Apart its official flag, Brazil has got 27 other flags for its federative units. Learn in this article what they are and what they mean.
The National Flag
From 1500 to 1816 Brazil did not have its own flag as the tradition was to adopt the flag of the Portuguese Kingdom in all the territories occupied by Portugal. The sketch of the Brazilian flag as we know today started in 1820, when D. João VI asked Debret, a French painter, to draw the Brazilian flag even before the country had become independent from Portugal, in 1822.
Starting in 1822, when the Brazilian empire was established, Brazil had three different flags, all very similar among themselves. In 1889, when Brazil proclaimed itself as a Republic, Rui Barbosa, a civil rights leader, proposed a drawing for the Brazilian that was very similar to the one of the United States. It was Marechal Deodoro who suggested that the Brazilian republican flag should be similar to the one of the empire.
The version suggested by Rui Barbosa was used as a model for the flag of Goiás state as well as Sergipe and Piauí.
The current version of the Brazilian flag was developed by positivists and apart from the addition of some stars (that represent the Brazilian states), it has not been changed since then.
The Brazilian flag can be used in all private or public manifestations of patriotic feeling from Brazilian citizens. However, if the flag is being hoisted in an official solemnity, there are some rules that must be obeyed:
- Hoisted on masts or riggings when displayed on public and private buildings, temples, sports’ fields, offices, classrooms, auditoriums, ships, streets and squares;
- Distended and without the mast when conducted by airplanes or balloons, placed upon a wall or attached to a horizontal cable connecting buildings, trees, poles or masts;
- Reproduced over walls, ceilings, windows, vehicles and airplanes;
- Composing panoplies, shields and similar items along with other flags;
- Conducted in graduations, parades or even individually;
- Distended upon coffins;
There are some occasions in which the hoisting of the Brazilian flag is mandatory. They are:
- On a daily basis: at federal, state and municipal organizations, on the Brazilian diplomatic missions and on the units of the Civil Navy;
- During national celebrations and mourning, also in schools and unions;
- At least once a week in private and public schools.
The Brazilian flag can be hoisted and lowered at any time, but this is usually made from 8am to 6pm. Only on November 19th, the day in which the Brazilian flag is celebrated, the hoisting occurs at 12pm. During the night, the flag must be illuminated.
Also, when the Brazilian flag is hoisted along with other flags, it must be the first one to reach the top and the last one to lowered. Whenever the president decrees official mourning, the Brazilian flag must be hoisted in the whole country.
At all times the Brazilian flag must occupy an honorable position, always central, prominently ahead of the others and on the right side of tribunes, pulpits, and conference or work desks. However, when in diplomatic missions in foreign countries, these rules may be more flexible in relation to the laws and habits of the hosting country.
State of the Northern region of Brazil, Acre’s flag as it is known today was established in 1995. Its main colors are green and yellow, just like the national flag. The yellow color represents peace while the green color represents hope. The flag has a red star on its left top called “the lonely star” and it represents the blood of those who fought for Acre’s inclusion to the Brazilian territory.
The current version of Alagoas’ flag was created in 1963. The arms represent the first two major cities in the state, Porto Calvo and Penedo. The colors red, blue and white refer to the French Revolution and the ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity. The other elements (such as the cotton, the sugar cane and the fishes) represent geographical and agricultural aspects of the state located in the Brazilian Northeast.
Amapá is located in the Northern region of Brazil and its flag displays the colors green, yellow, dark blue, black and white. Just like most other flags, the colors represent the state’s natural riches and historical facts: green represents the forests; yellow, the mineral riches; blue, the sky; white, peace and black is a tribute to those who died fighting for the country.
The Amazonian flag as it is known today was established in 1982. It has 25 stars representing the 25 municipalities in which the state was divided in 1897. The larger star is Manaus. The two white straps represent hope and the red strap represents all the difficulties that were overcome.
