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Historical Flags of Puerto Rico

Christopher Columbus kneeling, holding the flag of the Crown of Castile and sword with two other men holding flags.

The introduction of a flag in Puerto Rico can be traced to when Christopher Columbus landed on the island's shore on November 19, 1493.

Kingdom of Castile Flag (1248 - 1516)

Christopher Columbus used the Royal Flag, and his captains used two flags which the Admiral carried in all the ships as Ensign.

The flag of Castile and Leon was the official flag of the Spanish autonomous community of Castile and Leon. It represented the two cultural identities who share this administrative region, the Castle for Castile, and the Lion for Leon. It consists of the quartered coats of arms of Castile, represented by a castle, and Leon, represented by a lion.

Captain's Ensign of Columbus's Ships Flag (1492)

The flag was used to distingish the ships under Columbus' command. The white flag with a green cross in the middle and an crowned 'F' and crowned 'Y', both green and crowned with golden, open royal crowns, for King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Sicily, and Queen Ysabel (Isabel I) of Castile and Leon.

Spanish Burgundy Cross Flag (1506-1785)

The flag was flown over Spain's colonial empire in the New World until 1785, when a new flag was adopted. The saltire (cross) design resembles two crossed, roughly pruned branches., known as the Cross of Burgundy, was a symbol of Philip I, Duke of Burgundy and father of Charles I, who became Spain's king in 1516.

This flag flew wherever there was a Spanish military installation, including La Fortaleza, Fort San Felipe del Morro, Fort San Cristobal and San Geronimo. The Cross of Burgundy flag still flown alongside Puerto Rico and U.S. flags at Fort San Cristobal and Fort San Felipe del Morro.

Flag of Spain (1701-1793)

The arms of Bourbon-Anjou were added in 1700 when Philip V became king of Spain. He introduced several changes on the royal arms and the flag was reduced to white with an off-center crowned Royal coat of arms.

The flag was flown in fortresses, castles and coast defenses.

El Grito de Lares Flag (1868)

The Grito de Lares flag was used on September 23, 1868 during the uprising in Puerto Rico against the Spanish government. It was designed by Dr. Ramon Emeterio Betances and embroidered by Mariana Bracetti. It was intended for the flag to become the flag of the Republic.

The flag still preserved at the University of Puerto Rico.

Spain Flag (1793-1873, 1875-1898)

In 1785, King Charles III replaced the existing flag with a new, distinct ensign which could not easily be mistaken with those of other countries.

In 1843, the design also became the official Spanish State Flag. This flag still used today in the modern Spanish national flag with the Royal Shield being replaced by a more modern coat of arms.

First Spanish Republic Flag (1873-1874)

In 1873 Spain was declared a republic. The First Republic's flag was similar to the Royal flag of 1785, only with the crown removed. The Spanish Republic and flag was short-lived, it only lasted twenty-three months, between February 11, 1873, and December 29, 1874.

Puerto Rican Flag (1892)

The flag of Puerto Rico was designed in 1895 to promote the ideal of Puerto Rican independence from Spain. It consists of five alternate red and white horizontal stripes with a single white five-pointed star resting in a blue triangle.

The three red strips symbolized the blood from the brave warriors, the two white stripes victory and peace after obtaining indepence, blue the sky and sea and the white star is the island. The design is the same as the Cuban flag, but with the colors inverted.

When Puerto Rico became an American territory, the Puerto Rican flag was outlawed until 1952.

Then, in 1952 when Puerto Rico became a commonwealth, the flag was officially adopted, but it symbolism was altered to distance the flag from its history, along the blue, it was changed to a darker tone to make it similar to the American flag.

In 1995 the triangle color was changed again to sky blue.

Did You Know?

More than 70% of the rum sold in the U.S. comes from Puerto Rico.