Indigenous Design Elements
The shape and design motifs of most Latin American medals and orders are borrowed from those of Europe. Medals are generally either round, as they were during the Napoleonic Wars, or in the form of a cross, following the precedent of the medieval religious-military orders. Medals typically feature the bust of a revolutionary leader or martyr combined with the national coat of arms or other republican symbol. Decorative borders usually consist of representations of laurel, oak, olive, or palm wreaths.Some countries, particularly those with large Indian populations, such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru, have inserted indigenous symbols or figures in an effort to recognize the cultural origins of the nation. In some cases, these images derive from sculpture found at archaeological sites, such as the Guatemalan Order of the Quetzal and the Peruvian Order of Distinguished Service. Native flowers replace the traditional olive and laurel in Bolivia’s Order of the Condor. The sun appears as a symbol of both Incan civilization and the continent’s republicanism on Peru’s Order of the Sun, instituted by the liberator of Peru, the Argentine General José de San Martín (1778–1850).