Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Colombian Coat of Arms

On May 9, 1834, Law #3 regulating the national coat of arms was enacted by Colombian President General Francisco de Paula Santander.

Under this law, the coat of arms only appears on the President's national flag, on military flags and on the letterheads of stationery for official communications. The coat of arms may be engraved on monuments, in churches, chapels, military or other cemeteries, barracks, ships, educational institutions and other places provided that such coats of arms satisfy the requirements of decorum.

The Colombian coat of arms symbolically represents many important aspects of Colombia.
Atop, is the Andean Condor -- the national bird (see tomorrow's post). It is said that the Condor holds a crown of olive leaves in its beak symbolizing freedom.

Directly below the Condor is a ribbon with the words "LIBERTAD Y ORDEN" -- Liberty and Order. This is the national motto of Colombia.

Below the ribbon is a shield, draped on either side by the flag of Colombia. The shield itself is divided into 3 sections. The top section has 2 cornucopias flaking a pomegranate. The pomegranate hearkens back to the Vice royalty of the Nueva Granada (Colombia before Independence). The cornucopia on the left is full of gold and silver coins which symbolize the mineral wealth of Colombia. The cornucopia on the right is full of tropical fruits found in Colombia representing the agricultural wealth of the country.

The middle section of the shield displays a Phrygian cap. The cap itself is a brimless, limp, conical cap fitting snugly around the head. It was supposedly worn by the people of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia in antiquity. It became a symbol of liberty and freedom when it was worn by liberated slaves in ancient Rome and Greece. The cap has been used as the symbol of liberty in both the United States and France. In addition, it is also found on the flag, coat of arms or national seal of: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, and Cuba.

The bottom section of the shield depicts two ships on either side of the Isthmus of Panama -- which was part of Colombia until it was "stolen by the United States in 1903" (I put this in quotes as this is the point of view of most Colombians. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you can look forward to future posts on the history of Colombia). This reflects the maritime history of Colombia. Since the Isthmus is no longer a part of Colombia, it now reflects the two oceans that border the country (Atlantic and Pacific).

I want to quote the following information from Wikipedia,
"Some critics have argued that the Coat of Arms is outdated and anachronistic, being the Andean Condor a very threatened species in the country, with barely 100 creatures soaring the landscape. It has also been discussed that the condor is still a vulture and feeds of carrion, making it an animal with a low profile that never hunts its own food. In addition, the Andean condor is also the national bird of Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The pomegranate, being a Mediterranean fruit is not currently cultivated in Colombia and the Phrygian cap is of Greek origin. The Isthmus of Panama, no longer belonging to Colombia, has also been suggested to be changed."

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