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Wiphala of Qulla Suyu, official variant flag of Bolivia since 2009

The Wiphala (Quechua pronunciation: [wɪˈpʰala]) is a square emblem, commonly used as a flag, representing some native peoples of the Andes that include today's Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and parts of Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

The suyu wiphalas are composed of a 7 × 7 square patchwork in seven colours, arranged diagonally. The precise configuration depends on the particular suyu represented by the emblem. The colour of the longest diagonal line (seven squares) determines which of the four suyus (regions) the flag represents: white for Qullasuyu, yellow for Kuntisuyu, red for Chinchaysuyu, and green for Antisuyu. There is also an alternate pattern for the Wiphala for Antinsuyu. Additionally a Wiphala also exists for Tupac Katari and the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army.

Article 6, section II of the 2009 Bolivian constitution establishes the Wiphala as the dual flag of Bolivia, along with the red-yellow-green tricolor.[1][2]


In modern times the Wiphala has been confused with a rainbow flag which is wrongly associated with the Tawantinsuyu (Incan Empire). There is debate as to whether there was an Inca or Tawantisuyu flag. There are 16th and 17th-century chronicles and references that support the idea of a banner attributable to the Inca. However, it represented the Inca himself, not the empire. Also its origins are from symbols and mural designs found in several civilizations of the Andes with thousands of years of history.

Francisco López de Jerez[3] wrote in 1534:

They all came divided up in squads with their flags and commanding captains, with as much order as the Turks.
(todos venían repartidos en sus escuadras con sus banderas y capitanes que los mandan, con tanto concierto como turcos).

The 17-century chronicler Bernabé Cobo wrote that

the guión, or royal standard [an ecclesiastical processional banner], was a small, square small banner, of about 10-12 hands [palmos is a measure from those times and it refers to a length similar to a hand. Ruedo is the total length of the cloth], made of cotton or woolen cloth, that was carried at the top of a long flagpole, and was stiff, with no wave on the air; each king painted his arms and emblems (badges) on the banner; because each one (king) chose different ones (paintings on his banner), although the common ones among the Incas had the rainbow [sky arch].

(el guión o estandarte real era una banderilla cuadrada y pequeña, de diez o doce palmos de ruedo, hecha de lienzo de algodón o de lana, iba puesta en el remate de una asta larga, tendida y tiesa, sin que ondease al aire, y en ella pintaba cada rey sus armas y divisas, porque cada uno las escogía diferentes, aunque las generales de los Incas eran el arco celeste.)
–Bernabé Cobo, Historia del Nuevo Mundo (1653)

Guaman Poma's 1615 book El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno shows numerous line drawings of Inca flags.[4]

The Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg, Sweden, holds a Wiphala that is dated through a C-14 test to the 11th century. It originates from the Tiwanaku region, and is part of a collection based on a kallawaya medicine man's grave.[5]

Seven colors[edit]

The seven colors of the actual Wiphala originate from the visible spectrum. The significance and meanings for each color are as follows:

  • Red: The Earth and the Andean man
  • Orange: Society and culture
  • Yellow: Energy
  • White: Time
  • Green: Natural resources
  • Blue: The heavens
  • Violet: Andean government and self-determination

Andean peoples and social movements[edit]

Wiphala at a Flag Day parade, Rosario, Argentina
Aimara parade in Oruro, Bolivia with the official Wiphala
Current flag of the city of Cusco

Social movements in Ecuador[edit]

Today in Ecuador, it is readily identified with the Indian social movement mainly represented by CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador). This organization has had an important role in massive protests in the late 1990s and 2000s which have brought down three presidents perceived as corrupt and responsible for the impoverishment of Ecuadorians.[citation needed] The flag of CONAIE is a wiphala with a mask in the middle from a pre-Inca Ecuadorian coastal peoples known as La Tolita.

