The lovely flag of Uruguay carries important symbolism. One of the longest-surviving flags in the world today, it traces its roots back to the official establishment of the independent self-governing nation of Uruguay in 1830.
Uruguay lies immediately south of Brazil. The eastern part of this nation of almost 3.5 million people borders the Atlantic Ocean. The capital, Montevideo, sits along the wide estuary formed where the Rio de la Plata empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Argentina adjoins Uruguay to the West and also borders Uruguay across the Rio de la Plata. Its geographic has contributed significantly to Uruguay’s national flag.
Uruguay reflects the fusion of indigenous South American populations with many immigrants. The Portuguese established a colonial government in Uruguay in 1680 along the Rio de la Plata. However, in 1726, the Spanish Crown created a colony in Montevideo and drove out Portuguese colonial administrators. Spain eventually included Uruguay, along with neighboring Argentina, as part of its Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata colony.
Following the American Revolution, many colonists in South America also sought independence. In 1811, Simon Bolivar helped liberate Uruguay and Argentina from Spain. The new government established a flag carrying the symbol of the Sun of May, a golden sun likely derived from Spanish heraldic emblems. The symbol commemorated the recent May Revolution. It rested against a white and light blue background.
However, within ten years, the government of Portugal claimed Uruguay, separating it from Argentina and annexing it to its province of Brazil in 1821. In 1825, Uruguay revolted from Brazil. Uruguay gained recognition from Portugal as a fully independent nation in 1828. Joaquin Suarez, the first head of Uruguay’s government, helped design a new flag based on the previous flag Uruguay had once shared with Argentina. It carried light blue and white stripes similar to the red and white stripes of the US flag. The golden Sun of May sat in the upper left hand corner symbolizing Uruguay’s independent government.
A modified version of this flag became Uruguay’s official national flag on July 11, 1830. It carried four light blue stripes on a white field. The alternating white and light blue represented nine departments of government at the time of the ratification of the First Constitution in 1830. The golden Sun of May contains 16 alternating straight and curving rays, symbolizing independence and self-government.