The Mexican Flag

From the beginning of Mexican history, the people living in the central parts of Mexico used different emblems to represent themselves and their neighbours. The Mexican flag experienced many changes until finally, in 1821, the Mexican flag was declared a unique national symbol by a Constitutional Congress. Its overall design was based on a decree that specified the Mexican flag size and colors, and established that the symbol on the center of the flag had to be an eagle.

Mexican Flag History

Mexico adopted the current design of its national flag on September 16, 1968. However, since the nation obtained independence from Spain in 1821 and established a constitutional government, the flag has relied upon the same colors and general appearance (only various details of the national Coat of Arms displayed on the flag have changed).

Flag of Mexico

© Martin D - Flag of Mexico

The modern Mexican flag celebrates a tradition of unity between Spanish immigrants and the approximately 700 indigenous Native American peoples who resided in Mexico at the time the Spanish Conquest began in 1517. The people of Mexico united to obtain freedom from colonial rule during the early 1800s.

At the conclusion of fighting, Augustin de Iturbide, a royalist, joined with a revolutionary, Vincente Ramon Geurrero, in adopting a new flag for Mexico on February 24, 1821. Jose Magdaleno Ocampo designed this "Flag of the Three Guarantees". It contained three slanted stripes in white, green and red, with a gold star displayed in each field.

Flag of Mexico, early 1821

Mexican Flag, early 1821

Just months later, Augustin de Iturbide adopted a new modified version of this flag during the brief period that he served as regent, from August 24 until November 2, 1821. It displayed the same slanting stripes in green, but colored each star differently and carried a golden crest in the center.

In November, Mexico's new Constitutional Congress adopted the direct ancestor of the modern flag of Mexico. The slanting stripes became vertical and for the first time, a brown eagle appeared in the center stripe as Mexico's National Coat of Arms. The new flag also changed the order of the colors, from white, green and red to green, white and red.

Flag of Mexico, November 1821

Mexican Flag, November 1821


The beautiful modern national flag of Mexico displays three equal vertical stripes from the mast to the exterior: green, white and red.

The National Coat of Arms of Mexico occupies the center of the flag, set entirely within the white stripe. It displays a brown eagle sitting on a flowering green and red Prickly Pear Cactus, clutching a serpent. A leafy half wreath extends along the bottom portion of this circular emblem.


The Modern Flag of Mexico

The Modern Flag of Mexico

Meaning of The Mexican flag

The meaning of the Mexican flag changed slightly over the course of time. The first national flag contained extensive heraldic symbolism inherited from Spain. It relied extensively on a flag that King Phillip IV of Spain granted for the use of the Celaya Regiment in 1669.

In 1856, the Mexican government adopted important legal reforms. It acted to clarify the meaning of the flag's colors in order to update symbolism associated with the national flag.

New legislation passed in 1859 and 1860 during the term of Liberal President Benito Juarez Garcia. It associated the color green with hope, white with unity, honesty and purity, and red with parenthood and the blood of Mexico's national heroes.

The Flag of Mexico

© Jasperdo - The Flag of Mexico

The Mexican National Coat of Arms relates to a vision which inspired the location of Mexico City centuries ago. It depicts an eagle eating a serpent held firmly in its beak and talons. The bird sits atop a prickly pear cactus.

During Mexico's long struggle for independence from Spain, the eagle, already a national symbol for independence and liberty in the recently established United States, became a popular revolutionary symbol in Mexico, too. At least one Mexican revolutionary leader, José María Morelos y Pavón, adopted a flag for his troops which displayed the eagle.

Mexico used this symbol in its National Coat of Arms consistently after its Constitutional Convention in 1821. Although the bird's appearance changed over the course of time, this element in the flag has appeared since Mexico achieved independence from Spain.

The National Coat of Arms of Mexico

The Mexican National Coat of Arms

Differences Between The Mexican And Italian flags

The Mexican national flag uses the same three vertical stripes as its national flag of Italy: green, white and red. However, observers easily identify Mexico's flag because it displays a National Coat of Arms in the center of the white stripe. The darker shades of green and red, as well as the different proportions, help achieve a unique appearance.

Civil Protocol / Salute

Former President of Mexico Performing the Civil Salute

Former President of Mexico, Civil Salute

When the flag is displayed to a crowd, often accompanied by the national anthem of Mexico, members of the audience rise and place their right hands flat, palms facing the ground, in front of their hearts as a gesture of respect.

In Mexico, if a man wears a hat, he removes his hat when he prepares to salute the flag. He holds it over his heart during the salute.

Just as in the USA, very specific rules apply for the display of the flag. Mexican citizens sometimes hang banners resembling the Mexican flag for parade purposes in a vertical display, with the green strip on top and the red stripe at the bottom.

However, when this presentation occurs, the National Coat of Arms of Mexico must stand upright with the bird on top and not positioned on either side of the ground. The National Coat of Arms should appear in exactly the same posture as it would in a flag flying from a flag pole. This requirement means that Mexican flags can't serve as vertical banners for parade purposes.

During periods of national mourning, Mexicans do permit their flag to fly at half mast. The person displaying the flag first raises it to the top of the flag pole, then lowers it mid-way down the staff into a half-mast position.

The Mexican flag must never touch the ground or remain on a flag pole in a tattered, unsuitable condition. People displaying the Mexican flag should replace it with a new version of the flag if the fabric wears out.

The Mexican flag being raised during a ceremony

© Angélica Martínez - The Mexican flag being raised during a ceremony

Military Protocol / Salute

Mexico employs the same national flag for civil and military purposes. Members of the Mexican armed forces and veterans salute their flag when an officer issues a formal command to salute. They perform a formal military salute, just as they would to an officer.

Variants of The Mexican Flag

The flag is sometimes displayed in two official variants. One depicts the National Coat of Arms of Mexico in solid gold. The other displays the Coat of Arms primarily in gold, but also uses gray to highlight the ground.

During the 1990s, to inspire patriotism in children, the Mexican government authorized the military to display huge Mexican flags above national landmarks and in border communities. The giant flags used the same design and colors as the smaller national flag of Mexico.

A Variant of the Mexican Flag

A Variant of the Mexican Flag

Facts about the Mexican Flag

  • Mexico's national flag dates from 1821, with some later modifications.
  • The flag's history reflects Spanish heraldic symbolism.
  • Mexico adopted its current national flag on September 16, 1968.
  • Two official variants depict the National Coat of Arms in gold, or in gold and gray .
  • Constitution Day occurs every year on the first Monday of February. It honours the Constitution and national flag of Mexico.