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U.S. Occupation

U.S. Territory

Associated Freestate

Puerto Rico Armed Force


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Today’s island of Puerto Rico was discovered by Columbus in 1493 and taken in posession of it for the Spanish crown. He named it  San Juan Batista after St. John the Baptist.

In 1508 Juan Ponce de León founded the settlement of Caparra, behind the harbor just to the west of the present metropolitan area of San Juan.  A year later, the settlement was abandoned and moved to a site which was called at the time Puerto Rico,  which means “rich port”.

In 1521, the newer settlement was given its formal name of “San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico”, following the usual custom of christening the town with both its formal name and the name which Christopher Columbus had originally given the island. The indistinct use of “San Juan Bautista” and “Puerto Rico” for calling both the city and the island led to a reversal in practical use by most inhabitants: by 1746 the name for the city (Puerto Rico) had become that of the entire island, while the name for the Island (San Juan Bautista) had become the name for the city. 

Puerto Rico remained a Spanish possession until the Spanish-American War. By treaty of Paris of 10 December 1898 it was ceded to the United States. A civil government was installed in May 1900.




Arms were granted to San Juan by Royal Warrant of 8 November 1511. The warrant reads:


“un escudo verde y dentro de él un cordero plateado encima de un libro colorado e atravesado por una bandera con una cruz e su veleta como la trae la devysa de Sanct Joan e por orla castillos e leones e banderas e cruzes de Iherusalen e por devysa una F. e una Y. con sus coronas e yugos e flechas e un letrero a la redonda de la manera siguiente: Joanne est nomine jus”.


 (a green shield with a silver lamb on a red book and keeping a flag with a cross and its pennon which is the symbol of St. John and surrounded by castles and lions and flags and Jeruzalem crosses and as a motto a “F”and a “Y”  with their crowns and yoke and arrows and a listel around it as follows “Joanne est Nomine jus”.)


No contemporary pictures of these arms are known. The oldest ones, available from the 18th century,  show the arms a little bit deviating from the warrant of 1511.

They are:


Arms: A paschal lamb with a red banner on a processional cross, standing on a rock with a spring streaming in the sea, between the initials “F” and “I” and the motto JOANNES EST NOMEN EJUS  in orle in chief.

Motto: ES MUY NOBLE Y MUY LEAL ESTA CIUDAD · POR SU CONSTANCIA AMOR Y FIDELIDAD (This city is very noble and very loyal for its lasting love and  fidelity), on a bordure surrounding the shield.

Compartment: A green shield crowned with a crown of five leaves and four pearls.


It is possible that the motto was granted at the occasion of the resistance an the victory of the city when the British sieged it in 1797. The loyalty is symbolized by the arms of New Spain and San Juan in alliance crowned and surrounded by a stalk of sugar cane and a tobacco-plant along with a spear and a banner



Also these arms were earned by the Regimiento Fijo de Puerto Rico  for its victory over British forces during the Siege of 1797. The arms are royally crowned and placed on a trophy of cannon and banners. Below is a listel with the name of the service:  REGIM.o INF.a DE ESTA PLAZA Y CIUDAD DE  PUERTO-RICO (Infantry Regiment of the Plaza and City of Puerto Rico)


In the time of the First Spanish Republic (1873-‘74) it is said, new arms for San Juan/Puerto Rico were designed, apparently corresponding more with the 1511 warrant. They can be seen in the small museum at Arecibo’s Museo del Faro (Lighthouse Museum) in Northern Puerto Rico. Nobody is sure how long they were used, if ever.[1]  The arms are:




Arms: Vert, a paschal lamb Argent resting on a book Gules and keeping a banner Gules, a cross Or, within a double bordure, the first compony Gules and Argent of 16 pieces of 1. a three-towered castle Or, 2. a flag Gules, a cross Or, 3. an eight-pointed cross Argent, and 4. a lion Gules. The second Vert, the motto JOANNES EST NOMEN EJUS in black lettering.

Crown: A mural crown with five towers Or.

Supporters: The crowned initials “F” and “Y” and the yoke and arrow emblems below.


In these arms we see the flag of the Republic of 1873 (which is also the 16th century flag of Spain) , the emblems of Castilla and Leon and the cross of the Order of St. John of Jeruzalem. On the shield is a civic crown with five towers instead of the four towers of  the Spanish Republican crown.


U.S. Occupation of Puerto Rico



After the restoration of the kingdom the ancient arms were readopted or continued but after Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States they were slighty changed again.

In agreement with the new political situation the motto Muy Leal etc was omitted and the inner bordure was inscribed with the motto JOANNES EST NOMEN EIUS instead. Also, the outer bordure was charged with castilian castles, lions of Leon and spanish flags. These arms are:



Arms: Vert, an escutcheon with a seascape, in base a paschal lamb with a red banner standing on a green island and in chief a yoke-and-arrows emblem and the crowned golden initials “F”and “Y”, all proper, surrounded by a white bordure with the motto JOANNES EST NOMEN EIUS in black lettering; and fourteen yellow castles, red lions and yellow flags with the royal arms of Spain in the middle, in orle.


U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico



By proclamation of 23 September 1900, after the installation of a civic government, the ancient arms were abolished and replaced by a new achievement. This is:




Arms: An island Vert, rising from a sea Azure, and a rising sun Or; and a chief per fess Azure and paly of thirteen Argent and Gules a caduceus, a branch of coffee and flowering sugar cane over all Or.

Crest: On a wreath Gules, Argent and Azure the carrack Santa Maria on waves of the sea proper.

Motto: PROSPERA LUX ORITUR (Prosperity, Creator of Light).


On 8 March 1905 the legislative assembly abolished this achievement and restored the arms of 8 November 1511.


