The Flag of The United States of Mexico is a rectangle with three vertical stripes: green, white and red from left to right (the colors are reversed if you’re seeing the back of the flag, naturally). The stripes are of equal width. In the center of the flag is a design of an eagle, perched on a cactus, eating a snake. The cactus in on an island in a lake, and beneath is a garland of green leaves and a red, white and green ribbon. Without the coat of arms, the Mexican flag looks like the Italian flag, although it is longer and the colors are of a darker shade.
History of the Flag:
Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. The army formed after the struggle for independence was known as the Army of the Three Guarantees, and their flag was white, green and red with three yellow stars. The first flag of the new republic was modified from this one. The original is very similar to the one used today, but the eagle is not shown with a snake, but wearing a crown. In 1823, the design was modified to include the snake, although the eagle was in a different pose, facing the other direction. It underwent minor changes in 1916 and 1934 before the current version was officially adopted in 1968.
Flag of the Second Empire:
Since independence, only on one occasion has the Mexican flag undergone a drastic revision. This was from 1864 to 1867 when Mexico was ruled by Maximilian of Austria
, a European nobleman imposed on Mexico by France. He redesigned the flag: the colors stayed the same, but golden royal eagles were put in each corner and the coat of arms was “framed” by two golden griffins and included the phrase “Equidad en la Justicia” or “Equity in Justice.” When Maximilian was deposed and killed in 1867, the old flag was restored.
Symbolism of the Colors:
When the flag was first adopted, the green stood for independence from Spain, the white for Catholicism and the red for unity. During the secular presidency of Benito Juarez
, the meanings were changed: green for hope, white for unity and red for the spilled blood of fallen national heroes. These meanings are traditional: nowhere in Mexican law does it clearly state any official symbolism for the colors.
Symbolism of the Coat of Arms:
The eagle, snake and cactus refer back to an old Aztec legend. According to tradition, the Aztecs were a nomadic tribe in northern Mexico who followed a prophecy: they should make their home where they saw an eagle perched on a cactus while eating a snake. They wandered until they came to a lake in central Mexico, where they saw the eagle and founded what would become the mighty city of Tenochtitlán, now Mexico City
. The image is still closely associated with Mexico City.
February 24 is Flag Day in Mexico, celebrating the day in 1821 when different rebel armies joined together to secure independence from Spain. When the national anthem is played, Mexicans must salute the flag by holding their right hand, palm down, over their heart. Like other national flags, it can be flown at half-staff in official mourning upon the death of someone important.
Mexicans and their Flag:
Like most people of most nations, Mexicans are very proud of their flag and like to show it off. Many private individuals or companies will fly them proudly. In 1999, President Ernesto Zedillo commissioned giant flags for several important historical sites. These banderas monumentales or “monumental banners” can be seen for miles and were so popular that several state and local governments made their own.
In 2007, singer Paulina Rubio appeared in a magazine photo shoot wearing only a Mexican flag. It created quite the controversy, although she later said that she meant no offense and apologized.