What do the Colors of the Brazilian Flag Represent?
When I was talking to some American students I was told people sometimes go together to bars for a trivia night.
I didn’t know what a trivia night was. But upon learning, it seemed so natural. Unfortunately, we don’t have that in Brazil. And right now because of the pandemic we can’t really get together. So I’m going to emulate the trivia night here with this blog post about our national flag.
What do the colors of the Brazilian flag really represent?
There are two versions for that.
First, there is what kids learn in school.
Mrs. Regina told her class that:
Green represented our nature. It was the riches of the country.
Blue represented the water. And our country had the most of all drinkable water of the entire world!
Yellow represented the gold, another source of riches in the Minas Gerais…
(But this was questionable. By the time I was a kid everyone knew that Minas didn’t have any more gold. Illegal gold miners have always been extracting gold from everywhere in the country and at the time I was a kid they were in the Amazon. And it seems they haven’t left since.)
And white was something nobody knew but some said it was peace.
Each one of the stars represented the states, even though many Brazilians are not sure whether it’s twenty-six or twenty-seven stars.
And there is what adults learn when they look it up in any encyclopedia.
Portugal was a hot mess. It was an empire that wanted to colonize everywhere — and for some time it looked like Portugal would attain its goal of becoming the world.
And in order for that to happen, Portugal had to close deals — agreements — with other kingdoms to grow its influence and military power.
The colors of the Brazilian flag as we know today represent the places and allegiances that the Empire of Portugal had struck.
Green represents the house of Bragança. It was Don Pedro’s family.
The royal family of Brazil still exists and they are a source of unending fun and cringe at them. Here’s a video about them (in Portuguese).
Yellow represents the Habsburgs family. This is the family Don Pedro’s wife, Mrs. Leopoldina, comes from.
Not so Fun Fact People Seem to Forget
In elementary school, students learn from textbooks that the Portuguese rulers were people to look up to, but admirable rulers have hardly ever been the case. Dom Pedro I was an abuser [PT]. He beat up Leopoldina and was terribly aggressive toward her. He had many lovers and made no secret of it. When Leopoldina died, Dom Pedro left his lover and, three years later, remarried princess Amélia.
And the colors blue and white on the flag represent the County of which Portugal emerged ultimately, Portucale (it’s a long story for another day). [EN]
But the colors are not the only significant detail of the flag.
The shapes also mean something.
What do the shapes mean?
The rectangle represents the extensive forests of the country. The lozenge is the mother or the protection of the family by the mother. The circle, or sphere, is a traditional symbol of the union of Brazil and Portugal brought about by the world. A longer explanation can be found here (in Portuguese).
And how about the stars?
The position on where they are represents the skies of Rio de Janeiro on the exact time when the proclamation of the Republic happened — November 15, 1889, at 8:30 in the morning.
The number of stars has changed because the number of states also changed from the time Brazil became a republic (nowadays, 27, counting Distrito Federal).
The flag has an anthem, too.
Olavo Bilac (a great poet; here’s a sonnet by him, in Portuguese with English translation) composed of the lyrics and Francisco Braga composed the tune of the Hino à Bandeira.
(When I was a kid, every Friday we had to sing the National Anthem, the Flag Anthem, and the City Anthem.
— Do you remember any of them?
I do, but don’t quote me on that.)
And a last point – the saying on the Flag is “ordem e progresso”, a positivist slogan that has never come to fruition in here. Believe me.
And that’s it for today, folks.
This has been our trivia night.
Is there another piece of trivia that you would like to know about? Leave it in the comments below.
And if you would like to deepen your knowledge of colors in Brazilian Portuguese, you can check out this article. It’s an introductory guide to using the colors in Portuguese and some more.