In the middle of Recife’s flag, created in 1973, is an image of a lion, often referred to as the Leão do Norte, or Lion of the North. You may very well have already heard the phrase in one of Lenine’s songs (which you can listen to at the bottom). But why a lion?
The meaning comes from the battle for emancipation from Portugal that Brazil was going through, during colonial times, and reflects the lower-class fight against the ruling elite. Additionally, the crowned yellow lion was also featured on the battle shield of John Maurice (aka Maurício de Nassau), the governor of Dutch Brazil. His coat of arms is below.
“The lion is a common charge in heraldry. It traditionally symbolises bravery, nobility, royalty, strength, stateliness, and valour, because historically it has been regarded as the king of beasts.”  Likewise, the lion is on the coat of arms of the Netherlands.