The Puerto Rican Flag: a symbol of pride and defiance

Some people wonder “Why do Puerto Ricans always fly their flags all over the place?” In 1948, a bill known as Law 53 was passed, prohibiting Puerto Ricans to speak about independence from the U.S. and owning or exhibiting a Puerto Rican flag. Doing so would get you 10 years in prison. Owning a flag was a felony. It would take 9 years before the law was repealed. So yes, Puerto Ricans have an emotional attachment to the flag. It’s been passed down through the generations. It’s a symbol of Puerto Rican pride and defiance.

Lares Flag The first Puerto Rican Flag, "The Revolutionary Flag of Lares"

The original Puerto Rican flag, "The Revolutionary Flag of Lares" was conceived in 1868 by Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances and embroidered by Mariana "Brazos de Oro" Bracetti. This flag was used in the short-lived Puerto Rican revolt against Spanish rule in the island, known as "El Grito de Lares".

Juan de Mata Terreforte, an exiled veteran of "El Grito de Lares" and Vice-President of the Cuban Revolutionary Committee, in New York City, adopted the flag of Lares as the flag of Puerto Rico until 1895, when the current design, modeled after the Cuban flag, was unveiled and adopted by the 59 Puerto Rican exiles of the Cuban Revolutionary committee. 

1898 lighter blue variant of flag

The new flag, which consisted of five equal horizontal bands of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bears a large, white, five-pointed star in the center, was first flown in Puerto Rico on March 24, 1897, during the "Intentona de Yauco" revolt.

On various occasions the flag has been used as a symbol of defiance and protest. In the 1954 attack of the United States House of Representatives in a protest against United States rule of the island, Nationalist leader Lolita Lebrón shouted "¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!" ("Long live a Free Puerto Rico!") and unfurled the flag of Puerto Rico. On November 5, 2000, Alberto De Jesus Mercado, better known as Tito Kayak, and five other Vieques activists stepped onto the top deck of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, then placed a Puerto Rican flag, with the triangle darker than the light-blue version on the statue's crown, reenacting an earlier protest in the 1970s asking for the release of Puerto Rican prisoners, this time in protest of the United States Navy usage of the island of Vieques as a bombing range.

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