One thing you’re bound to notice if you’re in Chile during September are the flags. As the country prepares to celebrate its Independence Day on September 18, you’ll see flags everywhere. Perched on car hoods, flapping outside the front of homes and hanging from the ceiling in almost every store.
As well as being popular, the Chilean flag, which is also known as La Estrella Solitaria (The Lone Star), comes with an interesting story.
The meaning: The red strip that occupies the bottom half of the flag represents the blood spilled during the struggle for national independence, and the blue square in the top left-hand corner symbolizes Chile´s rich azure sky. The white strip along the top of the flag reflects the snow-capped peaks of the Andes. The white five-pointed star that sits in the center of the blue square represents the unity of the Chilean republic and the powers of the state.
The history: One of the oldest national flags in the world, Chile’s current flag was selected as the country´s symbol on October 18, 1817 but wasn’t officially unveiled until February 12 the following year, during a solemn ceremony proclaiming national independence. It is often claimed that the flag was created by José Ignacio Zenteno, a war minister in Bernardo O’Higgins’ 19th century government, but some sources attribute the design to Gregorio de Andía y Varela, a Spanish merchant who lived in Chile.
The obligation: According to Chile’s Decreto Supremo (Supreme Decree) 1,534, which dates back to October 1967, every Chilean home, building and public institution must hoist the flag on a white pole each year on September 18 and 19 in honor of national independence. The flag can be raised vertically or horizontally but the blue square with the white star must always be in the top left-hand corner. Failing to comply with this requirement can result in a fine.
The myth: In 2009, a story circulated in the local press claiming that the Chilean flag had been declared the “Most Beautiful National Flag in the World” at a contest in Belgium over 100 years earlier. While there are some journalistic records and personal testimonies about the event, the details are sketchy and many people remain skeptical about the true nature of the contest.
The variation: If you spend enough time in Chile, chances are that you will see a different version of the flag displaying the national coat of arms in the center. This is the National Presidential Flag or Presidential Standard, and can only be flown when the president is present.