The Shield - Coat of Arms

The “Escudo” … the Coat of Arms … a country’s symbol … the icon … civilization throughout history has always put a strong emphasis on the “shield” specially during battle. It’s the symbol of what your “side” stands for.

Venezuela is no exception. What is the history of Venezuela’s Coat of Arms ? I searched the web to seek the answer and what I found was interesting and funny at the same time. As I do not consider myself a writer I am taking direct paragraphs from different sources … yes plagiarizing … but I will give credit where the credit is due.

The coat of arms of Venezuela as we knew it until recently was primarily approved by the Congress on April 18, 1836, undergoing small modifications through history, reaching the version described below. (Note that in heraldic descriptions dexter means right from the viewpoint of a person standing behind the shield, i.e. the viewer's left; sinister means left, i.e. the viewer's right.)

The coat of arms was established in the Law of the National Flag, Shield and Anthem (Ley de Bandera, Escudo e Himno Nacionales), passed on February 17, 1954 by the military governor of Venezuela, Marcos Pérez Jiménez. The shield is divided in the colors of the National Flag. In the dexter chief, on a red field, wheat represents the union of the 20 States of the Republic existing at the time and the wealth of the Nation. In sinister chief, on a yellow field, weapons (a sword, a sabre and three lances) and two National Flags are tied by a branch of laurel, as a symbol of triumph in war. In base, on a deep blue field, a wild white horse (perhaps representing Simón Bolívar's white horse Palomo) runs free, an emblem of independence and freedom.

Above the shield are two crossed cornucopias (horns of plenty), pouring out wealth. The shield is flanked by an olive branch and another of palm, both tied at the bottom of the coat with a large band that represents the national tricolour (yellow for the nation's wealth, blue for the ocean separating Venezuela from Spain, and red for the blood and courage of the people). The following captions appear in golden letters on the blue stripe:

  • 19 de Abril de 1810 (April 19, 1810) 20 de Febrero de 1859 (February 20, 1859)
  • Independencia (Independence) Federación (Federation)
  • República de Venezuela (Republic of Venezuela)

In March of 2006 the National Assembly approved changes to the coat of arms and the flag which were made official on March 12, 2006, Flag Day. Prior to 2006, the horse was running to its left with its head turned to its right. In heraldic theory this is a mistake because all "beasts" must face dexter (to their right or the viewer's left). The Economist observed that Hugo Chávez ordered the seal changed after his daughter, Rosinés Chávez Rodríguez, had described the previous horse as "looking backwards".

Government supporters state however, that even if the president's daughter was the one who sparked the discussion, both the legislative and executive branch agreed to add a new star fulfilling a decree signed by Simon Bolivar in 1817. Other changes include adding a machete as a symbol representing the peasant fighters during the revolutionary wars in Venezuela since the war of independence. Also, a bow and an arrow were added as retribution to the brave indigenous population who resisted the Spanish conquistadores.

Previously, in the Venezuelan Arms of 1863, the horse was moving as today, heraldically rightwards, leftwards for the viewer. Many critics have suggested that the horse, now running leftwards, is a political statement of the current left-wing government of President Hugo Chávez. From a strict heraldic viewpoint, the horse was moving leftwards before it was changed, and now runs rightwards.

Political opponents have also claimed that besides being politically motivated, the changes were economically wasteful. At the time of the official unveiling the opposition party stated that they will not use the new flag or coat of arms, and during demonstrations against the government, they still used the old flag as a symbol of resistance. As of 2008, and with an improved political climate, most people have started to use the new symbols. ( / The Economist, "Freedom to Agree", February 24, 2007)

The funny part of the switch is … A Coat of Arms because they are derived from the front painting of a shield is always read from the point of view of the bearer of the shield. In other words, previously the horse pointed to the left and looked back at the right opposition left behind. Now, the horse is not only pointing to the right, it is galloping frantically away from the left (where Chavez stands politically).

The correct description of Venezuela’s coat of arms is now: "silver (white does not exist in heraldry) horse on blue ground, galloping to the right" (Blog: Gateway Pundit - Thomas from Austria)

Well my friends here you are. Now you know what the “Escudo” means and the humor that lies behind the current “Escudo’s” meaning. Someone should have done their homework. I have nothing else to say about that ....

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