Last Updated: Feb 21, 2012
National Flag and National Shield:
In 1848, then-First Lady Pacifica Fernandez Oreamuno designed the first flag of Costa Rica. Inspired by the French Revolution, Oreamuno modeled the Costa Rican Flag after those ideals – freedom, equality and brotherhood – and chose the same colors as the French national flag: red, white and blue. Later that year, then-President Jose Maria Castro Madriz ordered the creation of Costa Rica’s National Shield. The National Shield, which has been redesigned twice, is also symbolic of Costa Rican principles.
In Spanish, there is a distinction between the “bandera nacional” and the “pabellon nacional.” In English, both mean flag, but the bandera nacional is the basic flag – the red, white, and blue stripes – while the pabellon nacional refers to the bandera decorated with the national shield. Most high schools and primary schools, public offices, government offices, foreign missions and merchant ships display the flag and shield while festivities and civil activities usually fly just the flag.
The Costa Rican flag displays five horizontal stripes: a red stripe located in the center; two white stripes placed above and below the red stripe; and two blue stripes at the top and bottom. The width of each white and blue stripe is 1/6 of the total width of the flag, while the red stripe is double the size at 2/6 the total width.
Each color in the Costa Rican flag represents important Costa Rican ideals. Blue represents the sky, opportunities within reach, intellectual thinking, perseverance, infinity, eternity, religious ideals and spiritual desires. White symbolizes clear thinking, happiness, wisdom, power and natural beauty, as well as peace and Costa Rican initiative. Red expresses the warmth of the Costa Rican people, their love of life, and blood spilled during the fight for freedom.
The National Shield displays three volcanoes and a valley between two oceans, each one with a merchant ship; these represent the nation’s three mountain ranges, the Central Valley, the country’s two coasts, and the cultural and commercial exchange between Costa Rica and the rest of the world. A sun rises over the horizon, representing Costa Rica’s prosperity, and seven stars dot the blue sky – one for each of the country’s provinces. At top, a blue ribbon states “America Central,” while a white banner below reads “Republica de Costa Rica.” Two myrtle branches sit atop the banner; these symbolize Costa Rica’s peaceful nature. The shield is enclosed on both sides by small, golden circles that represent coffee, also known as “golden beans."