The Story Behind the Panamanian Flag

Panama City from the Cinta Costera | © Todd Webb, HEADsPACE Photography
Panama City from the Cinta Costera | © Todd Webb, HEADsPACE Photography
Photo of Brittney Schering
16 November 2017

Panama’s flag is red, white and blue, divided into four quarters with two white rectangles – one blue, and one red. Either white rectangle boasts a single star, blue in the top left, red in the bottom right. Every color is symbolic in the way that it represents an important element to Panamanian life.

The white in the flag represents peace. The blue star is symbolic for purity and honesty, and it also represents the Conservative party. The red star stands for authority and law, and it also represents the Liberal party of Panama.

Panama City from the Cinta Costera | © Todd Webb, HEADsPACE Photography

Panama’s first President, Manuel Amador Guerrero, did not accept the first flag designed in 1903. It consisted of 13 horizontal red and yellow stripes, with a blue canton holding two golden suns. A narrow line represented the oceans uniting by way of the Panama Canal.

Though it was denied, Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla’s wife designed that first ever proposal for a Panamanian flag. She had taken inspiration from the flag of the United States, with elements that honor other countries, such as 13 stripes for the U.S. and using the color yellow for Panama’s connection to Colombia and Spain, whose flags both feature red and yellow prominently. She replaced the stars in the blue canton with two interconnected suns to represent North and South America.

Despite the heavy symbolism of Madame Bunau-Varilla’s flag design, it was rejected for appearing too similar to the U.S. flag. Instead, the President’s family designed the new flag. First, his son Manuel Encarnacion Amador, a recognized and talented artist, drew up a sketch which he then gave to Panama’s first First Lady, Maria de la Ossa de Amador. She made Panama’s flag on November 1, 1903, though the creation of the flag was not without difficulty due to the need to avoid the Colombian army.

Flag Day is celebrated every year on November 4, the day after Panama’s separation from Colombia.

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