Unlike many other flags around the world, Mexico’s national flag is one that has not changed significantly since its first version in 1821. The design of the first Mexican flag was greatly influenced by the flags Mexicans were using during the War of Independence from Spain. Many of these rebel flags included the eagle on a cactus and the official flag colors: green, white, and red.
Agustín de Iturbide officially decreed Mexico’s first national flag in November 1821, following Mexico’s independence from Spain, although the the flag was not officially used until July 1822. The flag included the vertical tricolor of green, white, and red, and the national coat of arms, the crowned eagle, in the center.
When Mexico became a federal republic in 1823, the government altered the flag slightly. Instead of a crowned eagle, the eagle was depicted with a serpent in its right talon. The flag also included the oak and laurel branches that are still included in the Mexican flag today.
The Federal Republic of Mexico gave way in 1865 to the Second Mexican Empire, and once again, the flag changed. Still keeping the vertical green, white, and red tricolor pattern, the Emperor Maximilian ordered the ratio of the flag to be changed and for the flag to include four crowned eagles, one in each corner of the flag. Each eagle stands on a cactus, which is on a rock in a lake, holding a snake in its mouth.
Mexico’s current national flag was approved by President Venustiano Carranza’s decree in 1916, officially adopted on September 16, 1968, and confirmed by law on February 24, 1984. The current flag still includes the tricolor green, white, and red, but the eagle is no facing to the side instead of to the front.
The Mexican flag is rich in symbolism and history. The green strip symbolizes the Independnce Movement of the early 19th century. The white symbolizes the purity of the Catholic religion. The red symbolizes both the blood of Mexico’s national heroes and recognizes the Spaniards that joined the Mexicans in the fight for independence. The shield in the center of the white stripe includes an eagle eating a snake, standing on a prickly pear cactus that is on a rock in the middle of a lake. This coat of arms has its roots in an Aztec legend: the Aztec gods told them to build their city where they found this exact scene. The Aztecs followed this command and built their first city where Mexico City is today.