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El Salvador

República de El Salvador, Republic of El Salvador

Last modified: 2006-01-21 by dov gutterman
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National Flag and Naval Ensign
image by Željko Heimer, 7 January 2003

Civil Flag and alternative State Flag
image by Željko Heimer, 7 January 2003

Official Name: Republic of El Salvador (República de El Salvador)
Capital: San Salvador
Location: Central America
Government Type: Republic
Flag adopted: 27 September 1972 (first adopted 1822, Reintroduced 1912)
Coat of Arms adopted: 27 December 1972
ISO Code: SV

See also:

Other sites:

Description of the Flags

Similar to other Central American countries El Salvador has a blue-white-blue flag remembering the Central American federation from the middle of the 19th century. Like other countries derived from the federation it uses different variants of the flag for civil, governmental and military purposes. But here it is not so simple. There are at least three versions used:

  • Civil flag
    pure blue over white over blue flag, ratio 3:5
  • Governmental flag
    civil flag with yellow text DIOS UNION LIBERTAD (God, Union, Liberty), ratio 3:5
  • Military flag
    civil flag with the state's coat of arms, ratio 189:335 (sic!)

For simplification purposes I call the first flag civil, second government, and the third military flag. But their uses are interwoven. According to W. Smith [smi75a], the civil flag is used for civil and governmental purposes on land, the governmental flag is used by the government on land and sea, by civilians on sea and by the army on land. The military flag is used by the goverment on land and the military forces on land and sea.
The blue-white-blue flag was for the last time confirmed on 27th of September, 1972.
Željko Heimer, 29 February 1996

There is a long explanation of the flag (including biographies of poets who wrote peoms on the flag) at: <>.
Jarig Bakker, 11 September 1999

It certainly is the Official Website of the Legislative Assembly (Congress). Here is the translation of parts of the page:
Flag - The flag page starts describing the flag and its origins. It quotes its dimensions as 3,35 m x 1,89 m, each stripe being 0,63 m wide, "or any other dimensions as long as the flag keeps the same stripes and colours". It says it was adopted by Decree of the Legislative Power (aka Congress and/or Senate) on May 17th 1912. It is the same flag as that of the Central American Federation, decreed by its National Constituent Assembly 21st August 1823, whose colours were chosen by Manuel José Arce when he was named chief of the Salvadorian (sp?) militia which fought against Mexico 1822, remembering the colours of the Argentinian generals San Martín and Belgrano. Arce told the idea to his wife Felipa Aranzamendi and his sister-in-law Antonia Manuela [Aranzamendi?], and they both made the Flag of El Salvador Province in white and sky blue silk.
The page then describes in detail how the national flag was first raised in 1912. Later it says that merchant ships shall not bear the Coat of Arms but the words "DIOS UNION LIBERTAD" (God Union Freedom) in silver lettering, and military units the Coat of Arms plus those same words on the top stripe and the branch of service and unit number on the bottom stripe (gold lettering for infantry and artillery, silver for cavalry). The Government may authorise private companies, city councils or official entities to place a special motto on the flag, as long as it always bears the previously mentioned one as well. Unauthorised use of the flag will be sanctioned with a 50 colones fine.
It is compulsory to fly the flag on public buildings on national holidays and on the anniversary of friendly nations, together with the relevant nation's flag. It is also compulsory for both civilians and soldiers to salute the flag. On national mourning dates, the flag is flown at half staff with a black crape on the top.
The page mentions poets who have composed poems and songs about the flag of El Salvador: Carlos Bustamante, Armando Rodríguez Portillo, Joaquín Zaldívar, José Leiva, José Luis Barrientos and Carlos A. Imendía.
The page says that the 1912 flag replaced the one approved by Decree of 28th April 1865, the
even though by 1912 the number of stars on the red canton had grown from 9 to 14 (standing for the 14 departments of the Republic). The 1865 flag had 9 stars for the initial nine departments (from the oldest to the most recent): San Salvador, Sonsonate, San Vicente, San Miguel, La Paz, Santa Ana, Chalatenango, La Libertad y Cuscatlán. Five departments were later added (though I do not recall that El Salvador had any territorial gains in that period).
It ends up describing how the 1865 flag was approved and first raised, and how the BWB flag had been previously in use (apart from 1822) by the Republic of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua (created by the Leon Pact 1849) from 1851 to 1865 and by the Greater Central American Republic ("República Mayor de Centro América"), which included the same three countries (created by the Amapala Pact 1895) from 1895 to 1898.
Santiago Dotor, 15 September 1999

