All About Peru’s National Symbols
Peru’s national symbols represent this country’s history and its road to independence.
Learn about Peru’s national symbols and its history before your next visit to this Andean paradise, with urban and rural astounding places to visit!
A nation’s symbols represent patriotism and pride, and many countries’ symbols have resulted from their struggle towards independence and their success in battles against their colonists.
Peru celebrates its independence on July 28, after gaining it in 1821 from Spain. In 2021, they celebrated the bicentenary.
Peru’s national symbols have encouraged its people’s sense of identity and unity as an independent population free of Spanish rule.
Peru’s Official Symbols
Peruvians refer to “official” symbols as those that are dictated in the constitution. Nonetheless, they also have “unofficial” symbols that are still relevant to them because they represent their history, heritage, and traditions.
1. Red and White – The Flag
Peru’s flag is red and white, with the coat of arms in the middle. It has undergone several changes since its first conception, but its symbolism remains.
The first one emerged in 1820, when José de San Martín arrived with the army of the Andes from Argentina and Chile seeking independence of his people.
This first version had two colors: red and white. It’s said that he picked those colors when he caught a glimpse of a flock of flamingos gliding as he arrived.
José de San Martín’s version had a diagonal division: two white and two red triangles, along with a coat of arms in the centre.
Later in 1822 when the original inhabitants of Peru started seeking independence a new flag surfaced. It had three horizontal stripes, alternating as red-white-red. It also had a red sun in the middle. The red sun represented the traditional Inca empire.
As much as this second flag represented the land’s rightful inhabitants, it tended to cause confusion with Spain’s flag at the time. Later that year they switched horizontal stripes to vertical ones and kept the red sun.
The most recent design was first established on February 25, 1825. They replaced the sun with a new coat of arms. However, it suffered one last modification in 1950.
Peru also considers the bandera nacional as one of their symbols. It’s the same flag, without the coat of arms. It is used for low-key ceremonies.
2. Coat of Arms
Branches of laurel surround the shield at the centre of Peru’s flag. The shield consists of three sections, two at the top, one at the bottom.
There is a vicuña (vicuna), a camelid related to llamas and alpacas. This mammal’s presence in the flag represents Peru’s predominant fauna, as well as their freedom and heroism.
The cinchona tree has a spot in their flag as its use to make quinine, an effective drug against malaria, is widely spread in the country.
Finally, the third section is a cornucopia with gold and silver coins, standing for the nation’s mineral wealth.
3. National Anthem
El Himno Nacional, is the last of Peru’s official national symbols. After they gained their independence in 1820, José de San Martín organized a contest to select the “National March” (la Marcha Nacional).
The selected production was that of Master José Bernardo Alcedo, and he performed it for the first time on September 23, 1821 in the Theater of Lima.
Test your Spanish by checking out the lyrics and translation of Peru’s National Anthem. There is also a version in Quechua, a language widely spoken in the Andean region.
Peru’s Unofficial Symbols
These are other symbols in Peru that represent the people’s identity and heritage.
1. National Flower
Cantua buxifolia or la flor de la cantuta is common in the Andean region—mainly in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
Known as the “Flower of the Incas,” it blooms during mid to late Spring, offering beautiful colors such as white, yellow, orange, magenta, and red.
It became one of Peru’s national symbols as the Incas used it in religious and political ceremonies.
Additionally, these flowers are considered a symbol of unity because of an Inca legend.
The inca legend tells the story of two kings who went to battle and wounded each other to death. Their sons continued to avenge each of their fathers but in the end forgave each other before dying.
The sons were buried together, when Mother Earth appeared to them and made their fathers’ stars fall from the sky. This resulted in the two highest mountains of the Andean Plateau.
Now, they believe that when the snow-capped peaks of the mountains melt, the streams are the fathers’ tears. And so, these streams run through the valleys where la flor de la cantuta grows.
2. National Tree
The cinchona is Peru’s national tree. As seen above, this tree is essential to make quinine. The tree has been essential during decades of Peru’s history.
The Amerindians of the land originally discovered it, but the world officially knew about it when Jesuit missionaries decided to export and profit from it to Europe and Asia in the 19th century.
3. National Animal
The vicuña, also featured in the flag, is the camelid that represents Peru’s fauna. They use it for wool and you can also catch a glimpse of it at Huascarán National Park, where you can see condors and deer, too.
This herbivore is the smallest species of camelid.
4. National Bird
The government of President Manuel Prado promulgated on December 11, 1941 that the Cock of the Rocks (Rupicola Peruvianus) is the national bird of Peru.
Its name in Quechua is Tunki and its natural habitat is in cloud forests. The bird’s loud calls sometimes cause it to attract predators
If you’re a fan of wildlife, you can see it in protected areas such as the Abiseo River in San Martin or Tingo María, Huánuco.
5. National Colors
The white stripes on the flag represent purity, while the red ones stand for the blood of patriots that defended the land.
A cockade is a type of accessory, common during the 18th century, that people used to show loyalty and allegiance to a political party or representative.
For some time, Peruvians used the cockade (escarapela) on the left side of their chest to attend school during July, due to their nation’s patriotic month.
The cockade has been a relevant symbol to represent their autonomy and pride, even if the Constitution has not established it as an official symbol.
Peru Is Waiting
Take the challenge of visiting a Latin American country and speaking their own language!
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