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Symbol of identity and pride for Puerto Ricans

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The Puerto Rico flag is a symbol steeped in history and it narrates a tale of identity, pride and protest. It proudly stands tall in the Caribbean, intricately woven with threads of colonial influence and the fervent fight for independence.

Beyond occasions of jubilation, the flag boldly embodies protest, steadfastly demanding recognition and justice. Its moments of celebration and its pivotal role as a potent symbol of protest in Puerto Rico are all discussed in this article.

What is Puerto Rico flag?

What is Puerto Rico flag?

The Puerto Rico flag, commonly known as “La Monoestrellada” or “The Monostarred”, serves as a symbolic representation of the island and its people. Comprising five horizontal stripes alternating between red and white, the flag features a blue equilateral triangle on the hoist side, housing a large, upright white five-pointed star at its centre.

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The origins of the flag date back to September 1868, during the Grito de Lares (Cry of Lares) revolution against Spanish rule. Pro-independence leader Ramón Emeterio Betances, in collaboration with Mariana “Brazos de Oro” Bracetti, conceptualised the first Puerto Rican flag. It was a fusion of the quartered flag of the First Dominican Republic and the lone star of the Cuban flag. This revolutionary flag, known as the flag of Lares, marked the establishment of a distinct Puerto Rican national consciousness under colonial rule.

The flag’s colour shades have been a subject of ongoing interpretation. While the government identified the official colours as “red”, “white” and “blue”, it did not specify specific shades. As a result, various shades of blue are legally acceptable, with the choice often reflecting political preferences. Light blue is associated with pro-independence sentiments, dark blue with pro-American inclinations and medium blue represents the current commonwealth status.

To this day, the Puerto Rico flag stands as a powerful symbol of the island’s history, identity and ongoing discussions about its political status.

Puerto Rico flag history

Puerto Rico flag history

The history of the Puerto Rico flag weaves together colonial influences, indigenous designs and the struggles for independence. Dating back to Christopher Columbus‘s arrival on the island in 1493, the first colonial designs saw the use of Spanish flags for Puerto Rico became a Spanish possession. The Spanish Expedition Flag was later adopted as a military standard during the conquest and colonisation.

In the 19th century, the push for independence gained momentum. In 1868, Ramón Emeterio Betances and Mariana Bracetti played pivotal roles in creating the revolutionary flag of the Grito de Lares (Cry of Lares), a symbol of the first of two short-lived revolts against Spanish rule. This flag, a blend of the First Dominican Republic and Cuban flag elements, aimed to unite the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

The Grito de Lares revolt in 1868 marked a significant moment when Francisco Ramírez Medina proclaimed the flag of Lares as the national flag of the “Republic of Puerto Rico”. Despite the subsequent crushing of the revolt by Spanish authorities, the original flag was eventually returned to the Puerto Rican people and is now displayed at the Museum of History, Anthropology and Art at the University of Puerto Rico.

The 1870s saw changes in the flag as Spain transitioned from a Kingdom to a Republic. However, Spain’s flag once again flew over Puerto Rico until 1898 when the island became a possession of the United States after the Spanish–American War.

In December 1895, exiled Puerto Rican revolutionaries in New York City, under the leadership of Juan de Mata Terreforte, adopted the Cuban flag with inverted colours as the new flag to represent an independent Republic of Puerto Rico. This decision aimed to unite the struggles for national independence in Cuba and Puerto Rico against Spanish colonialism.

The flag’s design, with white stripes, a blue triangle, and a lone white star, was unveiled in a historic moment, described as “Terreforte, one of the survivors of the Cry of Lares, presented the new flag”. This flag, with its inverted Cuban colours, became a symbol of Puerto Rican aspirations for independence.

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Puerto Rico flag meaning

Puerto Rico flag meaning

The Puerto Rico flag carries a dual symbolism, embodying both pride and protest within the island’s narrative. Functioning as a symbol of pride, the flag gained significant recognition during the Korean War when the 65th Infantry Regiment of Puerto Rico unfurled it for the first time in a foreign combat zone, specifically on Hill 346 in South Korea. This act, which occurred on August 13, 1952, marked a moment of unity and identity for the soldiers.

On the flip side, the flag has also served as a symbol of protest and defiance. In 1954, during the armed attack on the United States House of Representatives by Puerto Rican nationalists, the flag was raised as an assertion of resistance against American rule.

In 2000, activists protesting the U.S. Navy’s use of Vieques as a bombing range placed the Puerto Rican flag on the Statue of Liberty. A more recent iteration of the flag emerged in 2016 — an all-black rendition, serving as a potent symbol of Puerto Rican independence, resistance and civil disobedience.

Puerto Rico flag colours

Puerto Rico flag colours

The Puerto Rico flag has five horizontal stripes in red and white. On one side, there’s a blue triangle with a big white star. The shades of red, white and blue have changed over time, but these colours make up the key elements of the flag’s design.

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