According to W. Smith's book in El Salvador there is:
a) simple tricolour 3:5 : civil and state flag
b) tricolour w/arms 189:335 : state flag, war flag and ensign
c) tricolour w/motto 3:5 : civil ensign, state flag and ensign, war flag

So there are 3 designs one can use as state flag (say on government buildings), and 2 designs can be used by army.
Željko Heimer, 9 November 1999

According to the Legislation, the situation is such that we should probably not characterize any of these designs as *the* civil flag, *the* state flag, or *the* war flag.  To fit FIAV categories, and based only on the law, I come up with:
Flag with CoA:  CS?/?S?
Flag with words:  -SW[?]/???
Plain flag:  CS?/???
The question marks because the law says nothing about military installations that would distinguish them from other public buildings and nothing about maritime use that clarifies which design of the three is used in which cases.  I assume Album 2000 is reliable on this front.
Joe McMillan, 21 August 2002

According to Album 2000 [pay00]:
- National Flag and Naval Ensign (-SW/--W 189:335) - Blue-white-blue triband with the national coat of arms in the middle of the white stripe. The coat of arms I used is by Graham Bartram though at this size it is probably not that important. I noted that the modern representation (both Graham and Armand) do not include the five-pointed star at the base of the circular inscription, that is found in older images, like Flaggenbuch and National Geographics 1917.
- Civil Ensign and Alternative State Flag (-CW/CS- 3:5) - Blue-white-blue triband with yellow inscription DIOS UNION LIBERTAD along the white stripe. The yellow (gold) inscription is relatively new practice (in the case of Salvador that means post-WWII). Previously variations with silver inscriptions were used . I did not follow the issue further, was it that at some pioint the gold vs. silver inscription designated the level of the bearer (kind of). Is silver inscription alltogether abandoned today?
I would suspect that this flags would be used only is the inscription is readable properly on both sides, and that if this can't be ensured (e.g. cause of the price), one always have possibility of using some of the other two versions. Then again, the civil and state ensign has no variation and require the inscription...
- Civil Flag and alternative State Flag (CS-/--- 3:5) - Simple undefaced blue-white-blue triband.
The Album 1990 Recapitulative edition of 1995 showes one other flag in adition, with note explaining the three variation of the national flag:
1. National Flag and Naval Ensign. 189:335
2. Detail.
3. Alternative National Flag and Civil Ensign. 7:10 (this is an odd ratio - I am ready to account it as an error/typo).
Željko Heimer, 7 January 2003

Adopted 1822 (not 1821!), minor modifications 1841, abandoned 1865. Reintroduced with minor modifications in 1912, slightly modified in 1916, last legislation or confirmation 1972.
See: El Salvador - Historical Flags (1865-1912).
Ralf Stelter, 22 February 2005


Decree 115, Law on National Symbols (D. O. No 171, Tomo No 236), 14 September 1972:

Art. 2 - [Describes the coat of arms as we have it]

Art. 3 - Article 3.- The coat of arms will be placed in all public offices, official autonomous and semiautonomous institutions, municipal offices, ports, airports, and seats of diplomatic and consular missions.  It may be used on all types of movable property such as vehicles, vessels and items of national property.  It may also be used inside houses and private institutions, except in places scandalous to morals and public order.  It may be used on the exterior of such buildings only on occasions of national festivals or mourning or when expressly authrorized by the Interior Branch of the Executive Power.  [remainder concerns stationery, documents, and coins]

Article 5.- The national flag is composed of two horizontal blue stripes with a white stripe between them, [all] in a cloth rectangle.  The three stripes will have the same dimensions. 

Article 6 - There will be three classes of official national flags:  the great one [la magna], the one for use on public buildings and offices, and the one for parades. 

Article 7 - The great flag [la bandera magna] will be three meters and 35 centimeters in length by one meter and 89 centimeters in width, on which will be paced the coat of arms with all its accoutrements.  Notwithstanding, when local conditions and circumstances merit it, the flag may be used in larger dimensions. 

Article 8 - The great flag will be used on occasions in which the three powers of the state take part in sessions, meetings, or observances, or to celebrate national days. 

Article 9 - The flag for use on buildings and in public offices will be one meter long by 70 centimeters wide, but when the circumstances of the building allows these measurements may be increased.  On the center stripe it will carry the legend DIOS UNION LIBERTAD.

