Spanish Language Blog

Amarillo, azul y rojo: The Meaning Behind Three South American Flags Posted by on Apr 22, 2019 in Spanish Culture, Uncategorized

Have you ever wondered why the banderas (flags) of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela are so alike? In this blog I’ll dust off the history books to tell you why.

Back in the 18th century, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela (as well as certain parts of today’s Peru, Guyana, and Brazil) were unificados into one huge nation during the reformas borbónicas, aimed at benefiting the Spanish Crown’s economy and making the South American colonies easier to govern. The new territory was then known as the Viceroyalty of New Granada.

New Granada was supposed to have a positive impact on Spain and its colonies, but it ended up causing frustration among criollos. And, to make long history short (and not to annoy you with details), after much warfare and bloodshed, the New World countries became Estados independientes.

After the independence of the South American countries under Spanish rule, one of the main leaders of the movimientos emancipadores, Simon Bolívar, reunified the territory comprising present day Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and part of southern Central America under the name “Colombia” whose capital was the city of Bogotá.

The departments of Gran Colombia in 1820. Image taken from “Atlas geográfico e histórico de la República de Colombia” by Agostino Codazzi.

Today, that territory is known as “La Gran Colombia” to distinguish it from the Republic of Colombia. La Gran Colombia was the most prestigious nation in South America, widely admired by other countries. Its flag had the three primary colors that you can see in the current Colombian, Ecuadorian, and Venezuelan flags.

Nevertheless, due to political differences between those who opposed Bolívar’s centralist ambitions and supporters of centralismo, la Gran Colombia was dissolved after a few years.

Flag of Gran Colombia. Image created by Shadowxfox available on Wikipedia.

Now you know that these countries’ flags are the result of their history, that is, a common heritage of years past. But, what about the meaning of those colors? In a nutshell, amarillo (yellow) stands for the countries’ countless recursos naturales; azul (blue) for the sea that separates them from Spain; and rojo (red) for the blood of their many guerreros de la libertad who later became revered national heroes.

A final question remains: Is there a sure-fire way to recognize each of those flags? The answer is yes, and this is how:

Colombian, Ecuadorian, and Venezuelan flags. Images taken from Pixabay.

The three bands of Venezuela’s flag have the same width and eight stars in the middle of the blue band forming an arch. The yellow band of the Colombian and Ecuadorian flags is wider than the other bands. Ecuador’s features their national coat of arms at the center and the blue band is of a lighter shade of that color, while the Colombian flag hasn’t anything else on it.

What is the history behind your national flag? Could it be mistaken with another similar flag? Share it with us on the comments below.


Words to learn

Amarillo: yellow

Azul: blue

Bandera: flag

Centralismo: centralism

Criollos: South American-born descendants of Spanish settlers

Estados independientes: independent states

Guerreros de la libertad: freedom fighters

Movimientos emancipadores: emancipation movements

Recursos naturales: natural resources

Reformas Borbónicas: Bourbon Reforms

Rojo: red

Unificados: unified

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About the Author: Anais

Hello, Spanish learners! My name's Anais. I'm a Venezuelan freelance translator living in Argentina. I'm a culture and language freak and such a big foodie! I'm thrilled to share my language and culture with all of you and, why not?, some recipes of our traditional delights, too. Stay tuned, guys! :-)


  1. Ihsan:

    Mi país es Bangladesh.
    Y la bandera es de dos colores.
    Verde y rojo..
    Verde para significar la país con muchas arboles y rojo para blood de guerreros de libertad!