The First National Coat of Arms
Like the flag, Chile’s coat of arms has also undergone many changes from the time of its introduction up to the present day.
The first coat of arms was established during José Miguel Carrera’s Administration, in 1812. It was designed upon an oval, the center of which had a column that represented the tree of liberty. Above the column, there was a globe, and above the globe, a spear and a palm branch, which were crossed. Above these was a star. On the sides of the column could be found a pair of indigenous people, standing up.
This coat of arms had two mottos, both in Latin. On the top, it was written «Post tenebras lux,» or «Light after darkness;» «Aut consilliis aut ense,» or «By counsel or by the sword,» could be found written at the bottom.
Two new coats of arms were introduced in 1817. The one introduced in June of that year just kept the column, the globe and the star with an oval in the background, with the word «Libertad» (Liberty) above it. The one introduced in October, meanwhile, added two flags whose poles crossed in front of the word «Libertad.»
The Coat of Arms of The Transition
On September 23rd, 1819, the Chilean Senate approved a new design, which consisted of a coat of arms with a column upon a white marble pedestal, on a dark blue field. Above it was the American «new world» with the world «Libertad» (Liberty) just below, and on top of everything, a five point star representing the province of Santiago.
On both sides of the column, there were two other stars of equal size that represented the cities of Concepción and Coquimbo. Surrounding all this were two laurel branches tied with a three-colored ribbon.
Along this ribbon were all branches of the armed forces, in order: Cavalry, Infantry, Dragoons, Artillery and Bombardiers. To finish, an indigenous figure sitting on an American cayman supported the coat of arms above him while standing with one foot on the so-called horn of Analtea, or the horn of fortune. The cayman had a lion-the symbol of the Central Spanish State of Castille-in his mouth. The lion’s crown had fallen, and a destroyed Spanish flag could be seen in its front paws.
This coat of arms was widely criticized, and was finally replaced. Afterwards, a competition was held during President Joaquín Prieto’s Administration to replace it. The design of Carlos Wood Taylor was chosen as a result of this competition.
The Current Coat of Arms
In August of 1832, with the endorsement of President Prieto and his Minister Joaquín Tocornal, Wood Taylor’s new design for the coat of arms was sent to the Congress, which approved it on June 24th, 1834. The design became the national coat of arms that is used to this day.
This coat of arms, which has the same colors as the flag, consists of a field divided into two equal parts: the top is blue and the bottom is red. In the foreground are a condor, the strongest bird of the Chilean skies, and a huemul, the most distinctive animal of Chile. Both animals wear golden naval crowns on their heads, which symbolize Chile’s maritime renown.
A crest consisting of three feathers-red, white, and blue-crowns the coat of arms. These feathers were historically what the Presidents of the Republic placed in their hat to distinguish themselves. Below is the motto «Por la razón o por la fuerza»: «By reason or by force.»
Despite the fact that all the characteristics of the symbol were established that year, some difficulties emerged in the interpretation of the emblem. This occurred for several reasons: the rule that had established the coat of arms was made quickly and without much fanfare, the heraldry had many difficult technical terms, and the huemul was a very little-known animal.
Finally, on October 18th, 1967, a Supreme Decree clearly specified the characteristics of this coat of arms in its entirety, and declared it a National Symbol, along with the flag, the rosette and the Presidential sash.