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Evolution of the Mexican flag

Last modified: 2015-01-24 by juan manuel gabino villascán
Keywords: mexico | historical | empire | republic | evolution | coat of arms | eagle | snake (rettlesnake) | snake | prickly pear | lake | stone | crown | wreath | oak | laurel |
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[National flag of Mexico, by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] 4:7
[National flag and ensign]
by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 10 November 2012
Coat of arms provided by the National
Museum of History [MNH], Mexico, 31 October 2012
See: See also:

Introduction

The first Europeans to visit the coast of present-day Mexico were Francisco Fernández de Córdoba in 1517 and Juan de Grijalva in 1518; conquest began in 1519 and Hernán Cortés defeated the Aztec empire on August 23, 1521. Such is a brief space of time in which the so-called Nueva España, i. e. New Spain, was brought under the dominion of Spain, which continued to rule over it for the next three hundred years. Banners with the emblem based on the old pre-hispanic symbol of the eagle, snake and prickly pear were widely used in conquest expeditions, like that to the Florida (ca. 1550), nevertheless, the only official symbols of New Spain were those of colonial power [csm60] [g2c83] [flr00].

After many minor attemps to free New Spain from Spanish rule, a major uprising was held in 1810. Insurgent forces, made out of peasants (mostly), creoles and renegade military officers, adopted white and blue banners based on the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and charged also by a bagde of an eagle, a snake, a prickly pear, a rock, and water. With time, this bagde had turned to be in the national emblem; the achievent used to be completed by trophies of war [smz01] [trn99].

In 1813, in the frame of the independence war, insurgent forces declared the independence of New Spain under the name of América Septentrional (Northern America) [ala85] [bus85]. In 1815, coat of arms and flags of war, truce and commerce for the new proposed country were adopted. The coat of arms consisted in a shield bearing the national emblem (eagle, snake, prickly pear, rock and water), trophies of war, a garland and a scroll reading INDEPENDENCIA MEXICANA AÑO 1810 (Mexican independence year of 1810). Though such an emblem had been previously used several times since early colonial times, this was the first time when it was officially granted to represent an independent New Spain [lve91] [cpe70]. The war flag consisted in a red-bordered checked field of blue and white, with the coat of arms in the center. This flag is said was saluted in New Orleans, USA, with 19 cannon shots [lve91] [cpe70] [sjs40]. The symbols were formally abolished in 1821, when Mexico finally gained independence from Spain. In 1823, after the republic was proclaimed, there were failed-attemps to restore them [lve91] [cpe70] [sjs40].

In 1821, the recent-formation Army of the Three Guarantees, which would led to the definitive independence from Spain, adopted a colors for its own consisting of a square flag divided into three diagonal stripes in white, green and red (form lower hoist to upper fly), with an eigh-poited star in each stripe (green on white, red on green and white on red) and an imperial crown in the middle of the green stripe [csm60] [flr00].

In 1821, when New Spain finally gained independence from Spain as Imperio Mexicano (Mexican Empire), the flag adopted then was after that of the Three-Guarantess Army, but the colors arranged into three equal vertical stripes in the following order from the hoist: green, white and red. In the middle of the white stripe was to be placed a crowned eagle, taken from the imperal arms, which kept the same elements of the national emblem used in previous military banners and standars, excepting the snake [csm60] [flr00].

Since then (1821), Mexico has retained as its national flag the vertical green-white-red tricolor, charged in the middle of the white stripe with the national emblem, varying in some extent but mainly consisting in the eagle, snake, prickly pear, stone and lake, some times with crown and others with wreath or with out them [smi75c] [a8m86] [bas83] [sgo90] [ban95] [flr00]. Actually, four major changes of the flag and coat of arms succeded after the first flag was adopted in 1821: 1823, 1863, 1864, and 1968, all indicating the year when a new coat of arms, based always on the same national elements (eagle,snake,prickly pear, stone and lake), was adopted [csm60] [ban95] [gag97]. It is remarkable, that besides those changes occurred in 1823 (from a monarchy to a republic), 1863 (return to a monarchy) and 1867 (restoration of the republic), all modifications in both the national flag and coat of arms did not come out for political reasons but for artistic interpretations leading to revisions to the national coat of arms and changes in the flag's ratio [csm60] [sma56] [gob68] [sdn76] [sdn79] [gob84] [ban95] [glr96] [gag97].

