The Mexican Flag

History and Meaning of the Tricolor

Mexican Flag
••• fitopardo.com/Getty Images

The Mexican flag proudly waves over Mexican squares throughout the country. But do you know what the red, white and green symbolize? What about the image in the center? Read on to find out why the flag of Mexico looks as it does today.

Mexico's Flag

The Mexican flag consists of three vertical bands in green, white and red, with the Mexican coat of arms (which portrays an eagle on a prickly pear cactus with a snake in its beak and talons) in the center of the white band.

The flag's proportion is 4:7. The flag, along with the Mexican Coat of Arms (escudo nacional) and the Mexican National Anthem, is considered one of the sí­mbolos patrios, "patriotic symbols" of Mexico.

History and Meaning of the Mexican Flag

The first flag of Mexico was a standard with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the country's patroness still today. The nation's first president, Guadalupe Victoria (originally named José Miguel Ramón Adaucto Fernández y Félix but changed his name to represent the victory over the Spaniards in gaining Mexican independence), carried this flag into battle and changed his name accordingly after the assault in Oaxaca of 1812. The colors were adopted by the Army of the Three Guarantees during the War of Independence, which aimed to defend Mexican religion, independence, and unity.

Mexico's flag as it is today was adopted in 1968, though a very similar flag had been in use since 1821.

Originally the green represented independence, white represented religion and red the union of Americans and Europeans, but during the secularization of the country under President Benito Juarez (who was president of Mexico from 1858 to 1872) the meanings of the colors were adapted to represent hope (green), unity (white) and the blood of the national heroes (red).

The Mexican Coat of Arms

The Mexican Coat of Arms is taken from an Aztec legend which recounts the way in which the Aztecs came to choose the site where they built their capital city of Tenochtitlan (where Mexico City stands today). The Aztecs, also known as the Mexica ("meh-shee-ka"), were a nomadic tribe traveling from the north of the country. Their leader Tenoch was informed in a dream by the god of war, Huitzilopochtli, that they were to settle in the place where they would find an eagle on a prickly pear cactus holding a serpent. The place where they saw this sight was quite inhospitable - a swampy area in the center of three lakes, but this is where they settled and built the great city of Tenochtitlan.

Protocol

When the Mexican flag is displayed, Mexicans stand at attention with their right arm placed in a salute over their chests with the hand flat and palm facing downward. In schools, Mexican children are taught to recite the oath to the flag (Juramiento a la Bandera) which is the following: 

¡Bandera de México!
Legado de nuestros héroes,
símbolo de la unidad
de nuestros padres y nuestros hermanos.
Te prometemos ser siempre fieles
a los principios de libertad y de justicia
que hacen de nuestra patria la nación independiente, humana y generosa
a la que entregamos nuestra existencia.

which translated means: 

Flag of Mexico!
Legacy of our heroes,
symbol of the unity
of our parents and our siblings.
We promise to always be loyal
to the principles of liberty and justice
that make our homeland
the independent, humane and generous nation
to which we surrender our existence.

Flag Day

February 24 is Flag Day in Mexico and it is celebrated with civic ceremonies honoring the Mexican Flag.