Art. 10 - [Rules for placement and hoisting of flag at public buildings.]

Article 11 - The parade flag should measure one meter 45 centimeters long by 90 centimeters wide and will be mounted on a cylindrical staff two meters 50 centimeters long by four centimeters in diameter.  The staff will terminate in a golden-colored lance in the form of a rhombus, edged on the sides and on the point, and of maximum thickness along the center line that joins the angles.  At the join of the lance with the staff two ribbons of two meters in length will be affixed, one white and the other blue, each six centimeters wide.  On the white ribbon will be inscribed the name of the establishment and on the blue its location in gold letters.  The white fringe of the parade flag will carry the inscription in gold letters DIOS UNION LIBERTAD.

Article 12.- Official delegations named by the government to represent the country abroad, which have to use a flag for the purposes of their mission, will use the flag for public offices and buildings with the coat of arms and all its accoutrements. 

Article 13 - The national flag in reduced dimensions with the shield or with the legend or simply the colors may be used on all state property where appropriate.  The same applies to private properties for the purpose of civic celebrations. 

Article 14. - National ships or those of Salvadorean registration will use the national flag in conformance with treaties, conventions, or special dispensations. 
Joe McMillan, 21 August 2002

Use of Flags

Well, having lived and traveled extensively and often in El Salvador, I can tell you what I have observed and know about the usage of this flags:

1. All the government buildings, inside government offices, the presidential house (Casa Presidencial),  the flag in the president's office or other officials , National Palce, border crossings, airport, ports, embassies, consulates, municipalities, boats, airplanes, etc.; also the five huge (18 feet x 30) feet flags that are located one at flag plaza (Plaza de la bandera) and the other 4 at the four cardinal points of entrance into the capital city, all use the flag with the national emblem usually in the 3x5 ratio.

2. All army, air force, navy, military schools, military hospitals, navy posts at the ports, etc., fly outside the flag with the inscription (DIOS UNION LIBERTAD) in a yellow gold color and such flags have a 1x3 ratio.
The battalions will have the flag with the emblem with Dios Union Libertad in gold on the upper blue stripe and the name of the battalion class and number in gold on the lower blue stripe for artillery and infantry and in silver for cavalry.
Merchant boats have the letters in silver or blue.

3. The plain flag without the emblem can be seen sometimes at schools, houses,, etc.
Fred Drews, 22 August 2002

I see El Salvador flags on a regular basis.  The main highway through the part of northern Virginia where I live is plentifully supplied with Salvadorean restaurants serving the immigrant community, almost all of which have Salvadorean flags displayed, either flying outside or hanging on the wall inside.  And, as I said at first, they all have the emblem.  So, at least de facto, this as well as the plain one would seem to be the civil flag - and there's nothing in the law to preclude that, as far as I can tell.
Joe McMillan, 22 August 2002

However, one should consider that they use the flag with the emblem so nobody will mis-identify then as Argentinian or other B-W-B flags.
Dov Gutterman, 22 August 2002

That would not be easy to distinguish from 189x335 (ca. 3:5.3). Though, I could imagine that manufacturers "simplify" it to 3:5.
I guess that today, when flags with emblem and inscriptions are more easily acquired, the plain flag would be less and less used. Especialy, since it seems there is no legal hindrance in using the other two.
Željko Heimer, 22 August 2002

They did ask for flags in the following dimensions 90 cms x 150 cms when I supplied quite a few satin flags with embroidered coat of arms to some of the government offices, entities and ministies for official acts and offices of dignataries.
Concering the ratio of 1:3. When I offered to sell them the flags they told me that they are manufactured by the army to be flown on their buildings, hospital, schools etc. and that is the ratio, they all are manufactured. I wonder if it this has to do with the letters, because they expand almost the whole extension of the white stripe. The letter are quite wide and tall.
Fred Drews, 23 August 2002

Flag with Inscription

I located a flag variant at a photo at <>. The item is described there as " Salvadoran doctors march through the principal streets of San Salvador, El Salvador, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2002. Thousands of doctors marched through the city to protest the privatization of health care. ( AP Photo/Victor Ruiz Caballero)"
John C. Evosevic, 16 October 2002

This flag was created by a company that makes flags, so they could be used for soccer games in order not to get confused with flags of Honduras.
Fred Drews, 17 October 2002