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Cuba - Cespedes Flag (1868)


Last modified: 2021-08-25 by rob raeside
Keywords: cuba | cespedes |
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image by Jaume Ollé

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Céspedes Flag - Overview

The flag was used by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, known as the Father of Cuba, in his famous uprising known as the "Grito de Yara" of October 10, 1868. This uprising initiated the 10 Year War during which this flag was the flag of Cuban "Independentistas" or pro independence fighters. The 10 Year War ended in 1878 with a truce that allowed Spainish rule over Cuba to continue.
When Cuba became independent from Spain on May 20, 1902, this flag was officially designated the flag of the city of his birth: Bayamo, Oriente, and the flag which Venezuelan-born, Cuban patriot, Narciso López flew in the city of Cárdenas on May 19, 1850, was officially designated the Cuban national flag. In honor of Cespedes and the bravery of the residents of Bayamo, who during the 10 Year War burned the prosperous city to the ground and moved to the forrest rather than surrender it to the Spaniards, Bayamo was proclaimed a "National Monument" and from then on would have its name proceeded by the initials M.N. for "Monumento Nacional." Since Cuba gained independence from Spain, the flag of Bayamo is displayed alongside the Cuban national flag at official ceremonies and events.
Dr. Eladio José Armesto, 1 April 2002

Apparently, the cuban parliament just changed the country's constitution in order to make the socialist regime untouchable by the legislators. This was an information given today on our TV, and the brief report showed images of the cuban parliament in La Havana. There where two flags in display, both vertical, and both attached to the wall behind the honour tribune, where major officials seat. These flags where on both sides of the Cuban Coat of Arms, which was in the center of the wall. To the right of the Coat of Arms (viewer's left) there was the cuban flag, in a vertical variation and to the other side, there was another flag, practically identical to an eventual vertical variation of the chilean flag, only with the colours reversed to match the colours of the national flag. Both flags seemed to be 2:1, and in both flags I don't know if the star is rotated of not: the footage was too short for that.
Any ideas? A flag of the parliament, perhaps?
Jorge Candeias, 27 June 2002

I believe that is the Céspedes flag and if I am not mistaken also serves today as the flag of Céspedes' home town. It appeared in the background in a movie whose title escapes me (starring Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie), set in 19th-century Cuba. I might add (I thought of this after posting) that in both the movie and in your image of the Vertical Flag, the red canton is displayed in the upper right, contrary to the usual practice.
Al Kirsch, 27 June 2002

Correction: contrary to the usual "American" practice. Many countries simply rotate their flags when displaying them vertically, and this is one such case.
Jorge Candeias, 27 June 2002

According to my file (taken from an old Cuban book on Symbols of the fatherland), this is the flag of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes dated 1868.
Norman M. Martin, 28 June 2002

According to "National Geographic (may 1949)" and to "Flaggenbuch 1939" this flag is the Cuban Jack.
Luismi Arias, 28 June 2002

Indeed it is the Cuban Jack according to the naval flags page, and the Céspedes flag, in the historical pages, not even a as well. So we have a flag that is historical, and also used as naval jack, a situation not uncommon in Latin America. But what o is it doing hanging on the parliament wall?! Aren't jacks supposed to be flown exclusively at sea?
The only thought I can come up with is that the display is supposed to show all the national symbols of the country...
Jorge Candeias, 28 June 2002

Since the event was quite political, using the cespedes flag was probably meant as a message of continuity and resolves in the same way as for the americans displaying the current national flag with either the "betsy ross" or the "don't tread on me" flags.
Marc Pasquin, 28 June 2002

It is a variation of the Ce'spedes flag, yes. But a question remains: what is it doing insude the parliament building side by side with the cuban national flag and Coat of Arms?
Jorge Candeias, 28 June 2002

I don't think it is a "variation".  I think it is intended to be THE Céspedes flag (and not the jack).  The original flag preserved in a Havana museum is square, but since its construction was quite haphazard, I think the dimensions and ratio are irrelevant. Cuban political culture probably explains its presence in the parliament building.  Unlike other socialist states, Castro has steadfastly refused any personality cult or iconography around living Cubans.  Only dead heros are celebrated:  Guevara and Cienfuegos of the 1959 revolution, and those of earlier revolutions.  The incompleteness of these revolutions probably explains why they are celebvrated as a total continuum.  The 1868 revolution failed, but is remembered as the all-important "first war of independence".  The second war of independence (1898) was hijacked by the United States.  To a lesser extent the present government admits that the 1959 revolution left them as a less-than-independent client of the Soviet Union.  The fall of the Soviet Union introduced the "epoca especial" in Cuba, which the current regime considers the dawn of true independence.  Therefore Cuba celebrates the three wars of 1868, 1898 and 1959 as a totality of equal importance, and the dead heroes of these wars and their related mythology and iconography is evident throughout Cuba.  (For example, Jose Marti dominates the revolutionary plaza in Havana and every school yard in Cuba.)  Since the Céspedes flag was the first independentist flag, it still has a major place of honour. It is worth noting in this context that when the 1959 revolution became the new government it did not substitute the red/black flag of the 26 July Movement for the existing Cuban flag since the latter was already considered a revolutionary flag.
"Los Simbolos de la nacion cubana" by Enrique Gay-Calbo (1958, reprinted 1999) has a chapter largely devoted the Céspedes flag.
Tom F. Mills, 28 June 2002

