The crazy history of the Puerto Rico flag

puerto rico flag

The Puerto Rico flag: A rich and controversial history

As the story goes, the Catholic Monarchs Fernando and Isabel awarded a flag to Puerto Rico contemporary with the first coat of arms. However, as with the first shield, the original Puerto Rico flag was lost.

“Officially”, the first Puerto Rico flag was the Grito de Lares in 1868. This flag was made by Mariana Bracetti, known as the “Golden Arm”, and was based on a design by Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances.

On December 22, 1895, a group of 59 Puerto Ricans met in the “Chimney Corner Hall” of New York City and organized the Puerto Rico Section of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. In that assembly was chosen the flag that would be the symbol of the fight for the independence of the Island from hands of Spain. According to the minutes, the flag “is the same form of the Cuban, with the difference of having inverted the colors.”

There are three theories about the true designer of the Puerto Rico flag. Revised documents point to Don Manuel Besosa as the person who designed it because in a letter from his daughter appears the following: “The truth is that my father ordered me several days in advance to the date of Juanta sewing pieces of White, red and blue tape he brought me, a little bandit like five bands of alternating red and white and a blue triangle on one side with a white five-pointed star on the field of the triangle.”

The Puerto Rico flag of 1895 was approved by Juanta Revolutionary of Cuba Section of Puerto Rico with the following meaning:

  • Red Stripes – Blood Spilled by the Patriots in the Revolution
  • White stripes – victory and peace after independence
  • Equilateral blue triangle – the sea and the blue sky of our Puerto Rico
  • Solitary star – represents the Island

Current Meaning

The flag from its origins has been used as a symbol of various political movements, such as the Unionist Party of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. But it is not until July 24, 1952 that the flag is approved by the Legislature and its meaning is officially established.

Puerto Rico flag vs Cuban flag

In 1895, at the beginning of the Cuban Revolutionary War, there was in New York a section of the Cuban Revolutionary Party called “SPR”, headed by José Julio Henna, Roberto H. Todd, Juan M. de Terreforte, Sotero Figueroa, Aurelio Méndez and Manuel Besosa. There it was decided to adopt a new flag to replace the one of Grito De Lares, that was the one that the Puerto Ricans used at that time. It was then decided to symbolically emphasize the union of the Cuban struggle and the Puerto Rican struggle, imitating the symbol of Cuban insurrection, but with inverted colors. The design was presented to the assembly of members by don José de la Matta Terreforte, one of the survivors of the Lares gestation that held the position of vice president of the Puerto Rico Section. The flag was adopted as insignia of the organism during the first general assembly of the Section Puerto Rico, celebrated in Chimney Hall, New York, 22 of December of 1895.

The Puerto Rico flag is rectangular in shape with five (5) horizontal, three (3) red and two (2) white stripes. On the side of the pole, it has an equilateral blue triangle with a solitary white star in the center. The original meaning of this flag was the following: The red stripes represented the blood shed by the patriots of the revolution. The white stripes meant victory, the peace to come. The equilateral blue triangle is a symbol of the sea and the sky of our Puerto Rico. The solitary star represents the island.

When it was officially adopted as the flag of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952, it was given the following meaning: The three red stripes would symbolize the vital blood that nourishes the three (3) government powers that are: Legislative, Executive and Judicial . The two white stripes represent the freedom of the individual and the rights of man that maintain in balance the three powers of our form of government. The solitary white star symbolizes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Pearl of the Caribbean. The blue triangle represents the republican form of government sustained in its three powers.

The color of the triangle is sky blue. A white five-pointed star is placed over the triangle, placed so that one of its points points upwards. The flag symbolizes the brotherhood in the revolutionary struggle between the Cuban people and the Puerto Rican people. This is mainly due to the fact that the group of Puerto Rican separatists who adopted it where associated with the Cuban separatists who fought with identical ideals under the Cuban Revolutionary Party.

The Puerto Rico flag, like the Cuban one, did not follow patterns of heraldic forms or symbolism in its design. Its blue, red and white colors and its symbols of the triangle and the star, were in vogue during century XIX, influenced by the liberal and republican currents of the time.

The flag from its origins has been used like insignia of diverse independentistas movements, like Party Union of Puerto Rico and Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico. In 1952, upon establishing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the flag of the triangle and the solitary star was declared its official flag.

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