When I first arrived in Peru, I got confused. There seem the be different variations of the Peruvian flag. The 7th of June is the official national flag day in Peru. So let's dive into its story.
Why is the Peruvian flag Red-White-Red?
In colourful Peru, I found it no surprise that the main colour of the flag is a strong red. Why red? One story* tells that its creator choose the flag colours after he saw flamingos with red wings and white chests. True or not, we do know that the first version of the Peruvian flag was designed by its liberator: José de San Martín.
From October 1820 onwards, the fierce red with white always remained the base of the Peruvian flag.
The Peruvian Coat of Arms
Since 1825 the ‘Peruvian Coats of Arms’ is placed at the white centre of the flag. There are three images on the flag, that together represent the flora, fauna and mineral wealth of Peru.
The symbolism of
the Vicuña, the Tree & the Cornucopia
Altiplano - Vicuña No tourist goes home without a stack of photos of Llamas, Alpaca’s and, if you were lucky, you might have seen a Vicuña as well.
As the Vicuña is the national animal of Peru, it proudly features as first element on the shield.
In 1964, the Vicuña was in danger of extinction. There was only a population of 25.000 left. They were hunted down for their wool, which is one of the most expensive fibers in the world.
The Peruvian government took action, and, among others, handed the ownership of the wild Vicuñas to the local indigenous communities. Nowadays, the Vicuñas are not on the endangered species list anymore.
Amazones - Cinchona Tree Reading up about the Cinchona Tree, I understand why it is featured on the Peruvian flag. Little did I know that is it one of the rainforests most important discoveries.
Legend has it that back in 1638, the wife of the Count of Cinchon was cured of malaria-like-fever using the bark of this tree. It does explain the name of the tree: Cinchona...
Native Peruvian healers used the cinchona tree bark to treat fever, malaria and indigestion. Using the quinine of the bark is an authentic Peruvian way to outsmart the potential nasty effects of a mosquito bite! Until nowadays, the bark is still an important source of quinine and used for various medicines.
Also: You like your gin-tonic? Apparently, the signature bitter taste of the tonic originates from the quinine of the Cinchona tree.
Every area in Peru: Cornucopia, The horn of Plenty The third element of the shield is Greek Mythology rightnessly applied to the Peruvian context. A Cornucopia symbolizes ‘the horn of plenty’. At the Peruvian flag, the horn is portrayed overflowing with coins. This stands for the abundance of mineral resources in Peru.
As tourist, you will find beautifully shaped mineral pieces on about every artesania market. Even on your way out, at Lima Airport, you can stack up with a range of vibrant coloured stones and intriguing dark-silver grey magnetic balls (my little nephews loved those ones!)
That said, the real Plentyness, the reason why in 1825 the Cornucopia earned its place on the flag is the production of minerals.
Peru is one of the world’s largest producers of gold, copper, tin, zinc and silver. Mineral commodities account for more than 60% of the export of Peru*. To operate in the mining industry, mining companies in Peru have to acquire and maintain the Social License to operate.
In its origin, the Horn of Plenty is pictured as a hollow goats horn overflowing with fruit, grains, vegetables and drinks in an endless supply. Seen the richness of Peru’s biodiversity and agricultural production & export, the cornucopia emblem has also a very nowadays reason to be the third element on the Peruvian flag.
¡Todos Somos Peru!
Special edition of the Peruvian flag
On the Peru Independence day and national holidays, by law, every home and building has to fly the Peruvian flag. For private citizens, that mains raising the national flag.
When you see the flag with the Peruvian Coat of Arms pictured at the centre, that is the official state flag. You will see that one at every government building.
Talking to people in Peru, I found Peruvians nicely proud on their heritage; their Inca roots - Machu Picchu, their signature food and, of course... everybody is excited that after 36 too long years... the National Soccer team qualified for the World Cup 2018.
Preparing for Russia 2018 it means that the Peruvian flag and red-white colour nowadays is seen everywhere. Forget about Paris or NY fashion trends – Winter 2018 fashion trend here is The Peruvian Flag. In Glitterly Silver or Gold, in Neon-colours on black t-shirts and also the ‘hoody-crew’ adapted the flag as an emblem on their outfits.
There are even informal Peru-Russia 2018 flag versions. On my supporters t-shirt for example:
· The Vicuña is replaced by a football with the Peruvian map on it.
· The Cinchona Tree is now a Peruvian football team t-shirt, the hand placed at the heart.
· The cornucopia? Of course – the Estadio Nacional – the national stadium where Peru beat New Zealand and secured the ticket to the World Cup Finals 2018 in Russia!
Good News – Raise the Flags!
because... The World Cup Trophy is already in good Peruvian hands!