20 June: Flag Day in Argentina
The origins of the colours of the Argentinean flag are shrouded in mystery. No one knows exactly why its creator, General Manuel Belgrano chose sky blue and white in 1812. Some say he was inspired by the sky, others maintain they represent the colours of Virgin Mary’s cloak or even that they are the colours used by the Bourbon royal family. What is certain, though, is that Belgrano wanted his patriot soldiers to wear a different colour from that of the Spanish army- red.
After emancipation in 1810, the criollo party wanted to sever ties from Spain for good and embarked on a war of independence that lasted until 1816. General Belgrano, in charge of securing the city of Rosario for the patriots, distributed sky blue and white rosettes among his soldiers. He founded a fort on February 27, 1812 near Rosario and at the opening ceremony he made his troops swear allegiance to the brand new flag, which was sewn by a local lady called Maria Catalina Echeverria and which had the colours of the rosettes –a sky blue band, a white band and another sky blue band.
Cut to the 1830s and 40s. At the time, there were two major political parties, Unitarios (unitarians) and Federales (Federales), who were sworn enemies. The Federales wore bright red ribbons and the Unitarios sky blue and white ones. So the president, Juan Manuel de Rosas -from the Federal party-, decided to darken the blue stripes of the flag to differentiate it from his oponents’ colours. This gave rise to confusion after he was deposed: was the official colour dark blue or sky blue?
The matter was resolved only in 1944, when President Farrell established that the nation’s flag was sky blue, white and sky blue with a sun with 32 rays in the middle of the white band. This was the war flag, used in official occasions only. In 1985 it was decided that the flag with the sun would be the only national flag.
June 20 is Flag Day, a public holiday in Argentina. It was chosen to commemorate its creator, General Manuel Belgrano, on the day of this death. At schools around the country, fourth graders take the pledge of allegiance to the flag in an emotional ceremony. Unfortunately, I don’t have many recollections of the ceremony itself but I do remember feeling it was an important day and that I was on my way to becoming a proud citizen.
(Source: El Historiador – Felipe Pigna)