What Do the Colors and Symbols of the Flag of Peru Mean?

By Jason Shvili on September 1 2020 in World Facts

The official flag of Peru.
The official flag of Peru.
  • The current design of the Peruvian flag was decreed on February 25, 1825.
  • The Peruvian flag's red stripes represent bloodshed, while the white stripe in the middle represents peace and justice.
  • There are several variants of the Peruvian flag. Their uses depend on the given occasion and/or place.

Peru, which literally means, land of abundance, in the indigenous Quechua language, is a country on the west coast of South America. Like any country, it has a national flag. Actually, Peru’s flag has several variants, depending on when and where it is flown. All of the variants, however, consist of three vertical stripes of equal size. The two stripes on the left and right of the flag are red, symbolizing bloodshed, while the one in the center is white, and represents peace and justice.

History Of The Peruvian Flag

Flag of the Protectorate of Peru 1821-1822. Image credit: Huhsunqu/Wikimedia.org

The first flag of Peru was flown in 1820. The colors red and white were chosen in honor of Jose de San Martin, who helped lead the struggle for independence from Spanish rule in Argentina, Chile, and Peru. It is a reference to San Martin’s sight of a flock of flamingos taking flight upon his arrival in Peru. Unlike Peru’s current flag, however, the design was different. It consisted of two red and two white triangles with a coat of arms at the center. A new design was flown two years later, consisting of two horizontal red stripes at the top and bottom with a white stripe in the center, all of equal length. In the center of the flag was a red sun, the old emblem of the Inca Empire. But because this design was too similar to that of the Spanish flag, the flag was redesigned again. This time, the stripes were vertical, though the Inca-inspired red sun remained in the center.

Peruvian national flag above Andes mountain village, Peru. Image credit: Marek Pistelak/Shutterstock.com

The current national flag of Peru was finally established on February 25, 1825. It omitted the red sun in favor of a new coat of arms at its center, inside the white stripe. The coat of arms consists of a wreath made of palm and laurel branches, framing a shield that is divided into three parts. One part features a vicuna, a camel-like creature that is closely related to the llama and alpaca. The vicuna is supposed to represent Peruvian fauna, and also stands for freedom, national pride, and heroism. The second part of the shield features a cinchona tree, from which many traditional remedies are made. The third, bottom part of the shield features a cornucopia overflowing with silver and gold coins, representing Peru’s mineral wealth.

Variants Of The Peruvian Flag

The State Flag

The flag most commonly flown during national ceremonies, including events in which government officials such as the president are present, is known as the Pabellon Nacional. It contains the aforementioned red and white stripes with the previously described shield from the coat of arms at the center. The shield is flanked on both the right and left by smaller flags resembling the civil ensign (see below), with a wreath appearing at the top. This flag is also commonly displayed in government offices.

Civil Ensign

The civil flag, known as the Bandera Nacional, literally meaning national flag, is the one commonly flown by members of the public. It basically consists of the flag minus the coat of arms, which were removed from this variant by military dictator, General Manuel A. Odria, in 1950.

War Flag

The so-called Bandera de Guerra is used by Peru’s police and military. It very much resembles the national flag, though the coat of arms appears slightly different.

The Naval Jack 

The Peruvian Naval Jack is different from all the other flag variants in that it is designed, not with stripes, but with a white square on a red field, and the coat of arms at the center. It is flown by the country’s battleships.

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