The Story Behind the Argentina Flag

The Argentine flag and the Obelisco in Buenos Aire
The Argentine flag and the Obelisco in Buenos Aire | © Hernán Piñera/Flickr
Sorcha O'Higgins

Every country is proud of their flag, but arguably none more so than Argentina. The flag is a big deal in Argentina, perhaps in large part due to the fact there have been so many variations over the years. We give you the inside scoop into the story behind Argentina’s flag.

Manuel Belgrano, who created the flag, on the old 10 peso bill

The Argentine flag as we know it now is a triband consisting of two bands of light blue, or celeste as they call it here, with a white band between, and a yellow sun in the middle. The original flag was created by the famous Argentine general Manuel Belgrano, who was an economist, lawyer, politician and military leader and was one of the liberators of Argentina from Spanish rule. He is also the face on the 10 peso bill. He was one of the protagonists of the Argentine War of Independence and created the national flag in its first iteration in 1812, but at this time it was reversed, with the blue band in the centre sandwiched between two white bands. The current flag that features the sun in the middle has the official title of Official Ceremonial Flag, while that without the sun is called the Ornamental Flag, and both flags are considered the official flag of Argentina, and when both are raised, the Ornamental Flag must always be below the Ceremonial Flag.

The flag with its celeste and white bands and yellow sun

The need for a national flag was born out of Argentina’s War for Independence from Spain, when Belgrano created a cockade, or rosette-type sign, in celeste and white to represent national forces, as both forces loyal to Spain and nationalist forces were fighting the battle in the colour of the Spanish flag, red and yellow. Belgrano was so happy with the design of the cockade that he created a design for the flag nine days later. There are lots of stories about why the particular colours of celeste and white were used, but the one that Argentines like best is that the colours were taken from those used by the criollos, or Latin Americans of Spanish descent, in the May Revolution of 1810. The flag was raised for the first time in the city of Rosario in 1812, and still to this day Rosario can claim the fame of having been the birthplace of the flag. There is even a National Flag Monument on the site of the first raising, as well as a National Flag Day, which is a bank holiday celebrated on June 20th, the day that Belgrano died in 1820.

However, although the cockade had been approved by the powers that be at the time, they did not approve the flag and forbade Belgrano from fighting under it. Belgrano missed the memo, however, and hoisted the flag anyway after a victory, and eventually it was allowed to be used as a military flag. It took a further four years for the flag to be officially accepted as the national flag in 1816, shortly after Argentina achieved independence from Spain. Two years later the sun was added, taking inspiration from the sun that was on the first Argentine coin, but the flag bearing the sun was still considered the military flag, but eventually the people in charge of the new republic decided to stick with the sun, so it no longer is a representation of war, although some Argentines may tell you differently. So the official, official, official flag (because it does get confusing after so many changes!) came into official, official existence in 1861. Lots of Argentines take the colours to represent the sky, the clouds and the sun, like the sky on a typical day in Buenos Aires – blue skies, some light, passing clouds, and the sun shining brightly up above.

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