New York City, Birthplace of the Puerto Rican Flag

By Efrain Nieves

Today, as Puerto Rican flags are waved along Fifth Avenue in New York City,  one thing must be noted: it was in this very city that the first Puerto Rican flag, not to be confused with the Lares flag, was first conceived and sewn. The year was 1892, according to some historical archives, when the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee first adopted it.

Flag_of_Puerto_Rico.svg

Official Flag of Puerto Rico

According to some accounts on June 12, 1892, Antonio Vélez Alvarado was at his apartment at 219 Twenty-Third Street in Manhattan when he stared at a Cuban flag for a few minutes, and then took a look at the blank wall in which it was being displayed. Vélez suddenly perceived an optical illusion, in which he perceived the image of the Cuban flag with the colors in the flag’s triangle and stripes inverted. Almost immediately he visited a nearby merchant, Domingo Peraza, from whom he bought some crepe paper to build a crude prototype. He later displayed his prototype in a dinner meeting at his neighbor’s house, where the owner, Micaela Dalmau vda. de Carreras, had invited José Martí as a guest.

Martí was pleasantly impressed by the prototype, and made note of it in a newspaper article published in the Cuban revolutionary newspaper Patria, published on July 2 of that year. Acceptance of the prototype was slow in coming, but grew with time.

Francisco Gonzalo Marín, who decided to have a proper flag sewn based on the prototype, presented the new flag’s design in New York’s “Chimney Corner Hall” a gathering place of independence advocates two years later.

The Puerto Rican Flag (with the light blue triangle) soon came to symbolize the ideals of the Puerto Rican independence movement. (Antonio Vélez Alvarado, amigo y colaborador consecuente de Martí y BetancesDávila, Ovidio; pp. 11-13).

Revolutionary Flag of Lares

Revolutionary Flag of Lares

However many conflicting accounts there may be about who the first proponent of the design of the Puerto Rican flag was, the one constant is that New York City was its birthplace and that it was officially proclaimed the flag of the Commonwealth in 1952.

As such, it’s befitting that we celebrate the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City to national acclaim. It’s the right place to do so.

Pa’lante!

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Tato Torres for the information. Pa’lante Hermano!

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Pa’lante Latino showcases current events in the arts, entertainment, politics, and culture as it affects our community. Above all, we are ferocious advocates of the contributions that Hispanics/Latinos have made to the United States and feature articles based on historical facts to reaffirm our relevance.Please feel free to email us at info@palantelatino.com.
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4 Responses to “New York City, Birthplace of the Puerto Rican Flag”

  1. As you correctly state, Efraín, that first flag (whenever it was designed) used the light blue triangle, the same color of the then Cuban flag’s stripes. Being the historically-correct hue of blue, and in keeping with Puerto Rican law and regulations that only specifies a generic non-specific “blue”, that is the color of the triangle I used in the flag that hung at my back on the presidential dais when I served as the 13th President of the Senate.

    Decades after the Puerto Rican flag was designed, Cuba switched to the “Navy blue” hue to create a contrast between the stripes of their flag and the blue of the sea and the sky when used on a vessel (hence the “Navy” blue). That change, however, did not apply officially to the Puerto Rican flag, whose use was prohibited by even the PDP-controlled Puerto Rican government until officialized in 1952.

  2. It has also been said that the flag was designed to resemble a Masonic apron. Betances was a Mason and it was those Masonic beliefs that were partially responsible for his views against oppression and freedom.

    • If there was the intention to resemble a Masonic apron (there is a resemblance), it was in designing the Cuban flag, which was the basis for Puerto Rico’s flag. Many early Cuban patriots were also Masons.

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