The history of Argentina’s flag is wrapped in a curious mix of revolutionary fighting for independence from Spain and Incan sun worship. Learn more about it
The history of Argentina’s flag, which dates back to 1812, is wrapped in a curious mix of revolutionary fighting for independence from Spain and Incan sun worship.
The Argentine flag has three horizontal bands; the top and bottom ones are light blue, and the middle is white. The Argentine flag colors’ meaning is disputed. Some say the white represents silver. Early conquistadors named the country Argentina after the Latin word Argentinum, meaning silver, thinking that the region contained vast amounts of the precious metal. The blue bands may represent the sky, the waters of Argentina’s Rio de la Plata, or the blue used by the Spanish royal house of Bourbon on their coat of arms.
Observing the flag, our gaze is immediately attracted to its center, where we find its most striking feature: a human face wearing a neutral expression inside a gold disc with straight and wavy rays emitting from its center, representing a sun. The sun, named el sol de mayo (the sun of May) after Argentina’s May revolution, which eventually lead to the nation’s independence from Spain, is a national emblem. Argentine coinage dating back to 1813 has an image of the same sun, as does the Uruguayan flag (differing only in the amount of rays), and early versions of the Peruvian flag.
Juan de Dios Tupac Amaru (1760-1843), a Peruvian descendant of Incan nobility, designed The Sun of May, which pays tribute to the Incan sun god Inti. The Incas worshipped the sun and its life giving power. They believed that their ruler was a direct descendant of the sun, and they built sun temples throughout their empire. The original 1813 national anthem of Argentina also makes dramatic, lyrical reference to Incas, assuring that their dead “are shaken, and in their bones the ardor revives, for the sons of the homeland, ancient splendor”.
Argentine politician and revolutionary military leader, Manuel Belgrano (1770-1820) designed the flag itself. He based the design on the cockade of Argentina that he created in 1812, a circular logo similar to the Argentine flag with a light blue circular band following its perimeter, a white inner band of the same width and a light blue dot in the middle creating bull’s-eye looking image. The cockade is also a national emblem and National Cockade Day is celebrated May 18th. The cockade and the flag were designed shortly after the the 1810 May Revolution, which eventually helped lead to Argentina’s independence from Spain, as a source of identity for the nation as it fought for its freedom. Argentine revolutionary soldiers wore the cockade and swore allegiance to the flag to show loyalty. Their blue colors also differentiated them from the red used by Spanish royalist forces.
National Flag Day is celebrated on June 20th, the day of Belgrano’s death. Besides designing the flag and cockade, Belgrano is remembered for his involvement in extensive freedom fighting campaigns, particularly in the upper Peru region. Flag Day celebrations are most vibrant in Rosario, the place where Argentina’s flag was first raised in 1812. Here, every year on Flag Day, public officials make speeches and police, armed forces and war veterans among others participate in a parade to honor the flag. Recently, the people of Rosario created what some call the longest flag in the world. This flag, carried by people from Rosario, also makes an appearance in the parade. National Flag Day celebrations honor Argentina’s flag, a flag which reminds us of the nation’s forefathers that fought for the independence modern Argentines enjoy and celebrate today.