Things That Matter

21 Latin American Flags And The Stories Behind Them

Latin America hasn’t been the same since Europeans arrived some several hundred years ago – but through the long and complicated stories of colonization, liberation, and resistance, most countries eventually found their way to independence from Spain and are on the way to loosening the grip of Europe and the U.S. on their people.

Each and every country that broke away got the chance to design its own flag and bring a narrative to their new-found freedom. Some of them might even surprise you!

1. Mexico

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Mexico’s beautiful tricolor flag features an eagle eating a snake high atop a prickly pear cactus. This is actually an Aztec legend behind the building of Tenochtitlan – now Mexico City. The Aztecs described a leader named Tenoch having a dream brought to him by Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, that dictated where to settle his people. In the dream, he was to settle where the eagle landed, eating his snake.

2. El Salvador

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The Salvadoran flag shines in blue and white, representing the two oceans that flank Central America, the Atlantic and the Pacific. The white middle represents peace. In the center shines the Coat of Arms, consisting of a triangle with five volcanoes rising out of the sea, representing the five states of the United Provinces of Central America.

The blue in the flag, however, hosts another secret meaning. El Salvador’s history is deeply tied to indigo because of its use by Native Mesoamericans. When Europeans invaded, they referred to it as “blue gold.” In fact, the indigo plant and the dye it produces dominated the country’s economy until it was replaced by coffee cultivation. Even so, El Salvador remains one of the few countries in the world that farms indigo specifically for its precious blue dyes.

3. Argentina

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Argentina’s beautiful flag also prominently features the blue and white colors present in many Latin American flags. The Sun of May that smiles down from the heart of the flag also features in the Paraguay flag and represents Inti, the Incan sun god.

Why is it called the Sun of May though? The month is a reference to the May Revolution, which took place in 1810 and marked the beginning of independence of many Latin American countries from Spain. A legend claims that as the people broke away from their colonizers, the sun broke through the clouds and was a sign of victory for the independence movement.

4. Brazil

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Brazil’s beautiful green flag pays a homage to its Portuguese history with the yellow rhombus in the middle. The blue globe in the middle is the key to the more unique story, with the white stars within representing the Brazilian Federative Units (or states). According to Brazilian, the number of stars must always be updated to reflect the number of recognized states. When the flag was first adopted in 1889, it boasted 21 stars. Today, it shines with 27.

5. Panama

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While Panama, like many countries today, lives in a state of rival parties, the flag tries to do them justice as shared parts of a history. The stars and quarters stand for the competing political parties, blue representing the conservatives and red representing progressives. The white in between the colors represents peace.

6. Cuba

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Cuban history is fraught with revolution, and its flag carries that turbulent history with it. The red triangle harkens to the French Revolution and the three ideals of liberty, equality, and brotherhood. The white stripes represent peace in between the three blue lines, which represent the three departments in which Cuba was divided years ago. The real topper? The white star was once the vision the United States had of adding the island as its new state. Even though Cuba would never become an American territory, it proudly held on to the star amidst the revolutionary red for years to come.

7. Bolivia

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The lush nature of Latin America is not lost on the Bolivians, who made sure to feature a bright green stripe on their flag to honor fertility and forestry. The yellow is another homage to the country’s abundant natural resources, reflecting Bolivia’s mineral deposits. The red reminds citizens of the brave soldiers who fought for the country’s independence from Spain.

Despite being landlocked, Bolivia keeps a naval design at its heart to honor its rivers and lakes. But that’s not all – because Bolivia has a dual flag, and that’s means this is a two-part story.

8. The Wiphala

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The Wiphala flag is the Quechuan emblem and flag that represents the native people of the Andes, and not only is it recognized as the second national flag of Bolivia, it is also embraced by the people of Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Argentina, Chile, and Colombia. The seven colors represent the visible spectrum, with it’s highlighting color of violet representing Andean government and self-determination.

9. Honduras

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The Honduran flag, like other Central American flags, highlights a white stripe in between two blue ones, representing the land between the Atlantic and the Pacific. The white also presents peace and prosperity for its people, along with the purity of their thoughts and hopes. The five stars arranged in an X pattern at its center highlight the five nations of the former Federal Republic of Central America – El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.

10. Costa Rica

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The French Revolution had a deep impact on the Costaricans, as is evidenced by their flag’s story. The flag was designed by Pacífica Fernández, wife of former president José María Castro Madriz, back in 1848. Inspired by what she saw happening in Europe, she saw fit to incorporate the French tricolor – red, white, and blue. The blue represents idealism, the white represents purity, and the red represents those who died in the fight for independence. At its heart, the flag shows off an isthmus between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea with three volcanoes. 

11. Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic’s flag also features the popular red, white, and blue colors, with blue standing for liberty, white for salvation, and red for the blood of heroes and martyrs to the cause independence. In the middle of it all, the national coat of arms shows off a palm frond and a bay laurel branch, dedicated to the country’s tropical habitat and splendor.

12. Venezuela

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The beautiful Venezuelan flag is relatively recent in its current state, having been last updated in 2006. The original design, however, dates back to early revolutionary Francisco de Miranda and his 1806 attempt to liberate Venezuela from Spanish rule. Although he did not succeed, he is widely revered for his perseverance as he laid the groundwork for the country’s independence which came later. Miranda’s flag, brightened by blue, yellow, and red would later also become the inspiration for the flags of Colombia and Ecuador.

Miranda claimed his flag colors were inspired by the fact that these were considered the primary colors in color theory. It is said that when discussing the revolution with German writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang con Goethe, Miranda shares his account of the United States Revolutionary War along with his travels throughout Europe and the Americas. Goethe told him that, “Your destiny is to create in your land a place where the primary colors are not distorted.”

Later, the words would follow Miranda and he kept true to them when designing the flag. It is also said that the yellow represents the riches and wonder of Venezuela, while blue presents the seas surrounding the country and red represents the bloodshed in the revolution.

13. Chile

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Chile’s flag might remind you of another flag: Texas? Anyone?

The two flags even share a similar name, with The Lone Star being the name of both of them (in Chile, it is referred to as La Estrella Solitaria). 

However, the stories and colors behind the flags are different – and Chile’s flag refers to something that Texas definitely doesn’t have: the Andes. The white on Chile’s flag represents the snow covering the enormous mountain range that runs like a spine down the country. The blue represents the oceans, and the red represents the lives lost in the country’s fight for independence from Spain.

The star in the Chilean flag represents a guide to progress and honor, and sometimes it is also seen as a symbol of an independent state. And that rebellious nature may be the one thing that ties La Estrella Solitaria to The Lone Star.

14. Nicaragua

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At first glance, the Nicaraguan flag and Salvadoran flag may look very similar, but there is one key difference: the Nicaraguan flag features a rainbow. The rainbow is a symbol of the country’s bright future, surrounded by the white that represents peace and the blue that represents the seas surrounding Central America. Like the Salvadoran flag, this flag features the five volcanoes to commemorate the United Provinces of Central America.

And here’s a little-known fact: that tiny stretch of purple included in the rainbow makes Nicaragua one of only two flags from a sovereign state to include the color, alongside the flag of Dominicana.

15. Peru

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The Peruvian flag is distinct in its absence of a lot blue, something most Latin American flags have at a lot of. Instead, red features prominently, representing the blood spilled to gain independence from Spain. White represents purity and peace amidst the chaos and gives a backdrop the country’s coat of arms.

In the heart, the coat of arms shows off Peru’s abundant natural resources. The vicuña, Peru’s national animal, sits next to the chinchona tree, the source of quinine, a powerful anti-malaria medicine. On the bottom, a bag overflowing with coins represents the abundance of minerals that Peru has to offer.

16. Ecuador

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Inspired by the primary colors and Francisco de Miranda’s design for the Venezuelan flag, the Ecuadorian shows off the primary colors in an effort to remember the primary ideals of the independence, and of the country’s resources. The yellow represents the crops and fertile soil, the blue represents the ocean and clear skies, and the red again here stands for the fallen who gave their lives to secure independence from Spain. 

At the heart of the Ecuadoran flag is the coat of arms, which features Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador. The mountain is also part of the Andes, the mountain range that runs down Latin America. Down below the mountain runs a bright blue river, and atop it all flies a condor stretching out its wings to symbolize power and strength for the country.

17. Guatemala

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Guatemala honors its beautiful natural landscape and fauna with the resplendent quetzal, their national bird and symbol of liberation. The bird graces a piece of parchment declaring the date of Guatemalan independence from Spain in 1821 and also features a daring pair of crossed rifles. The rifles are a homage to the country’s indomitable people, who are willing to defend themselves and their humanity by any means necessary. The crossed swords at the bottom echo the sentiment and represent honor, and are surrounded by a bay laurel crown to celebrate victory against their colonizers. 

