On June 7 each year Peru celebrates its National Flag Day honoring the brave men that tried to protect Peruvian territory and the Peruvian flag on that day in 1880 during the Battle of Arica, one of the most important encounters of the War of the Pacific between Peruvian forces and the mighty, well equipped Chilean enemy.
After taking over the southern Peruvian city of Tacna, the Chileans decided to make the nearby port of Arica their next target. Weakened by a naval blockade, lost communication, the loss of its ally Bolivia and isolation, the 1,600 Peruvian soldiers in Arica were up against more than 5,500 Chilean attackers.
To avoid further bloodshed, 2 days before the attack on Arica the Chileans send a messenger to Colonel Francisco Bolognesi, the Peruvian commander of the troops in Arica, asking for his surrender. Instead of considering the offer, which would have saved the lives of his officers and men, he answered with the famous sentence: “I have sacred duties to fulfill, and I shall fulfill them until the last cartridge has been fired.”
So, in the early morning hours of June 7, 1880 Chilean troops marched toward Arica and quickly broke down the Peruvian strongholds. In the end, the Peruvian defenders had no chance and the Chilean forces won the battle and the city. Colonel Francisco Bolognesi, Colonel Alfonso Ugarte – who rode his horse off the cliff down into the Pacific Ocean to prevent the capture of the Peruvian flag by Chilean forces - other high-ranking officers and a good third of the Peruvian soldiers were killed, around 1000 wounded and taken prisoner.
To this day the former Peruvian city of Arica is part of Chile and a constant, bitter reminder for not only losing the Battle of Tacna and Arica, but as well the War of the Pacific.
To honor the courage and heroisms of the Peruvian officers and brave soldiers facing an overpowering enemy, June 7 was declared Dia de la Bandera, a day to pay homage.
On this day public and private institutions, schools, universities and others choose to proudly hiss the Peruvian flag. Around the country the Peruvian Armed Forces and the Peruvian Police hold parades and ceremonies. The official ceremony however takes place at Plaza Bolognesi in Lima’s center, where members of the navy, army, air force and police, government officials, public servants, students and the general public solemnly honor the Peruvian flag.