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Costa Rica

República de Costa Rica, Republic of Costa Rica

Last modified: 2023-09-09 by rob raeside
Keywords: costa rica | united states of central america | america | central america |
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[Flag of Costa Rica] (3:5) image by Željko Heimer, 1 June 2001

Official Name: Republic of Costa Rica (República de Costa Rica)
Capital: San Jose
Flag adopted: 21 October 1964 (Originally adopted 27 November 1906)
Coat of Arms adopted: 21 October 1964

See also:

Flags of bordering countries:

The Flag

The current pattern was adopted on November 27, 1906 , horizontally blue, white, red, white and blue, with proportions approx. 1:1:2:1:1 and 2:3 proportions, with shield within a white oval near the hoist in the red stripe. The proportions were changed from 1:2 to 2:3. Only a minor modification was made on October 21, 1964, when the six stars of the shield were converted to seven stars.
Željko Heimer
and Jaume Olle , 26 August 1996

From <>:
"National Flag
- Costa Rica's flag was designed and constituted in the year 1848, under the presidency of Jose Maria Castro Madriz. Since that year, the flag has always been three-colored: blue, white and red, distributed among five horizontal stripes."
Dov Gutterman, 17 November 1998

From <>:
"Design - The Fist Lady, Paci'fica Ferna'ndez Oreamuno, designed the flag of Costa Rica in 1848. The flag was designed after the ideals of the French Revolution - freedom, equality, and brotherhood - and the colors of the French National Flag.
Dimensions - The flag of Costa Rica consists of five horizontal stripes: A red stripe located in the center, between two white stripes, which are between two blue stripes. The width of each stripe is 1/6 of the total width of the flag, except the red stripe, which is 2/6 of the total width.
Meaning - Each color represents important aspects of Costa Rica: Blue means the sky, opportunities at reach, intellectual thinking, perseverance to accomplish a goal, infinite, eternity, and ideals of the religious and spiritual desires. White means clear thinking, happiness, wisdom, power and beauty of the sky, the driving force of initiatives to search for new endeavors, and the peace of Costa Rica. Red means the warmth of Costa Rican people, their love to live, their blood shed for freedom, and their generous attitude.
Usage - Flag in Castilian Spanish has two meanings: "Bandera" and "Pabello'n Nacional." The first one refers to a national flag. The second one refers to a national flag with the national shield printed on the center of the red stripe. Most High Schools and Primary schools, public offices, government offices, foreign missions and merchant ships must have the "Pabello'n Nacional." For parties or civil activities people use the "Bandera.""
Gvido Pētersons, 3 January 2001

The Costa Rica flag with arms is not only forbidden to be used by private citizens, even is the flag without Coat of Arms! A law prescribes that private citizens may only show that flag (without Coat of Arms) on national holidays. This fact is even not mentioned on the official CR site. In Smith 1980 you find no dot for civil flag at Costa Rica.
Ralf Stelter, 16 January 2001

Smith gives 3:5 for the state flag and 2:3 for the civil one. Pedersen gives both flags with 2:3. Dorling-Kindersley Pocket Book gives only the state flag with 3:5. 'Pavillons nationaux et marques distinctives' gives both flags with 3:5.
Ivan Sache, 22 January 2001

"Smith gives 3:5 for the state flag and APPROX 2:3 for the civil ENSIGN". Means: the proportions of the state flag are specified, while the civil ensign's have not been specified. And you can really believe: Smith is the better source.
Album des pavillons... old edition gives same proportions as Smith (but has wrong circle in state flag).
Ralf Stelter, 23 January 2001

It should be noted that there is no civil flag of Costa Rica. There is indeed a civil ensign, that is unofficially used on land too, but that is, as far as I know illegal (or, at least, against the law).
Shipmate Flagchart agrees with 3:5 for both flags. So, I guess that we can fairly sure say that the state flag is in ration 3:5, and that most probably the civil ensigns is such too.
The unofficial civil flag may well be used in 2:3 - it's unofficial anyway. Such flags probably originate from (foreign?) flagmakers or they are home made (that should be fairly simple).
Željko Heimer, 24 January 2001

I visited Costa Rica in November 2000. The national flag, without the emblem, was seen at many buildings, especially at schools, police stations and other official buildings in all parts of the country I visited. However, it was also seen at many businesses and offices, many of them presumably privately owned. Do the words in the law *explicitly forbid citizens to use the national flag on other days than national holidays?
The most striking flag observation made in Costa Rica was the peculiar form of flag poles. Most flag poles were in the shape of inverted fishing hooks.
Jan Oskar Engene, 24 January 2001