18. Colombia

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Yet another beautiful flag featuring the primary colors, the Colombian flag is inspired by revolutionary Francisco de Miranda’s work in Venezuela and throughout Latin America to free people from Spain’s rule. In this specific flag, the yellow has come to represent the richness of Colombian soil, along with harmony and agriculture. It also represents the sun, a source of light and joy. The blue, as is custom, represents the sea and the sky, while the red represents the blood spilled in the quest for independence from Spain. It also represents the fact that although Columbia’s people have had to struggle, they have thrived.

19. Belize

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If ever there was a flag to say “we are serious here, stop trying to colonize us” it is definitely the Belizean flag. Featuring a Mestizo and African man in unity bearing an ax and an oar, the coat of arms also pays homage to the country’s logging history and the tools of the trade – including a mahogany tree. Below a ship sails, and below still an important motto to remember on any hot summer Belizean day: Sub Umbra Floreo, or “Under the Shade I Flourish.”

20. Uruguay

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Uruguay’s bright flag features the Sun of May, just like the Argentinian flag does. The Sun of May is a prominent symbol of the revolution against Spanish rule in Latin America in May of 1810, as legend has it the sun came out from the clouds portending a victory for the rebels. The sun also represents Inti, the sun god of the Incan religion, and is a point of indigenous pride. 

21. Paraguay

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Paraguay, inspired like so many countries by the French Revolution, boasts red, white, and blue as its flag’s colors. A more unique feature of the Paraguayan flag? It differs on its obverse and reverse sides, with one showing the national coat of arms, and the other showing the seal of the treasury. The national coat of arms features a bright yellow star surrounded by a green wreath of palm and olive leaves tied with ribbons in the flag’s official colors. The branches are widely accepted as symbols of peace of victory.

The other side hosts the symbol of the treasury – a lion in front of a staff and the Phrygian cap, a hat associated with freed slaves in Ancient Rome and democracies, usually shown in contrast to crowns, a symbol of monarchies.

A PhD Student Made History By Writing Her Entire Thesis In An Indigenous Peruvian Language

Culture

A PhD Student Made History By Writing Her Entire Thesis In An Indigenous Peruvian Language

Lino Obarallumbo / DailySol

Scholars at Lima’s San Marcos university say it’s the first time a student has written and defended a thesis entirely in a native language. Roxana Quispe Collantes made history when she verbally defended and wrote her thesis in Quechua, a language of the Incas. While Quechua is spoken by 8 million people in the Andes with half of them in Peru, it speaks volumes that this hasn’t happened before at the 468-year-old university, the oldest in the Americas. 

Quispe Collantes studied Peruvian and Latin American literature with a focus on poetry written in Quechua. The United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages program has Peru a part of a global campaign to revive 2,680 indigenous languages at risk of going extinct. Peru is home to 21 of those languages. 

Roxana Quispe Collantes brings Inca culture to her doctoral candidacy.

Quispe Collantes began her presentation with a traditional Inca thanksgiving ceremony. She presented her thesis “Yawar Para” (or blood rain) by using coca leaves and chicha, a corn-based alcoholic beverage in the ritual.

For seven years, the student studied Andrés Alencastre Gutiérrez, a poet who wrote in Quechua, and used the pen name Kilku Warak’aq. For her thesis, she analyzed his mixture of Andrean traditions and Catholicism. 

“I’ve always wanted to study in Quechua, in my original language,” she told the Observer

Quispe Collantes traveled to highland communities in the Canas to confirm the definitions of words in the Collao dialect of Quechua used in the Cusco region. 

“I needed to travel to the high provinces of Canas to achieve this translation and the meaning of toponyms that I couldn’t find anywhere,” she said. “I asked my parents, my grandparents and teachers, and [it didn’t prove fruitful].”

Quechua entering the academic discourse can help preserve it. 

“Quechua doesn’t lack the vocabulary for an academic language. Today many people mix the language with Spanish,” she said. “I hope my example will help to revalue the language again and encourage young people, especially women, to follow my path. It’s very important that we keep on rescuing our original language.”

Her doctoral adviser Gonzo Espino told The Guardian he believes Quispe Collantes’ thesis was a symbolic gesture. 

“[The language] represented the most humble people in this part of the world: the Andeans, who were once called ‘Indians’. Their language and culture has been vindicated,” he said. 

It should go without saying but the doctoral candidate received top marks on her project.

Quechua is the most widely spoken indigenous language in South America. 

The oldest written records of Quechua were in 1560 in Grammatica o arte de la lengua general de los indios de los reynos del Perú by Domingo de Santo, a missionary who learned and wrote the language. Before the expansion of the Inca Empire, Quechua spread across the central Andes. The language took a different shape in the Cusco region where it was influenced by neighboring languages like Aymara. Thus, today there is a wide range of dialects of Quechua as it evolved in different areas. 

