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Brazil: Evolution of the Modern National Flag


Last modified: 2014-08-14 by ian macdonald
Keywords: lozenge (yellow) | stars (white) | sphere (blue) | states |
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Flag of 19 November 1889


[Second Flag of the Republic of Brazil]  image by Joseph McMillan

Flag with 21 stars adopted by Decree Number 4 of 19 November 1889:

The Provisional Government of the Republic of the United States of Brazil, Considering that the colors of our ancient flag recall the battles and glorious victories of the army and navy in defense of the Fatherland; Considering also that these colors, independently of the form of government, symbolize the perpetuity and integrity of the Fatherland among the other nations; Decree Article 1 - The flag adopted by the Republic maintains the tradition of the ancient national colors - green and yellow - in the following mode: a yellow lozenge on a green field, having in the middle a sky blue [celeste azul] sphere, crossed by a white belt oriented obliquely, descending from right to left, with the motto Ordem e Progresso, and charged with 21 stars, among them those of the constellation of the Southern Cross, disposed in their astronomical situation, both as to distance and as to relative magnitude, representing the 20 states of the Republic and the Neutral Municipality, all according to the model drawing at annex 1.

(From the booklet "Os Símbolos Nacionais", published by the Presidência da República, Brasília, 1986, on the 165th year since independence and 98th since establishment of the republic)
Pier Paolo Lugli, 19 January 1998, decree retranslated by Joseph McMillan, 12 April 2001

1960-1968 Flag

[Flag of Brazil of 1960]  image by Joseph McMillan

Flag with 22 stars adopted in June 1960, according to the UK Admiralty Flags of All Nations, 1960 correction attached to the 1955 edition.

I have a color photocopy of a 22-star flag from the UK Admiralty flag book in 1969 which was made in the local library. The 22nd star is placed below the letters, between M and E in the scroll. I think this star must be Alpha Hydrae.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 4 April 1998

This is now the star for Mato Grosso do Sul, so it was then intended for Guanabara! Very interesting.
Herman De Wael

1968-1992 Flag

[Flag of Brazil of 1968]  image by Joseph McMillan

Flag with 23 stars.

Adopted by Law nr 5443 of 28 May 1968:

Art. 3. 1 - The constellations depicted on the National Flag correspond to the sight of the sky at the city of Rio de Janeiro, at 8 hours and 30 minutes on 15 November 1889 (12 sidereal hours) and must be considered as seen by an observer placed outside the celestial sphere.

The 23rd star is placed between the letters O and G in the scroll.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 4 April 1998

Evolution of the Stars

Unlike the stars on the American flag, each particular star on the Brazilian flag represents one particular state. The following are the stars added since adoption of the basic design of the Brazilian flag in 1889, with the dates of creation of the states and territories:

date state nr  of
nr of
of flag
1889 20 original states + federal district (within Rio de Janeiro) 20 21 Flag of 19 November 1889
1903 regaining of Acre territory 20 21 no change
1943 creation of 3 new territories : Amapá, Rio Branco, Guaporé 20 21 no change
1960 moving of federal district from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia
creation of new State - Guanabara - out of former capital territory
21 22 Flag of June 1960
1962 statehood of Acre 22 23 Flag of 28 May 1968
1975 merging of states of Guanabara and Rio de Janeiro (as RdJ) 21 22 never
1979 creation of Mato Grosso do Sul out of Mato Grosso 22 23 no change
1982 statehood of Rondônia 23 24 never
1989 creation of Tocantins out of Goiás 24 25 never
1991 statehood for Amapa and Roraima 26 27 Flag of 11 May 1992

Herman De Wael, 20 January 1998

It turns out that the Brazilians were not very vigilant in changing their flag to account for the creation of new states. Between 1975 and 1979, there was even one star too many! Upon the creation of Mato Grosso do Sul, this surplus star must have been reassigned. This may seem strange, but the article in the Brazilian Law that states that, upon the disappearance of a state, its star should also be removed, was apparently only added in 1992. Nevertheless, the place and size of the 23rd star (under the EM of ORDEM) seems strangely appropriate for Mato Grosso do Sul (a large state in the interior) and absolutely inappropriate for Guanabara (a very small state on the coast). However, no amount of research has been able to track down an alternate design for a 23-star flag. Maybe even two reassignments have occurred and the star now symbolizing Acre (the small one under the O of prOgresso) was the one originally intended for Guanabara.
Herman De Wael, 26 February 1998

This second (first?) reassignment did not take place. New evidence provided by Nozomi Kariyasu reveals that there was indeed a 23-star version in use after 1960, and the 23rd star (for Guanabara) may indeed correspond to the one now intended to represent Mato Grosso do Sul.
Herman De Wael, 30 April 1998