The flag is displayed by marches of the CONAIE movement and also it is used by its political faction, the Movimiento de Unidad Plurinacional Pachakutik - Nuevo País (a Pachakutik-inspired Movement), which participates in elections and has a considerable legislative representation. Pachakutik is a Quechua word related with the vision and the hope of a better future for the Andean people. The MUPP was formed in the 1990s mainly by an alliance of the CONAIE with peasant organizations and urban social movements. It also finds sympathy in local LGBT, feminist and Afro-Ecuadorian circles and activists.[6]

The Bolivian Wiphala[edit]

The Aimara wiphala is a square flag divided into 7 × 7 (49) squares. The seven rainbow colors are placed in diagonal squares. The exact arrangement and colors varies with the different versions, corresponding to the suyus or Tupac Katari. It is very prominent in marches of indigenous and peasant movements in Bolivia.

This "rainbow squares" flag is used as the pan-indigenous flag of Andean peoples in Bolivia and has recently occasionally been adopted by Amazonian groups in political alliance.

Bolivian president Evo Morales established the Qullasuyu wiphala as the nation's dual flag, along with the previous red, yellow, and green banner in the newly ratified constitution. The Wiphala has been included into the national colours of the Bolivian Air Force such as the executive jet (currently a Dassault Falcon 900EX[7]). The Wiphala is also officially flown on governmental buildings such as the Palacio Quemado and parliament alongside the tricolor since the introduction of the revised 2009 constitution.[8]

Confusion with flag of Cusco[edit]

The Wiphala has been confused with the seven-striped rainbow design flag, the current official banner of the Peruvian city of Cusco, where is commonly displayed in government buildings and in the main square.[9] This rainbow flag is wrongly associated with and displayed as a symbol of the Inca Empire (Tawantinsuyu), despite Peruvian historiographers and Peruvian Congress stating that the empire never had a flag.[10][11]

However, although the wiphala is an emblem related principally to Aymara people, the Inca had its origin with the Quechua people.


While the wiphala is popular with Bolivia's indigenous majority that back Morales and MAS, the Wiphala has proven controversial amongst the country's traditionally ruling whites and mestizos that form the political opposition. The opposition contends, without evidence, that the indigenous movement led by Morales intends to ultimately replace the traditional tricolor with the wiphala and that its establishment as the country's dual flag is the first step towards this goal.[citation needed] Furthermore, many Bolivians, including some indigenous people, feel that the wiphala highlights Bolivia's racial tensions and in fact furthers the divide between the lower-class majority of indigenous Aymara, Quechua and Guaraní groups and the minority of upper- and middle-class whites and mestizos.[12] (See also: Demographics of Bolivia)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bandera indígena boliviana es incluida como símbolo patrio en nueva Constitución", October 21, 2008, United Press International.
  2. ^ Republic of Bolivia, [Text of the proposed] Nueva Constitución Política del Estado, 2007.
  3. ^ Francisco López de Jerez,Verdadera relacion de la conquista del Peru y provincia de Cuzco, llamada la Nueva Castilla, 1534.
  4. ^ Guaman Poma, El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno, (1615/1616), pp. 256, 286, 344, 346, 400, 434, 1077, this pagination corresponds to the Det Kongelige Bibliotek search engine pagination of the book. Additionally Poma shows both well drafted European flags and coats of arms on pp. 373, 515, 558, 1077. On pages 83, 167–171 Poma uses a European heraldic graphic convention, a shield, to place certain totems related to Inca leaders. There is no evidence of linear (Wiphala-like) patchwork.
  5. ^ "Carlotta - Objekt". Collections.smvk.se. Archived from the original on 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2013-12-23.
  6. ^ Inca empire#Organization of the empire
  7. ^ "Photos: Dassault Falcon 900EX Aircraft Pictures". Airliners.net. 2010-10-24. Retrieved 2013-12-23.
  8. ^ "Por decreto, el Ejecutivo fija dos fechas fechas de fundación del país". eju.tv. 2010-01-28. Retrieved 2013-12-23.
  9. ^ revista.serindigena.cl - Wiphala, Símbolo de la Nación Andina
  10. ^ Bandera Gay o Bandera del Tahuantinsuyo Terra.com
  11. ^ "La Bandera del Tahuantisuyo" (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved 12 June 2009.
  12. ^ [1]

External links[edit]