Mexican flag at sunset, Acapulco, Gro.

Mexican flag at sunset, Acapulco, Gro. Photo by Jose Hernandez.

The Mexican flag has changed many times over the course of the country’s history…

When Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared independence in 1810, he carried the standard flag of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This is considered to be the first Mexican flag.

In 1813, the revolutionaries designed a new flag. They used white silk with a border of blue and white squares. In the center, an eagle perched on a cactus. This image was encircled by a Latin motto, Oculis et unguibus asque victrix (victorious with both eyes and talons), and was topped with the Spanish crown.

The national flag was created in 1821 and adopted by el Ejército Trigarante (Army of Three Guarantees), which took its name from the guarantees of religion, independence and union promised by the Plan of Iguala. The three colors of the Mexican flag; green, white, red, were adopted at that time.

During the short-lived first Mexican empire, the stripes changed position. The eagle was placed alone on the white band, facing forwards with its wings spread. Its head was shown in profile bearing a crown.

The national seal was first added during Maximilian’s rule, when a flag bearing the eagle under the crown of the French empire was adopted. Porfirio Diaz subsequently ordered that the eagle on the seal be shown facing forwards with its wings extended.

Later, in 1823, under Venustiano Carranza, it was modified again. This time to reflect the Mexica legend of the founding of Tenochtitlan, when the Mexicas traveled from Aztlán (now the state of Nayarit) in search of the sign that their god Huitzilopochtli had told them they would find in the place where they should establish their empire. This sign was an eagle on top of a nopal cactus devouring a serpent. They found this on a small island in the middle of a lake. They settled there and founded the city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. Because of this legend the eagle is now shown in left profile with a green, white and red ribbon representing the patriotic nation was added, shown tying together branches of oak and laurel.

Green is for hope and victory.

White is for the purity of our ideals.

Red is for union and the blood shed by our national heroes.