Bibliography Texts

The Galápagos Islands Flag
and Coat of Arms

Jacob Lundh

The son of a family of immigrants from Norway, Jacob P. Lundh has lived in the Galápagos Islands, as well as in Guayaquil and Quito, Ecuador, and is well acquainted with the history of the Galápagos Islands. In 1814 his great-great-great grandfather's brother proposed two designs for a Norwegian flag (see Nordisk Flaggkontakt, No. 40. pp. 26-27). In this article Jacob P. Lundh tells the story of how he was involved in the process that led to the selection of a flag and coat of arms for the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador.


I first met Governor Enrique Vallejo Carranza in 1946, on the island of Santa Cruz, in the Galápagos, where my family had been established since 1932. I was visiting the highlands, walking over an open stretch of grassland, when a horseman came towards me. He stopped abruptly to greet me.

He was a large muscular man with a handsome face, who wore an army uniform. I had never seen him before, but knew from his uniform that he was the second in command of the last army garrison we would have on our island.

We had a polite exchange of the usual greetings and questions about each other's health. He asked me if I was one of the sons of Captain Herman Lundh, who were said to have arrived recently from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. I assented to this, and he seemed pleased, as he was from Quito himself.

In the following decade, Vallejo and I held long conversations about many things whenever we met, and we became good friends, despite our age difference. I was still a teenager at the time, but kept well informed about politics and had already developed a keen interest in history.

During the following decade, Vallejo retired from the army, though he was still a relatively young man in excellent health. I heard that he had become a settler on the Island of San Cristóbal, where we met again when I came out as agent of Fruit Trading Corporation and its daughter firm Compañia Ecuatoriana de Turismo Galápagos S. A. (CETUGA for short), heading the latter's Galápagos operations until the company folded up in 1965.

We had gone over from army administration in 1946 to navy administration, towards the end of that year. In 1959, we got a full civilian governor. These governors were a source of constant problems, as they were changed quite often. It was enough that some petition was circulated among the settlers to have them removed. If the petition had enough signatures, the governor was replaced by a new one. It must be pointed out that our representatives in Congress at that time were mainlanders who did not live in the islands, and cared for little else than keeping their seats in Congress, which meant that they did everything to please the electorate, as long as it did not cost them anything much.

Towards the end of 1960, after barely two years of civilian administration, we had our fourth governor appointed by Quito. This time, it happened to be Enrique Vallejo, who by then was a well-established farmer and cattleman in the San Cristóbal highlands.

Vallejo had already a number of enemies among the settlers, being an outspoken man who cared little for the graces of diplomacy. It was not long before the lists asking for his removal started to circulate on San Cristóbal, where this activiy was most developed. That island had at the time more then half the population of Galápagos, carrying therefore the greatest weight in all democratic processes. But the lists were ignored in Quito. We do not know what our senator thought about the matter, but Vallejo had good connections in the sitting government. He had been and still was an active and staunch supporter of Dr. José María Velasco Ibarra, who happened to be president at the time.

Unfortunately, after about a year in the presidential palace, on November 7, 1961, Congress deposed Dr. Velasco, and attempted to bypass the vice-president, appointing the chairman of Congress as president. The armed forces reacted at once. Tanks were sent out to take positions around the congressional building and it was demanded that the constitution be respected.

Thus, the vice-president, Dr. Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy took over. A well-known Guayaquil lawyer, son of a former president, the highly respected Dr. Carlos Julio Arosemena Tola, it was hoped that he would offer the country a stable and efficient government. This he failed to do and it led us to a military government. But that is another story.

The first change in Galápagos was the removal of Vallejo and the arrival of a new governor, Antonio Ledesma Monroy, an actor and first cousin of the new president. There was much unease about this appointment among the naval personnel, the police force and the public in general. However, Ledesma turned out to be a good governor who showed concern for the islanders and their interests. He even married a local girl, a cuddly little redhead with a happy disposition, who had inherited the good looks of her maternal family. These latter had lived on San Cristóbal for three generations.

So much for background. It is to Enrique Vallejo that we owe the Galápagos flag and coat of arms. He had often mentioned that it was a shame that the islands were the only province in Ecuador that had neither. Strictly speaking, we were not yet a full province, but he felt it necessary to do something.

One morning, when we both coincided in the bakery next to his office, buying fresh bread for our respective breakfasts, he told me that he was going to organize a contest. The contestants would each submit two envelopes. In one, there would be a proposed coat of arms and flag, drawn in color and signed with a pseudonym. In the other, a sealed envelope, would be the pseudonym and the real name of the contestant. Vallejo would provide, from his own pocket, a modest cash prize for the winner. I was appointed as one of the judges that was to pick out the winner.

While I naturally did learn of the winner†, I did not find out if the winning drawings had been accepted by the government as official. It was not until several years later, when I was teaching science and biology at the Colegio Americano in Guayaquil that I saw the flag and coat of arms that we had chosen printed on the back cover of a notebook. So something lasting had come out of the Vallejo governorship after all.

† It turns out that Sr. Vallejo himself submitted his own designs, under a pseudonym in accordance with the contest rules. His designs were voted the best by most of the judges.—JW.

The Flag

Galapagos Flag

The colors are green, white and blue. The green represents the fertile highlands found on a few of the higher islands, where the southeastern trade winds push the clouds against the mountainsides, forcing them up, causing them to cool so that they lose much of their moisture in the form of a constant drizzle, in the second half of the year, making agriculture possible.

The white represents the loftiness of our aspirations. It also represents the emptiness of the semi-arid lowlands which comprise most of the Galápagos surface. This latter is misleading though, considering the abundant xerophytic vegetation that is found in most parts of the drier regions, which turns green during the warm season rains. There is also much animal life in those parts.

The blue stands for the ocean where the islands are scattered and the rich marine life there, which has made possible a fishing industry.

The Coat of Arms

Galapagos Coat of Arms

The shield is quartered. The chief sinister (upper left) quarter shows some volcanic cones in sable on an azure sea. The largest cone is in eruption. This tells of the volcanic origin of the islands and the present activitiy of some of them.

In the chief dexter (upper right) a ship is depicted sailing over the ocean. It is supposed to represent the Mercedes, the ship that was sent out to take possession of the islands in 1832. The Mercedes, named after the wife of Ecuador's first president, Juan José Flores, was a schooner, while the vessel shown on the coat of arms is a hermaphrodite brig, a mistake that can be forgiven a landlubber.

At the honor point is the image of a tortoise, the animal after which the islands are named, Galápago being the Spanish name for this reptile. Officially, the islands have been known since 1892 as “Archipiélago de Colón” but the name Galápagos has persisted and even appears occasionally on some official documents.

The base sinister (lower left) shows a cornucopia representing the rich potential of the islands. The base dexter (lower right) shows the Galápagos flag, in a deeper green than is correct.

The shield is surrounded by a bordure, the upper part of which is azure with thirteen stars in argent (silver), representing the thirteen largest islands. (Personally, I divide the group into six major and nine minor islands, not counting the smaller islands and rocks.) At the division between the upper and lower parts of the bordure is shown the equatorial latitude, telling that the islands are on the equator. The lower half of the bordure is in or (gold) with the date 1832 at its lower point. This is the year when the islands came under Ecuador.

The upper part of the coat of arms is decorated with two olive branches, one on either side, with a burning torch in the middle—the light of our lofty aspirations.