As an illustration of the points Tom and Marc made, there is an excerpt from a statement made by five Cuban prisoners held in the U.S.: "To the people of Cuba: For us five, prisoners of the empire, it is an honor to have been proclaimed heroes of the Republic of Cuba by a people that it by its own heroic, in a National Assembly (Parliament) that represents the traditions of struggle of our people as it is represented in our national shield, the Céspedes flag and the lone star flag that preside over their meeting..." [taken from <>].
It seems clear from the remark in the above message that Tom and Marc's interpretations are on target (even if the translation appears to be garbled in a few non-relevant spots).
An image of Castro addressing Parliament in front of the two flags and the shield, can be seen at <>.
Ned Smith, 28 June 2002

Although the photo that Ned located is small, it isn't as small as it appears on the page and I could get some more graphical info. My first image of the Vertical Flag made after TV images is accurate, but not entirely: the red canton isn't square, as I first thought, but rectangular (roughly 2:3 in dimensions). The star, however, is as I drew it: non-rotated. The photo, which is the flag on the wall rotated and enlarged for better viewing: you can see distinctly two small bulbs in the bottom of
the white star, corresponding to the two lower points.
Jorge Candeias, 28 June 2002

According to <>, the Flag of Yara is displayed alongside the National Flag in the National Assembly, and has been so for more than a century; note that the dimensions of this flag is the same as the National Flag (proportions 1:2, canton square), which is different from the Naval Jack, which is again different from the original flag, with its star in an unusual angle.
Miles Li, 21 October 2006

The flag that Carlos Manuel de Cespedes peaked at Demajagua on October 10, 1868 when he proclaimed the independence from Spain was consisting of two horizontal stripes of equal width, blue bottom and the upper turn divided vertically two equal parts red and white, the star is placed with one point up, in the red, very similar to the Chilean one. In April 1869 the Constituent Assembly of the Republic of Cuba approved this flag .
Today the Sessions of the National Assembly of Popular Power in Cuba is always chaired by two flags: the Lone Star and the flag of La Demajagua or Diez de Octubre as seen in
andregoth, 8 August 2010

Nor forgetting, of course, that this flag is also the Naval Jack (adoption date - as the jack - unknown by myself), and that of Bayamo Oriente (Manuel's birthplace) since independence.
The 1939 Flaggenbuch [neu39] gives construction details, but the current Edition of the Album des Pavillons shows a rather larger star?
Chris Southworth, 8 August 2010

The flag used by (José Manuel) Céspedes at the La Demajagua uprsing (La Demajagua being the estate in which during the Guerra de Los Diez Anos (Ten Years' War) or Guerra del 68 (War of' 68) began, on October 10, 1868 when sugar mill owner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and his followers proclaimed Cuba's independence from Spain. In the early morning of October 10, Céspedes issued the cry of independence (Grito de Yara), the "10th of October Manifesto" at La Demajagua, which signaled the start of an all-out military uprising against Spanish rule in Cuba. It was the first of three liberation wars  that Cuba fought against Spain, the other two being the Little War (18791880) and the Cuban War of Independence (18951898). The final three months of the last conflict escalated to become the  Spanish-American War.") was discarded as national flag and substituted by the Estrella Solitaria (Lonely Star) when independentist troops established the Primera Constitución de la República de Cuba en Armas (First Constitution of the Republic of Cuba at Arms) in 1869. The Cámara de Representantes (House of Representatives), turned into a Asamblea Constituyente (Constitution Assembly), determined that the flag flown by Céspedes would be considered a national treasure and would preside over the Cuban Congress sessions besides the flag of (Venezuelan General) Narciso López. Since then, and as a display of continuity both flags preside the sessions of the Cuban Parliament (as seen here)
The use (given to the Céspedes flag) as Naval Flag may be attributed to the fact that during the Ten Years' War a group of Cuban patriots boarded and stole a Spanish naval vessel to turn it into a blockade runner (corsair) ship, called the "Carlos Manuel de Céspedes" and used as a flag the one of (the) October 10 (uprising). Although the naval operation was a failure the "Céspedes" (vessel) is considered the first vessel of the Marina de Guerra Cubana (Cuban War Navy).
original contribution by Jorge López Rodríguez, 31 October 2014, translated from Spanish and amnended by Esteban Rivera, 05 November 2014

Flags at Museum

From: <>: Museum of the City of Havana - The "Hall of Flags" contains the original Cuban flag and the one flown by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes when he began the first war for independence in 1868, as well as a number of flags used by the Spanish colonial government in Cuba.
Dov Gutterman, 18 June 2000

images taken by Olivier Touzeau, 13 March 2011

I saw at the entrance of the Museum of the City of Havana. I go on with my short series of flags seen in Cuba with what can be found inside this Museum.
As reported, "the "Hall of Flags" contains the original Cuban flag and the one flown by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes when he began the first war for independence in 1868, as well as a number of flags used by the Spanish colonial government in Cuba." There are too many examples of early 'Lone Star'-banners. 
I only could spend only a short time there but I could take some (bad) photographs.
Olivier Touzeau, 13 March 2011

Variant (?)

image by Guillermo Aveledo, 6 October 2000

Flag of the Demajagua, named after the name of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes' ranch, hoisted on October 10th, 1868. This image is based on <> and the book "Banderas Oficiales y Revolucionarias de Cuba", written by Emilio Roig de Leuschering, and published in Havana, by the Municipio de la Habana publishing house, in 1950.
Guillermo Aveledo, 6 October 2000

Vertical Flag

image by Jorge Candeias, 28 June 2002