The Flag of Peru: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

The national flag of Peru is similar to the state flag but without the coat of arms in the center.
© MriMan/Shutterstock.com

Written by Alan Lemus

Updated: December 30, 2022

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Peru is a South American country bordered to the east by Bolivia and Brazil, to the south by Chile, and to the north by Ecuador and Colombia. Covering a region of 496,224 square miles, it has a total population of 30.4 million and a population density of roughly 57 per square mile. 

Every year, the country honors the heroic warriors who attempted to defend Peruvian territory during the 1880 Battle of Arica. This was one of the most significant encounters of the War of the Pacific involving Peruvian soldiers and the powerful fully-equipped Chilean adversary. The former Peruvian city of Arica is still a part of Chile and serves as a permanent reminder of Peru’s defeat in both the Battle of Tacna and Arica and the Pacific War.

June 7 was designated as Dia de la Bandera, a day to celebrate the Peruvian flag and to recognize the bravery and courage of the heroic officers and soldiers who defended their country against an overwhelming adversary.

In addition to the interesting facts about Peru is its flag. The flag of Peru has a long history and is a symbol of unity. Let us dig deeper into the Peruvian flag’s meaning, history, and symbolism!

History of the Flag of Peru

General José de San Martin took inspiration from the red and white of the Peruvian flag. There are numerous hypotheses and perspectives regarding its structure.

Some scholars claim that San Martin adopted the colors of Chile and Argentina — white and red, respectively. Others agree that the color of birds native to the Bay of Paracas, inspired the design of the Peruvian flag. The majority of books and textbooks on Peru use the latter version.

San Martin established the first Peruvian flag by decree on October 21, 1820. The flag was divided into four fields by the intersection of two diagonal lines. The sides were red, and the above and lower spaces were white. 

The shield in the middle of the flag is framed by a laurel wreath, bound at the bottom with a golden ribbon. The sun rises on the shield behind the ranges (Andes), which tower over the sea (Pacific coast).

In 1822, the flag underwent three redesigns. Other minor designs were then developed afterward until they adopted the current appearance we see today.

The First Peruvian Flag 

The Peruvian flag was modified in 1822 to have two red horizontal stripes and a white stripe with a sun in the middle. During this time, Peruvian soldier and politician José Bernardo de Tagle held the office of interim president. He went on to become the fifth president from 1823 to 1824.

The Second Peruvian Flag 

On May 31, 1822, José Bernardo de Tagle approved a new design for the Peruvian flag because the old one was easily mistaken for the Spanish flag. The new flag had a sun in the middle of three vertical red and white stripes, with red as the ending stripe.

In actuality, only the stripes’ direction was altered from horizontal to vertical; hence no new design elements were added.

The Flag of Peru in 1825

The flag José Bernardo de Tagle designed was redesigned in 1825, leaving three vertical stripes with the coat of arms in the center of the white stripe instead of the sun.

The national shield (the Escudo Nacional) on the Peruvian flag from 1825 has a vicuna (Peru’s national animal) in the upper left corner, a cinchona tree (the native tropical tree that produces anti-malaria drug quinine) in the upper right corner, and a cornucopia filled with coins at the bottom.

These images represent Peru’s rich mineral, animal, and plant life. The shield is surrounded by palm and laurel branches tied together with red and white ribbons and capped with a holm oak civic crown.

The Peruvian National Flag Since 1950

The flag was first referred to as the “Peruvian National Flag” in 1950. Peru’s president, General Manuel Odra, gave the flag a more understated appearance by dropping the coat of arms from the middle of the white stripe.

The old flag dated back to 1825 and became the “State Flag” and “Naval Ensign” in 1950.

The most significant national symbol is, without a doubt, the Peruvian flag. Parades and festivities are held throughout the nation by the Peruvian Police and Armed Forces. The official ceremony is held at Plaza Bolognesi in the heart of Lima, where members of the military, police, air force, government representatives, and the general public reverently celebrate the Peruvian National flag.

Peruvian State Flag Since 1950

The state flag of Peru

The state flag of Peru with a coat of arms in the center was the former national flag.

