The original Chilean flag, hoisted for the first time during the determined fight for independence from the Spanish empire, looked nothing like today’s version, which federal law requires Chileans to wave on all homes and businesses on certain yearly holidays.
Today’s national flag of Chile, adopted in 1817, does, however, bear a striking resemblance to a flag used by the indigenous Mapuche people of the Chilean region, as described in the epic poem "La Araucana" by the 16th-century soldier-poet Alonso de Ercilla. The Chilean flag features two horizontal bands, the top one is white and the bottom one red. In the top left corner of the flag, a lone white star sits in the middle of a blue square.
The flag may also be flown horizontally, in which case the blue square and white star must continue to appear in the upper left corner. Americans may easily mistake the flag of Chile for the Texan flag, the only difference being that the blue square of the Texan flag stretches to the bottom when displayed in a horizontal position and not just to the bottom of the white band. Their similarity is probably a coincidence, as the star and stripe features and their colors are common to flags around the world, including the Cuban flag and the Liberian flag. The star and colors of each of these flags represent different respective elements of cultural and historical significance.
In the case of Chile’s flag colors, the white traditionally represents the snow of the Andes Mountains, the blue symbolizes the sky, while the red recalls the blood shed by early Chileans fighting for the country’s independence from Spain. A number of possible influences could have inspired the inclusion of the lone star. Some say that it points out the fact that Chile is a unitary state. Others say it symbolizes a guide to progress and honor. Most interestingly, early descriptions of a flag used by the indigenous Mapuche troops during the Arauco War depict an all blue flag with a white star in the middle; nearly identical to the blue part of today’s Chilean flag.
The Arauco War, an armed conflict between the Spanish and the Mapuche, lasted for centuries, beginning with the early Spanish conquest in the 1500s and ending years after Chilean independence. Tens of thousands died on each side as they struggled for power over land in Chile.
Chilean law dictates strict rules concerning the display and use of the national flag. Homes and buildings must fly the flag on several different national holidays. Failure to do so could result in a fine. As late as October 2011, the law forbade the exhibition of the flag in public, without official approval, on days besides the holidays requiring its display. The law also defines public mistreatment of the flag as a felony.
Every year, on July 10th, the pledge to the flag of Chile is recited on military bases across the country to commemorate the 77 soldiers that lost their lives in the 1882 Pacific War battle of La Conception. The pledge includes such honorable values as serving the fatherland and being obedient with rapidity and punctuality whether on sea, land, or any other place.