French Guiana Flag, the old and the new, Meaning and History

French Guiana is not an independent country. In fact it has the status of an overseas department of France. As such their national flag is France’s tricolor. But they do have a representative flag, and during its history, French Guiana has known many different “colors”. Before as a colony and nowadays as a region of France. Do you know all of them? Let’s see.

Table of Contents

The colonial flag

In 1643 French explorers founded Cayenne. Even though the origins of the colonial flag are unknown, most likely its creation dates back to the end of the 17th century due to its symbology.

  • Blue on top is a symbol of French Royalty. Another reference to the monarchy is the golden lilies.
  • 1643 is Cayenne’s foundation year.
  • Red in the middle recalls the red soil.
  • The canoe in the middle is a reference to the Amerindian people who inhabited the area since the dawn of times. The canoe is loaded with gold. Where gold isn’t only a symbol of French Guiana’s resources, in fact, the region is well known for having large deposits of the precious mineral.
  • Green at the bottom represents the lush nature of the region. To complete the picture, the water lilies are also a symbol of the land’s luxuriant nature.

French Guiana regional flag (from 2010 to 2015)

Mistaken by many as French Guiana’s official flag, the green, golden, red star flag is in reality the UTG’s banner (Union des Travailleurs Guyanais, the union of French Guiana’s syndicates).

Towards the end of the ’60s, a group of French Guyanese students in Paris, close to the African independence movements, created the flag. Also for this reason, the choice of colors recalls some of the African national flags. The banner became the symbol of the UTG in September 1967.

Following the referendum for French Guiana’s independence in 2010, where the “no” largely won, the region’s council elected this banner as the official flag of the oversea department. When the new departmental council was elected in 2016, they abandoned the use of this flag.

Did you know? This is also the flag that represents French Guiana in the emoji system 🇬🇫

Even though it no longer represents French Guiana, many people recognize themselves with these colors. To the point that in 2017, during the social strikes, the majority of the protesters used it to represent their movement.

What do the colors and the star mean?

  • Green represents the Amazonian Forest.
  • Yellow stands for gold and the other many invaluable resources hidden in the soil.
  • The red star is a symbol of the political orientation of the UTG, socialism.
French Guiana Flag

Departmental logo since 2016

In 2016 the new departmental council created a new logo, which is nowadays the official banner of French Guiana. The ensemble recalls the colors of Art Tembé, in reference to the multicultural heritage of this land. On a white background, you can recognize the territory’s stylized profile, and in green the color of forests and Nature. If you look more carefully you will see that the coastal side is an arch, ready to shoot 4 arrows, as a reference to the Amerindian people. Each one of the colors refers to one of French Guiana’s qualities:

  • Red for all the people and cultures that inhabit this land.
  • Blue for water, which is one of the most invaluable resources. And it also refers to the Amerindian name Guyana (land of many waters). You can learn more about French Guiana etymology.
  • Yellow for the gold and its other mineral resources.
  • Black for the future resources to come, oil, technological innovation, and economic development.
French Guiana Flag

A word about France Tricolor

Since the 17th century, French Guiana has been part of France. As an overseas department, the national flag is France’s tricolor. Ok, I know that you are familiar with France’s flag, but just in case… This is what it looks like (the national flag is the one on the left):

France’s tricolor, has been used since 1794 when the navy first adopted it. Before becoming a flag it was a cockade, one of the most important symbols of the France Revolution. From 1974 to 2020 a second version with a lighter shade of blue has been largely diffused (the one on the right). President Macron restored the solo utilization of the darker version in 2020.

Fun fact: the emoji of the France flag uses the obsolete light blue version. 🇫🇷

The colors’ meaning is quite complex and has multiple references. At the time the cockade was created during the French Revolution, white was the monarchy’s color, while red and blue were the colors of Paris. Red was associated with Saint Denis and blue with Saint Martin.

One last word about the French Guiana flag

Over the years many different colors and symbols have represented this incredible region. And still, all these different representations have two common dominating elements: green for Nature and yellow for gold. Because French Guiana truly is a hidden treasure to discover surrounded by an incredible ecosystem.

If you want to know more, or even start to prepare for your journey check out my guides: tips, day trips, and general advice. And test your French Guiana knowledge with these 10 fun facts about French Guiana.

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