In the 16th century, the Inca Empire designated Quechua as their official language following the Spanish conquest of Peru. Many missionaries and members of the Catholic Church learned Quechua so that they could evangelize Indigenous folks. 

Quispe Collantes grew up speaking the language with her parents and grandparents in the Acomayo district of Cusco. Quechua today is often mixed with Spanish and she hopes that “Yawar Para” will inspire others to revisit the original form. 

Peru takes Quechua to the mainstream. 

Under the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages campaign, this year, Peru began the official registration of names in its 48 indigenous languages.

The U.N. launched its initiative to preserve indigenous languages in 2019 after the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues determined that, “40 percent of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing. The fact that most of these are indigenous languages puts the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong at risk.”

According to the Guardian, for years, Peruvian registrars refused to recognize indigenous names on public records. They would then force indigenous people to register Hispanic or English-sounding names on government forms while keeping their real names at home. 

“Many registrars tended not to register indigenous names, so parents felt the name they had chosen wasn’t valued,” said Danny Santa María, assistant manager of academic research at Reniec. “We want to promote the use of indigenous names and recognize the proper way to write them on birth certificates and ID documents.”

In 2016, Peru began airings its first news broadcast in Quechua and other native languages, ushering into the mainstream. 

“My greatest wish is for Quechua to become a necessity once again. Only by speaking it can we revive it,” Quispe Collantes said.

A Christmas Theme Park Is Coming To Guadalajara — Complete With ‘Posadas’, ‘Reyes Magos’ And ‘Santa Claus’

Things That Matter

A Christmas Theme Park Is Coming To Guadalajara — Complete With ‘Posadas’, ‘Reyes Magos’ And ‘Santa Claus’

Navidalia

It looks like the people of Guadalajara love a theme-park. Earlier this month the capital city of Jalisco, hosted the ‘Dia de Muertos’ themed amusement park; ‘Calaverandia’. And now, from the same creators, we‘re getting  ‘Navidalia’ a Christmas-themed amusement park full of lights, fake snow and vibrant shows.

The park will be divided into four Yuletide-inspired worlds, the flagship of which will be that of Mexican Christmas traditions.

Much like Disneyland, which is divided into kingdoms, the Mexican Christmas-themed park will be divided into four Yuletide-inspired worlds, the flagship of which will be that of Mexican Christmas traditions, called “Posada Navideña”. Another world will be dedicated to the holiday’s Nordic origins.

Attendees will be able to see a recreation of baby Jesus’s birthplace in Bethlehem.

Naturally, for a predominantly Catholic country, one of the worlds will recreate the Middle Eastern atmosphere of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem, this section of the park will also include a show featuring the three wise men, known in Mexico as “Los Reyes Magos.” The fourth world will celebrate European Christmas traditions.

It wouldn’t be a Mexican Christmas without a ‘Nacimiento’.

A standout display will be a giant nativity scene, in which the spectators will also be part of the decorations. There will also be a giant Christmas tree, an ice road (not rink) for ice skating around the park, a large lake in the park will be used for boat rides and dance presentations. The organizers spared no efforts to get the best artificial snow. They said in an interview with a Mexican newspaper that they hope that the artificial snow will help kindle the Christmas spirit in the hearts of visitors.

‘Navidalia’s parent company has also produced other theme parks and events like ‘Calaverandia’.

In addition to Calaverandia, the Day of The Dead theme park, Alteacorp —the parks’ parent company— has also organized Festival GDLuz, which lights up Guadalajara in an array of bright colors in February. The company hopes to repeat the success of those festivals with Navidalia in December.

Alteacorp CEO Marcos Jiménez said that the group wanted to offer something different from stereotypical U.S. Christmas celebrations. Instead, they chose to focus on creating multisensorial journeys dominated by images of a very Mexican-infused Christmas.

Such imagery and customs will include traditional lanterns, piñatas, warm fruit ponche, the sweet fried snacks called buñuelos and the Latin American Christmas observance of Las Posadas. Other attractions will include an 18m tall Piñata which will offer a light show, 8 meter tall ‘Reyes Magos’, a medieval Santa Clause and 30 other attractions spread across the 4.5 acres that make the theme park grounds.

Visitors must buy a ticket to take part in the park’s attractions at night, but the grounds will be open to the public free of charge during the day. Tickets cost 255 pesos (US $13) for children and 495 pesos (US $26) for adults. VIP tickets cost 685 and 1,999 pesos respectively. Discounted presale tickets will be on sale until November 18. Navidalia runs from December 13-25 at Parque Ávila Camacho in Zapopan.