use of the Puerto Rico flag. Núm. 5282, August 3, 1995 (Spanish)
  • (Spanish)

External links

  • Flags of the World
  • Puerto Rico flags at Vexilla mundi
  • The Flag of The Jatibonicu Taíno Tribal Nation