History of the Brazilian Flag

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The nation of Brazil has a unique flag. In this lesson, we will talk about what this flag represents, and see how it reflects the history of the nation and Brazilian people.

Brazil and Its Flag

Flags are important. They're also pretty cool. A national flag is basically a meme of your national identity. It's a quick, visual symbol that is supposed to be understood within seconds, but somehow defines the entire nation. That's a lot of responsibility. However, it means that national flags tend to have some pretty interesting histories behind them.

A perfect example is Brazil. As the largest nation of South America, and the only one that was almost entirely defined by the Portuguese Empire, Brazil has a unique history and unique national identity. So, how do you fit all of that into a single visual standard? Let's find out.

The Flag of Brazil

To understand the history of Brazil's flag, we're actually going to start by looking at the nation's current banner. The Brazilian flag, formally the Bandeira do Brasil in the local language of Portuguese, is immediately identifiable by its expansive green background. Why green? Have you ever been to Brazil? With the Amazon Rainforest, the Atlantic Jungle, and other natural forests, Brazil actually contains the greatest biodiversity on planet Earth, with over 10% of all living species living in the nation.

On that green field is a gold rhombus, representing the immense gold reserves of the nation. Between 1500 and 1900, more gold was found in Brazil alone than in the rest of the world throughout all of human history. In the center of the flag is a blue circle, dotted by several white stars. There are 27 white stars representing the 26 Brazilian states and the Federal District. What makes this really cool is that the stars are aligned to match the constellations over Rio de Janeiro on November 15, 1889. This was the day that the Republic of Brazil was founded. The Federal District is represented by the star Sigma Octantis, which is one of the few stars visible in the Brazilian night sky year-round.

Across the blue circle on the flag is a white banner with the slogan ''Ordem e Progresso,'' the national motto meaning ''Order and Progress.'' It was inspired by the French philosopher Auguste Comte, who claimed that love was a principle, order was the basis, and progress was the goal.

The national flag of Brazil
Flag of Brazil

History of the Flag

So, Brazil's flag is pretty cool. But where did it come from? For that, we have to go all the way back to 1822. Brazil declared its independence from Portugal, and immediately established itself as the Empire of Brazil. The empire's first flag was designed with a green field and yellow rhombus to signify the colors of Emperor Pedro I and Empress Maria Leopoldina, who came from different royal houses. In the middle of the banner was the royal crest of the empire, based partly on the symbol of Brazil under the Portuguese Empire.

Flag of the Empire of Brazil
Imperial flag

In 1889, Brazil abandoned the empire and proclaimed itself a republic. The Republic of Brazil, the formal name of the nation to this day, needed a new flag. They tried out several ideas. The most popular featured green and gold stripes, with a rectangle in the top left corner featuring an arrangement of stars. Sound familiar? The stars and stripes motif was modeled after the United States, which was still seen as a leader of republic ideology at the time.

This proposed flag of the republic was modeled after the United States.
Proposed flag of the republic

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