Displaying the colors white, red and blue, the flag for the state of Bahia is very much inspired in the American flag. With symbols related to masonry and the riots that happened in 1798, its official use was only established in 1960, by governor Juracy Magalhães.
With its first version dating from 1922, the flag of the Northeastern state of Ceará is very similar to the national Brazilian flag. Its colors – green and yellow as the Brazilian flag –, have the same symbolism, with the green representing the forests and yellow representing the mineral riches. The lighthouse, the raft and the “carnauba” (a tree originally from the Northeast) represent, respectively, the city of Fortaleza, the native of Ceará state (cearense) and the plant extraction.
The official flag for Distrito Federal was established in 1969 and it is composed by the colors white, green and yellow. There is a cross in its center named “Cruz de Brasília” and it represents the indigenous strength and heritage. The white color represents peace and the green represents the local forests.
Created in 1908 and turned official in 1947, the flag for Espírito Santo state is composed by three horizontal stripes in the colors blue, white and pink and on its center there is the slogan “Work and Trust” (Trabalha e Confia), that comes from the sentence “Work as if everything depended on you and trust as if everything depended on God”.
As previously mentioned, the flag for Goiás state is similar to the American flag. It is composed by eight horizontal stripes in green and yellow and five stars on its left top. Just as in the Brazilian flag, the green represents the forests and the yellow represents the gold.
The flag for Maranhão state is composed by horizontal stripes of different colors and a star located on its left top. The first version of the flag was created in 1889, but it was only adopted in 1998. The stripes on the colors red, black and white symbolize the racial mixture of the people from Maranhão. The star represents the inclusion of the state in the federation.
Established in 1890, Mato Grosso’s flag has been the same since its creation. Its colors are blue, white, green and yellow, just like the Brazilian flag. The blue color represents the sky, white represents peace, green represents territorial extension and the yellow star represents the republican ideal and the mineral riches.
Mato Grosso do Sul
Adopted in 1979, the flag for Mato Grosso do Sul state is composed by four colors: green, white, blue and a yellow star. The symbols represent equilibrium, serenity and stability. The star represents hope and the wealthy of the workforce.
Established in 1963, it is composed by a white rectangle, a red triangle and the sentence “Libertas quae sera tamen”, written in black, something like “Freedom, even though late”, the slogan of the Inconfidência Mineira movement.
The triangle symbolizes the Holy Trinity and the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity of the French Revolution. It was initially green, but as the red color was adopted as the color of revolutionary movements, it was adopted in the final version. The triangle also makes reference to the influence of masonry in the Inconfidência Mineira movement.
The current version of the flag was established in 1903 is composed by a red rectangle with a white strap and a blue star in its center. The white stripe represents three elements: the Zodiac, the Amazon river and the Equator. The red color represents the strength of the blood of the people who are born in Pará state.
The star represents the state. Just out of curiosity, the star representing Pará state on the Brazilian flag is located above the strap with the sentence “Ordem e Progesso” because Pará was the last province to accept the Brazilian independence from Portugal.
The flag of the Northeastern state of Paraíba as we know today was established in 1965. It is composed by the colors black and red and the word “Nego” (“I deny” in English) on the center of the red part. The denial makes reference to the president nominated by Washington Luís, the Brazilian president back then.
The black color makes reference to the mourning the state was in when João Pessoa died and the red represents the Liberal Alliance.
Adopted very recently, in 2002, the current flag of the state of Paraná is one of the few state flags in Brazil that do not display the colors black, red or yellow, mostly related to the war, mourning and mineral riches.
Its colors are green, white and dark blue. The green represents the forest, white represents the peaceful spirit of the people from Paraná and blue represents the sky.
Originated during the 1817 revolution and turned official in 1917, Pernambuco’s flag is full of colors and symbols. The blue color represents the sky; the white, peace; the rainbow, made out of yellow, red and green, represent the union of all Pernambuco people; the star represents the state; the sun represents the strength and the energy of Pernambuco; and the cross represents faith in justice and understanding.