The law is of 1964 and if not read carefully one could think the only flag was the one without arms.
Art 1: The flag is red in the center, with white on either side and blue on the outsides above and below. The blue and white are half the size of the red.
Art 2: The flag is used by military unites, war ships, state ships, merchant ships and by the port authorities.
Art 4 tells that the flag for official use bears the arms and the article gives the sizes (2 m long 1,2 m high).
Art. 5 - 8 give sizes for military flags and ensigns.
Art. 9 says that merchant ships wear the flag without any arms and without any inscriptions.
During the text the words bandera and pabellon are mixed without root.
Further amendments tell about the fees to pay when flags are used by privates for decoration.
I don't know if something had changed since 1964 .
Ralf Stelter, 24 January 2001

The flag of Costa Rica was adopted in 1848, and since then it was not changed. This is also the reason why all sources claim the proportions of approx. 2:3, as these were never fixed (while the proportions of the state flag and war ensign have been fixed in 1964 at 3:5). The legend to the flag should read "adopted 1848, confirmed unchanged in 1964". The Coat of Arms was not put on an oval in 1906, but only in 1934. Before that it was a circle.  In 1964 the number of stars was raised from 5 (not 6) to 7.
The official website explains: "Flag has in Castilian Spanish two meanings: bandera and pabellon. The first one refers to a national flag. The second one refers to a National flag with the national shield....". That is not completely correct. The meanings are historically different, but in effect the correct explanation conforms with the actual usage in many Spanish speaking countries. Bandera is to be translated with English: flag, German: Fahne, French: Drapeaux. That was a flag used on land, pabellon is to be translated ensign, Flagge, pavillon. This is a flag used at sea and later a flag used by fortresses etc.
From this aspects one can understand, that in 1848, when the new flag(s) of CR were created, they used a differentiation between bandera and pabellon. Since then nothing has changed except for some variations and specifications in the "pabellon". CR flag laws and decrees seem to jump from one term (bandera) to the other (pabellon) without special reason.
The official flag site of CR ignores the fact, that the shield is neither on the red cloth nor off-centered to the mast. Possibly as this is regulated not in the flag law but in amendments.
Ralf Stelter, 1 Febuary 2001

There is a state flag with Coat of Arms which is only for government uses, and a civil ensign which is used on privately owned ships. The latter is without Coat of Arms, and this flag is used as a civil flag by inhabitants of Costa Rica. Costa Rican flag law does not allow citizens to use any flag, but this law is not strictly followed, it seems. I do not know if anything was changed in the law which dates from 1964, but I do not think so. The flag with Coat of Arms is strictly for government uses only. This is the reason why IN Costa Rica the more often used flag is without Coat of Arms. This is comparable to other states where are flags with and without Coat of Arms. Also in Germany the flag with Coat of Arms is not allowed to be used by private citizens (the fines may be quite high here in Germany, possibly also in Costa Rica and elsewhere). At the UN the flags flying are usually the state flags, as far as I know.
Ralf Stelter, 26 March 2001

From Album 2000 [pay00] - Civil Ensign and unofficial Civil Flag (C--/C-- 3:5) - Blue-white-red-white-blue 1:1:2:1:1 flag. The colours specification in Album 2000 provide approximation for the blue to be quite near what could be called Navy Blue (Pantone 280c), so I used such a shade.
Željko Heimer, 1 June 2001

In the description of the Costa Rican flag you say that citizens are not allowed to use the flag. This is not accurate. Costa Ricans display the flag in numerous occasions. Specially during National Costa Rica Football Team games. The whole country becomes red blue and white. People on the street paint their faces and wear red t-shirts and even wrap the flag around their head. Quite a sight.
David E. Castillo, 9 November 2005

National Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Costa Rica: PMS 281 blue, 032 red, 109 yellow, 355 green, 277 blue, 139 brown and black. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012

Storm Warning Signals

According WMO page: "At present there is no national or international system of visual storm warning signal in general use in Costa Rica."
Jan Mertens, 5 November 2007

Mourning Flag

image by Ivan Sache, 06 November 2011

"Al Día", 23 August 2008, reports the funeral of a couple murdered in Moravia. The photo report shows friends of the dead presenting a mourning flag, white with a black horizontal stripe at the top and at the bottom. The flag seems to be a "black and white" version of the national flag. How  commonly it is used in Costa Rica in such circumstances is unknown to me. My limited visual acuity prevented me to decide myself whether some writing was actually present on the flag.
Ivan Sache, 06 November 2011

That flag looks like it has some kind of writing on it, a dedication to the deceased perhaps.
Colin Dobson, 07 November 2011