The Flag of Uruguay: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

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Written by Taiwo Victor

Published: December 11, 2022

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Uruguay, South America’s second-smallest nation and one that borders both Argentina and Brazil, is located along the Atlantic Ocean. The stunning South American nation is well-known for its shorelines, steak, and outstanding soccer play. Uruguay’s name comes from the indigenous Guaran language’s name-giving river, Río Uruguay. The term “bird-river” (also known as “the river of the urú,” where urú is a common noun for any wild fowl) has several possible meanings. The name could also be an allusion to the common river snail, uruguá (Pomella megastoma), that lived along its shores.

Uruguay is a highly advanced, dependable, and culturally rich nation. The nation has countless possibilities for growth due to its open space and sparse population. Since gaining independence in 1828, Uruguay has maintained close ties with the United Kingdom, Italy, and France. Throughout much of the 20th century, Uruguay evolved into one of Latin America’s more progressive societies, standing out for its government stability, cutting-edge social laws, and sizable middle class. But did this independence influence the design of the modern Uruguayan flag? This article explores the history, meaning, and symbolism behind the flag of Uruguay and other facts.

Introduction to the Uruguayan Flag

The Uruguayan flag consists of a field with nine equally spaced horizontal stripes of blue and white with the Sun of May on the top left corner.

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The Pabellón Nacional (Spanish for “National Flag”) of Uruguay consists of a field with nine equally spaced horizontal stripes of blue and white. The Sun of May is depicted as having a face and 16 rays that alternate between wavy and triangular in the white canton.

The National Pavilion is the name given formally to the national flag, and another name for the flag is The Sun and Stripes. The Argentine flag served as inspiration for the flag’s blue and white hues, and the flag’s nine horizontal stripes represent the nation’s nine provinces.

The History of the Uruguayan Flag

Uruguay was a member of the Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata (known today as Argentina) before gaining its independence.

©iStock.com/Oleksii Liskonih

On August 25, 1825, Uruguay formally severed ties with Brazil. The current flag of Uruguay, created by Joaquin Suárez and adopted on July 11, 1830, is one of the oldest in existence. The year 1830 saw a reduction to nine blue and white lines from the original 19 when it was first adopted in 1828.

Uruguay was a member of the Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata (known today as Argentina) before gaining its independence. The Provincias Unidas flag of Uruguay served as the inspiration for the colors of the current flag. The United States flag, whose red and white stripes symbolize its 13 original colonies, served as inspiration for the flag’s design’s hierarchy of elements.

Three National Flags Fly in Uruguay

Three official flags are included in the list of Uruguay’s national emblems. All date back to the 1810s and 1820s, when the country battled for liberty, first from Spain and then from Brazil. On national holidays in Uruguay, all three flags are required to fly at all times from government buildings.

The Flag of Artigas and the Flag of the Thirty-Three are Uruguay’s two additional recognized national flags, and the three flags are Uruguay’s national symbolic representations.

1. The Uruguayan National Flag

The national flag, known in Spanish as el Pabellón Nacional, consists of four horizontal blue stripes and a white canton with a golden sun with 16 golden rays and facial features.

The flag was created in 1828 by Joaquin Suárez (1781–1868), who later served as President of Uruguay. The flag’s initial design featured nine blue stripes to symbolize the nine departments that then existed in Uruguay. Then, the number of blue stripes decreased to four in 1830.

The name “Sun of May” (el Sol de Mayo), given to the sun in the canton, alludes to the 1810 May Revolution that kicked off the struggle for Argentina’s and Uruguay’s independence from Spain. At the time, these two countries were part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.

2. The Flag of Artigas

La Bandera de Artigas, or Artigas’ flag, is a horizontal blue-white-blue tricolor with an angled red stripe running from the higher insides to the lower exterior edge of the flag. Federalism is represented by the red diagonal stripe. General José Gervasio Artigas (1764-1850), a national hero of Uruguay, created this flag in 1815. He suggested creating a union of South American provinces that would be free of Spanish rule.

Particular ties exist between the Artigas Flag and the Uruguayan Armed Forces. Military personnel wear cockades of the flag on their uniforms, and the Uruguayan Air Force displays the flag on its aircraft as a roundel.

3. The Flag of the Thirty-Three

Uruguay’s official motto, LIBERTAD O MUERTE, or “Freedom or Death,” appears on the white stripe of the Treinta y Tres Flag (la Bandera de Los Treinta y Tres Orientales), which is a red, white, and blue tricolor. The Thirty-Three Orientals used this flag in 1825 to launch La Cruzada Libertadora, the battle for independence against Brazilian rule in the Oriental Province, which is now Uruguay.

Symbolism and Design of the Uruguayan Flag

The Stripes

Inspired by the American flag, which uses stripes to symbolize the original 13 colonies, the Uruguayan flag’s horizontal stripes represent the country’s nine original departments.

The Sun of May

The rising sun represents Uruguay’s ascent as a nation. The personification of the sun was derived from Inti, the Incan sun god. The reason it’s also known as the May Sun is because on the gloomy day of May 25, 1810, when the phase of becoming independent from Spain got underway, the sun suddenly broke through the clouds and rain. It denotes independence, and its color stands for harmony, clarity, splendor, wealth, and abundance. It also stands for benevolence and freedom.

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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