Peruvian coat-of-arms (1832) by José Leandro CortésMuseo Central. Banco Central de Reserva del Perú
Thus, for example, we find various representations of what Peru is both in official symbols and in popular uses and practices, as well as in works of art that capture and interpret the territory.
The National Coat-of-Arms
This painted coat-of-arms was commissioned by the Lima Mint. Its design features the vicuña, the quinine tree, and a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, alluding to the natural wealth of Peru across its animal, vegetable and mineral realms, respectively.
Although these elements highlight the commercial possibilities of Peru, at the time they did not possess a purely economic meaning, since they sought to represent the country as a territory shared by diverse human groups.
8 reals (1821) by Banco Central de Reserva del PerúMuseo Central. Banco Central de Reserva del Perú
The National Coat-of-Arms on Coins
The coins of the colonial period featured a bust of the king on one side, and the coat-of-arms of the Spanish Empire on the other. For example, this 8-real piece, minted in 1821, bears the image of Spain’s Ferdinand VII.
Following the proclamation of independence in Lima, in 1822 the first coins of the new Peruvian state were minted. José de San Martín himself designed the first coat-of-arms of Peru, which replaced the Spanish coat-of-arms on coins.
The San Martín coat-of-arms was replaced in 1825 by a new design, ordered by Simón Bolívar, depicting the natural wealth of Peru. This coat-of-arms is the one that, with some modifications in its silhouette and in the size of the fields, remains in use to this day.
Dancer’s costume. Frock coat with epaulets. (20th Century)Museo Central. Banco Central de Reserva del Perú
Symbols of Peru in Traditional Clothing
The coat-of-arms is present across different artistic genres produced in regional, urban and rural contexts.
Here we see the appropriation of national icons in a rural setting, as well as the central role played by dances and festivities, as occasions for communities to share common spaces and celebrations.
In this costume, we see the image of the liberator José de San Martín with the national flag, a founding image of the independence of Peru. Its presence expresses how, in rural areas, dances serve as memory devices in which the past and present coexist.
Wearing the National Coat-of-Arms
These brooches are small items of daily jewelry, used by women in the Andes to secure the two ends of a lliclla, or woman's shawl, at chest height.
The presence of the national coat-of-arms in the design of this brooch invites us to reflect upon the multiple possibilities that exist within a community for interpreting and identifying with national symbols.
The presence of the coat-of-arms on a ceremonial staff attests to the prestige of its bearer. Such staffs are used by the varayoc, or traditional leaders, of the district of Sarhua, in Ayacucho.
1 inca (1881) by Banco Central de Reserva del PerúMuseo Central. Banco Central de Reserva del Perú
Pre-Columbian Symbols on Peru’s Coins and Bills
Today, images and stories taken from the Pre-Columbian world form part of Peruvian identity.
From its inception, the Peruvian state has incorporated Pre-Columbian elements into its public image, and these can be seen in several series of coins, bills and medals.
During the earliest years of independence, the radiant sun, designed in Buenos Aires by Peruvians and a clear allusion to the Inca depiction of their sun god, was used as a symbol of the state.
During the 20th century, Pre-Columbian images multiplied and diversified. This was due, on the one hand, to the ways in which the reevaluation of the indigenous image influenced the Peruvian politics and culture of the period.
At the same time, archaeologists and historians revealed many more aspects of the Pre-Columbian past, beyond Peru’s Inca heritage, incorporating new identities such as Moche, Chanca, Chachapoyas and Colla.
1 sol allusive to Machu Picchu (2011) by Banco Central de Reserva del PerúMuseo Central. Banco Central de Reserva del Perú
The development of archaeological tourism in Peru cannot be addressed without mentioning Machu Picchu, an Inca citadel that continues to be one of the most visited places in the country.
The social, cultural and economic impact of Machu Picchu positions it as a symbol of Peru beyond the country’s borders. This popularity is reflected in its repeated presence on the nation’s coins and bills.
Museo Central. Banco Central de Reserva del Perú.