©oxameel/Shutterstock.com

The coat of arms (Escudo de Armas) is displayed on the flag of the state (pabellón), flown by government entities. It is used at events where the country’s flag is raised in front of onlookers. 

The national standard is a version of this flag used inside public and private organizations. For example, government Palace, the United Nations, and the national football team, among other institutions, also fly this flag. 

The coat of arms, which includes the national shield, the vicuna, a cinchona tree, and a cornucopia overflowing with coins, is identical to the Peruvian State Flag.

Peruvian War Flag Since 1950

Like the state flag, the war flag features the national shield. In addition, the service name and the unit number of the unit flying it are usually written on it, and the Peruvian military and national police fly it.

The coat of arms is depicted in a somewhat altered form on the Peruvian war flag. The coat of arms includes the national shield, the vicuna, a cinchona tree, and a cornucopia overflowing with coins, just like the present State Flag of Peru and the original Peruvian flag unveiled in 1825. 

The Holm Oak Civic Crown is surrounded by palm and laurel branches twisted together on the left and right sides of the shield’s top with a red and white ribbon.

In contrast to all other earlier designs, this one has a different backdrop of four Peruvian flags draped from crossed flagpoles and has their ends linked together right at the back lower edge of the shield.

Peruvian Naval Jack

The naval jack consists of a white square with the nation’s coat of arms on a red field is not based on the triband. Instead, they use it on warships, typically with the emblem of the highest-ranking officer present above it.

Meaning of the Flag of Peru

The national flag of Peru is similar to the state flag but without the coat of arms in the center.

The current version of the national flag of Peru was adopted in 1950.

©MriMan/Shutterstock.com

In most flags, white represents peace, while red represents freedom. Spain colonized most of the South American countries. Consequently, most of their flags have some similarities with the Spanish flag. 

However, despite being a Spanish colony, Peru did not adopt the Spanish-style flag. Instead, the colors on its flag represent the Incas and their long-lasting effect on the Peruvian nation. 

The flag of Peru is anchored on Article 49 of the country’s Constitution. The bands are red and white, with the white band sandwiched between the red ones.

White 

White is used on 17.7% of the world’s flags. The white color on the Peruvian flag represents the purity of feelings, social justice, freedom, and peace. It also means eminence. From a social perspective, peace is the absence of war or conflict and freedom from the fear of violence between groups or nations.

The success and development of a country depend highly on peace. Peace helps achieve economic stability, political strength, and cultural growth in a country. As an individual, there are various ways to determine if you are promoting peace in your country:

Red 

Red is the second most common color used on flags. Generally, the color is used to represent romance. It is the representation of blood, passion, and life. However, it also refers to danger. The red color on the Peruvian flag represents the blood of the patriots. 

Symbolism of the Flag of Peru

The struggle for independence and the victories in wars against colonizers have left many nations with symbols that signify pride and patriotism. For Peruvians, symbols that are mandated by the constitution are considered to be “official.” 

They also have “unofficial” symbols that are nevertheless significant to them since they stand for their history, legacy, and customs. Some of these un-official symbols include:

  • The cinchona, the national tree
  • The vicuña, the national animal
  • The Lima anthem
  • Cantua buxifolia or la flor de la cantuta, the national flower
  • Patron Saint of Peru
  • Tunki, the national bird

On July 28, Peru commemorates its independence from Spain, which it acquired in 1821. The bicentenary was observed in 2021. Peru’s national symbols aim at fostering a sense of identification and community among its people as independent people liberated from Spanish colonialism. Below are some of the official Peruvian symbols:

The Coat of Arms

Simón Bolvar authored a legislative bill establishing Peru’s coat of arms in 1825. This comprises three fields: white on top with a cinchona tree, sky blue in the upper left, and red on the lower horizontal field. 

These images stand for Peru’s abundant natural resources. An oak civic crown that can be seen from the side is on top, looking like a crest. The above-depicted coat of arms is divided into two sides by a flag and a standard.

National Anthem

The final Peruvian national symbol is El Himno Nacional (the National Anthem). José de San Martin conducted a competition to choose the “National March” after they won their independence in 1820 (la Marcha Nacional).

Up Next…

Take a look at a few of our other flag articles below.


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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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