The Flag of Cuzco

In 1978 the region of Cuzco adopted a rainbow flag, taking as its symbol one used officially since 1896 by the Alianza Cooperativa Internacional, an international economic and social movement working toward equality and fair trade between producers and consumers. One of the founders of this movement (Charles Fourier) had earlier used the flag for his proposed utopian communities.

According to Julio Gilberto Muñiz Caparó, mayor of Cuzco at the time the flag was adopted there (1978), Fourier had gotten the idea of the flag from the Franco-Peruvian feminist, Flora Tristán, who told him about what she had observed in the mountains of Peru. It is certainly the case that cooperative economic practices resembling those later urged by the Alianza Cooperativa Internacional had been in place for generations in Andean society, and the adoption of the flag in Cuzco in 1978 was well received.

Rainbow Flag of Cuzco: 7 colors of the rainbow from red (top) to purple (bottom)

In the Andes many people believe the flag is much older, claiming that it has been in use since Inca times, but this is highly unlikely. In fact, the earliest chronicles do not clearly mention any kind of flag being in use at that time, and there is no clear evidence for its use until the twentieth century.

The LBGTQ Flag

In the same year that Cuzco adopted the rainbow flag, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker proposed a rainbow flag as the symbol of the gay rights movement in the United States. While Baker’s proposal had eight colors (pink to violet), the version that has become common in our country only has six, beginning and ending with the same tones as the flag of Cuzco, but with one strip fewer.

Rainbow Gay Pride Flag: Six colors of the rainbow from red (top) to purple (bottom)

What distinguishes the two flags?

You will notice that the Cuzco flag has two blue stripes, while the LGBTQ flag has only one. This difference is related to a difference in the way English and Spanish identify colors. The two stripes that appear to an English speaker to be blue appear to be unrelated to many Spanish speakers.

Two Blues, One Celeste, One Azul

Celeste and Azul are related to each other in the way that Pink and Red are. That is, the lighter color is derived by adding white to the darker one. In English we acknowledge Pink and Red as separate colors, but treat Sky Blue (i.e., Carolina Blue) and Deep Blue as variants of the same color. Like English, Spanish differentiates between Rosado (Pink) and Rojo (Red), but it also distinguishes Celeste (Sky Blue, Carolina Blue) from Azul (Deep Blue, Navy Blue).