Circular version of the arms 1905 - present


The new emblem had the form of a seal and was in agreement with the emblems of most of the Amerian federal states which most of the time are also seals.


Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico

1952 - present


By law Nr. 7 of 8 August 1952 the arms of 1511 were confirmed. They were amended by Law Nr.142 of 3 June 1976 and again by Law Nr 768 of 11 May 2009. [2]


After these laws there are two different versions of the arms: a heraldic version and a circular version. The differences are as follows:


The heraldic version is of a shield with a bordure compony Gules and Argent of 16 pieces, charged with a three towerd castle Or, a cowned lion purpure, a banner parted per pale of Aragon and Sicilia Trinacria and a cross potent between four square crosses Or.

In the central field  the paschal lamb has a white banner with a cross Gules and is lying on a book closed with seven seals

The shield is crowned with a crown of five leaves, and on both sides are the crowned royal cyphers of Ferdinand and Isabella together with their emblems. The motto is written on a listel below the shield.

After the amendment of 1976 the crowned lions are Gules, the cross is a cross potent Gules and the flags are a quarterly of Castile and Leon.

This version is for use by the Governor, the Acting Governor, the Elected Governor, the former Governors, and the Secretary of State.


In the circular version the banner of the paschal lamb is all white and the charges of the bordure appear on a white background. The crosses on the bordure are red crosses potent and the flags are bearing  the blason of the Most Catholic Kings, that is to say a quarterly of Castile and Aragon. Also the royal cyphers, the royal emblems and the motto are written on the central field.

This version is for use by all state executives, by the legislative authorities and by the judicial authorities.


Heraldic version of the achievement of 1952.


Arms: Vert, a paschal lamb resting on a red book, keeping a white banner; in chief  a yoke and a bundle of arrows and the crowned initials “F”and “Y”; and in base the motto IOANNES EST NOMEN EJUS in white lettering in orle; and a white bordure charged with twice a red cross potent, a red crowned lion, a flag of the arms of King Philip I and a yellow castle.


Arms of 1976

The current version was officially re-adopted by the Commonwealth government of Puerto Rico on 3 June 1976.


ð See illustration in the head of the essay.




On the Great Seal the arms are surrounded by the legend GRAN SELLO DEL ESTADO LIBRE ASOCIADO DE PUERTO RICO


On the seal of the senate the arms are surrounded by the legend SENADO (in chief) and  PUERTO RICO (in base).

In 1952 the legend was changed into SENADO (in chief) and ESTADO  LIBRE  ASOCIADO DE PUERTO RICO (in base)

Governor’s Seal







Police badge (Obsolete)

Present Police Badge


Shoulder patch


Puerto Rico Armed Forces






Description: That for regiments or separate battalions of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard: From a wreath of colors, upon a closed book Gules with pages edged Or a paschal lamb couchant with staff and banner of San Juan (Gules a cross Argent) all Proper


Symbolism: The crest is the principal charge on the coat of arms of Puerto Rico.


Background: The crest for color bearing organizations of the Puerto Rico was approved on 9 February 1923.


Distinctive Unit Insignia.



Description: A gold color metal and enamel device 1 1/4 inches (3.18 cm) in height overall consisting of a gold castle wall embattled of four merlons and with a convex base, bearing four red sentry towers (of the type on El Moro Castle, San Juan, Puerto Rico) conjoined crosswise the doorways of white fimbriated gold all above a red scroll bearing the inscription "SIEMPRE PRESENTE" in gold letters.

Symbolism: The embattled wall, implying strength, and sentry towers, implying constant vigilance and readiness, were suggested by El Moro Castle and are used as being symbolic of the Headquarters, Puerto Rico Army National Guard located in San Juan. The gold castle wall also symbolizes the island of Puerto Rico as a whole; the four sentry towers referring to its North, South, East and West areas and the units of the National Guard stationed therein. The red towers are conjoined to form a cross and with the white doorways forming another cross allude to the banner of St. John (a white or silver cross on a red field) which appears in the crest of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard. Aside from the red and gold colors of Spain, the shape of the insignia and its symbols reflect Puerto Rico's Spanish heritage and culture.


Background: The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard on 9 October 1967. The insignia was redesignated effective 29 March 1983, for Headquarters, State Area Command, Puerto Rico Army National Guard.


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia.


Description: On a shield 2 1/4 inches (5.72 cm) in width and 2 13/16 inches (7.14 cm) in height overall, within a 1/8 inch (.32 cm) white border a field of red having in base three waves of blue, white and blue and overall a beveled white cross throughout shaded silver gray between and behind at each flank a portion of a yellow tower with two battlements rising from the waves and extending over the horizontal arms of the cross.


Symbolism: The white (or silver) cross and red ground refer to the fact that the city of San Juan, capital of Puerto Rico and the site of the Headquarters Puerto Rico National Guard, was one of the first Christian communities established in America (1508). The three wavy blue, white and blue bars symbolize water and in addition to also alluding to San Juan harbor are used to indicate that Puerto Rico is an island. The two castle towers allude to the fortress of El Moro which once protected the harbor and now refers to the constant readiness of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard to defend its homeland and combat the forces of aggression. The entire design of the cross and towers as well as the colors red and yellow allude to the Spanish discovery and settlement of Puerto Rico and its Spanish heritage and culture.


Background: The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and noncolor bearing units of the Puerto Rico National Guard on 9 October 1967. It was redesignated with description amended for Headquarters, State Area Command, Puerto Rico Army National Guard on 30 December 1983. (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-466)


Copy from:  Puerto Rico Army National Guard (closed)



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© Hubert de Vries 2010-03-08. Updated 2016-10-19




[1] image by Nelson Román and Blas Delgado, 19 January 2005

[2] he integral text of this law on: http://www.senadopr.us/Proyectos%20del%20Senado/ps0768-09.pdf



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