Every July 9, Chile commemorates National Flag Day. Our flag is a symbol that has been marked in different ways over the 200 years of our country’s history, and today it is a source of pride amongst Chileans.
Our flag was officially adopted by the Republic almost 205 years ago, and has been an emblem that has accompanied us not only during the Independence day celebrations in September, but also during any official activity. From Imagen de Chile, we invite you to learn some facts about where it comes from, the traditions that surround it, the different versions that have existed, the story behind this festive day and how Chileans feel about this symbol.
The Lone Star
Our national flag, most commonly known as “the Lone Star”, was officially adopted on October 18, 1817. It has two stripes: the bottom one is red and the upper one is divided into two sections – two-thirds of its width is white, while the other third is blue and contains a white, 5-pointed star,
The War Minister José Ignacio Zenteno was commissioned with the flag’s design during Bernardo O’Higgins’ administration and it was used publicly for the first time during the independence proclamation on February 12, 1818.
Regarding its meaning, traditionally the white has been associated with the Andes Mountains, the blue with the sea, the red with the blood shed by the martyrs who died fighting for Chile’s independence and the lone star represents the single and indivisible State of Chile.
Other versions suggest that the flag might be inspired by the one that the Mapuche warriors used during the Spanish conquest, as described in the epic poem “La Araucana”, written in the 16th Century by the poet and soldier Alonso de Ercilla. In Canto 21 of the poem, one can read how, upon describing the march of the Mapuche troops, the author refers to the waving of the flag held by the Talcahuano warrior “…covered with tall feathers, stalwart, with his fighters following him, their chests covered with bands of blue, white and crimson.”
Before the current flag was declared the official one, there were other versions. The first one was the Patria Vieja flag (1812-1814) which had an upper blue stripe, a white stripe in the middle and a yellow one at the bottom. Then came the Transition flag (1817), where the bottom stripe was replaced with the color red.
La Concepción battle
The La Concepción battle was waged between July 9 and 10, 1882, towards the end of the Pacific War. In those two days, 80 Chileans lost their lives at the hands of the Peruvian army.
The Chilean contingent, led by Captain Ignacio Carrera Pinto, the grandson of José Miguel Carrera, was on the Chilean front line in the Peruvian mountains and its barracks were located in a small town called La Concepción.
In the afternoon of July 9, the garrison, comprising 77 soldiers and 2 women (one of whom was pregnant), was surprised by 300 Peruvian army soldiers and more than 1500 guerillas, and since they were unable to pull back, they bunkered down and established defensive positions in a local church while awaiting backup forces.
On the morning of July 10, the 5 surviving soldiers carried out a final charge, an act that was immortalized by Chilean artist, Manuel Espinosa Salas, and can be seen today in the Los Heroes metro station in Santiago, Chile.
Since 1939, the different branches of the armed forces have held their ceremonies to pledge allegiance to the flag on that day, and since 1974, the date has been officially designated National Flag day, to honor the Chilean men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty.
Orgullo Chileno (Chilean Pride) Study
Over the more than 200 years of Chile’s history as an independent country, many State institutions, territorial divisions and instruments have undergone change. Despite this, the flag and the emblems of the republic have remained practically intact, which makes us wonder, what does this symbol represent for Chileans?
According to the most recent version of Imagen de Chile’s Chilean Pride Study, Chileans are very proud of their patriotic emblems: 91% would not change the Chilean flag, 87% would not modify the national anthem and 83% would preserve the National Coat of Arms.
This same study indicates that 54% of those surveyed feel proud to be Chilean, and, when asked about their feelings towards Chile, only 19% stated they took little pride.
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