Piauí’s flag was adopted in 1922 and the version known nowadays dates from 2005. It is similar to Goias’ flag, displaying 13 stripes in the colors green and yellow, alternately. On its left top, there is a dark blue rectangle with a star in its center. Under the star, we can read the inscription “13 de Março de 1823”, date of the Jenipapo battle.
Just like in many other flags for Brazilian states, the yellow represents the mineral riches; the green represents the hope; and the star represents the state.
Rio de Janeiro
The flag for the state of Rio de Janeiro dates from 1965, but it was only in 1992 that the slogan “Recte Rempublicam Gerere” was included. The expression in Latin means “Manage public affairs with uprightness”.
Its colors, light blue and white, represent the strong Portuguese influence in the state with the blue representing justice, truth and loyalty.
Rio Grande do Norte
The flag for Rio Grande do Norte is composed by some elements that traditionally represent the state. The coconut-tree, the Carnaúba (typical tree from the Northeast of Brazil), the sugarcane and the cotton represents the local flora. The sea with the raft represents the fishing activities and the salt extraction, responsible for 95% of the salt production in Brazil. The green color represents hope and the white represents peace.
Rio Grande do Sul
The flag for Rio Grande do Sul state was inspired on Guerra dos Farrapos, a separatist movement against the Imperial regime in 1835. It was adopted as the official symbol of the state in 1891, but as the dictatorship suspended the use of state and municipal symbols, it was only turned official in 1966.
Its colors, green, red and yellow, represent, respectively, the forests of the Pampa’s region; the revolutionary ideal and the courage of the people; and, at last, the national riches.
The flag for Rondônia state was established in 1981. It has two rectangles in blue and yellow, a triangle in green and a white star on the top of it. As in the Brazilian flag, the blue represents the sky; the white represents peace; the green color represents the forests; and the yellow is an allusion to the mineral riches. The star represents the state.
Created in 1996, the flag for Roraima state is composed of three stripes and a star on its center. On the bottom, there is a red line crossing the flag from left to right. The green represents the forests and the local vegetation called Cerrado; the yellow represents the mineral riches; the white represents peace; blue represents the sky and the pure air of Roraima; the red line represents the Equator and star represents the state.
Officially instituted in 1895, it was also suspended by the dictatorship and adopted back again in 1953, but now with some changes. This version (which is the one used until nowadays) is composed of three horizontal stripes with a green diamond shape on the center and the state coat of arms over it.
The green color refers to Santa Catarina de Alexandria, who is the state patroness. The coat of arms represents the republican forces; farming activities on the countryside and on the coast; the key reminds us that Santa Catarina is a strategic point of Primary Order; and the eagle represents the productive forces.
Idealized in 1888, the current version of the São Paulo flag was adopted in 1946. It became the symbol for São Paulo state after the 1932 revolution, but it was suspended during the dictatorship regime and only became official again in 1946.
Its colors are white, blue, red, yellow and black and they pretty much represent the trajectory of the Bandeirantes in the state: the white and black straps represent the nights and the days the Bandeirantes fought for the welfare of the state; the red rectangle represents the blood that has been poured by them; the blue of the Brazilian map in the center of the red rectangle represents the strength that the Bandeirantes supposedly have brought into the state; the color yellow appears on the four stars surrounding the Brazilian map.
First established in 1920, the flag for Sergipe state changed in 1951 and only turned official in 1952. It has four horizontal stripes in green and yellow representing the state integration to Brazil. On its left top there is a blue square with five stars that represent the five river mouths in the state.
The flag for Tocantins state was established in 1989 and it is composed by three stripes in blue, white and orange and by an orange sun in its center. The blue stripe represents the rivers, the orange represents the riches of the state and the sun over the white stripe sends the message that the sun rises for all the citizens in Tocantins.