The 1821 Imperial badge, as mentioned above, placed a crown on the eagle, representing the Imperial regime. The eagle was depicted alone in a three-quarters position with expanded wings with no snake. With the establishment of the Republic in 1823, the crown was taken off while the snake added [ban95]. In 1863, a jointly army formed of French and Mexican troops occupied Mexico City proclaiming the Empire (commonly know as "Second Empire"). Then, a mix of pre-Hispanic and European elements such as the plume, scepter, mantling and imperial crown adorned the original emblem of the eagle and snake, just to be replaced the following year by a heraldically perfect coat of arms adopted by newly appointed Emperor Maximilian. The new emblem consisted of the eagle, snake, garland, scepter, sword, crown, griffin, scroll and motto. This coat of arms featured in the Imperial flag from 1864 to 1867; war and civil flags bore just the eagle stood on the prickly pear holding the snake while the merchant ensign consisted only in the plain tricolor field with no adornments. In 1867, the republican regime was restored, so were the 1823 coat of arms and flag [csm60].

The 1823 emblem, the first one of the Republican regime, underwent several interpretations and revisions always based on the decree of the same year, out of which just four might be considered as official: 1880, 1899, 1916, 1934 [csm60]. From 1823 to 1916, the position of eagle varied from three-quarters to a frontal position according to the style of the time, reaching certain kind of uniformity from 1880 on [csm60] [ban95]. In 1916, inspired by ancient manuscripts and a 1823-minted coin, a major revision to the coat of arms took effect when the eagle turned to a profile position looking to its right, exposing then, its left side. In 1934, a more stylized form of eagle and pre-Hispanic-style elements were adopted; the eagle kept the profile position, though. This position remains to the present time [gob68] [ban95].

Regarding to the ratio, the first one adopted by any law was 1:2 on Nov. 1, 1865, during the so-called Second Empire. On 9 July 1891, the Ordenanza de la Marina de Guerra de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos established the 2:3 ratio for Mexican naval flags and ensigns [sgm91], which was confirmed in 1912, by means of a new proclaimed military ordinance for both, the Army and the Navy [sma56]. The 4:7 ratio was established by law in 1968 [ban95].

It was until 1968, by means of the flag act, when the 1823 decree and all previous revisions, laws and rules opposing it were officially abolished, jointly with all prior flags and emblems. At that time the current flag and coat of arms were adopted [gob68]. The 1968 act, published in August 17, and in effect on September 16, gathered all dispositions regarding the coat of arms and flag in just one single document [gob68]. The same law, granted the National Congress the power to rule on the national coat of arms, flag, and anthem [gob68]. Features of the flag and coat of arms are deeply detailed and described. An up-standing "Mexican" eagle, a rettlesnake, and pre-Hispanic-like figures featured the new coat of arms; all elements being arranged in a more armonic and more haraldic shape [gob68]. The tricolor field was retained, establishing the official ratio at 4:7. The new flag adopted, according to the law, is to be used for all porposes, e.g.: national flag and ensign; it is to be flown in customs officces, airports, ships, aircrafts, seaports, harbor masterhips, etc [gob68]. The act establishes as well the Presidential sash, emblem of the Excecutive Power, it is described as a form of the national flag to be worn exclusively by the President of the Republic [gob68]. Rules of how and when the flag and coat of arms should be used are stated in this law as well [gob68].

In 1984 the new Ley sobre el Escudo, la Bandera y el Himno Nacionales was published, abolishing that of 1968; nevertheless, the flag and coat of arms remained unchanged, instead, they were confirmed [gob84]. Since then, based on the 1984 decree, several additions and amendments have been made to the law not to modify any design but to confirm, clarify and explain features and usage of the national coat of arms, flag and, most of all, the anthem [gob84].

by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 26 July 2013.


Chart of the evolution of the Mexican flag and coat of arms

Text by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán
Images by: (1) André Serranho, (2) Eugene Ipavec, (3) Luis Miguel Arias, (4) ŽeljkoHeimer, and (rest of them) Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán

Adopted-abolished Coat of arms National flags and ensigns Use Naval jack Other flags and ensigns Notes


1506 (1521)-1700 No image available yet [Spain: Royal Banner 1580-1700.
	by André Serranho]1 [State flag] ? [Hernán Cortés' Standard, 1519-1521.
	By Eugene Ipavec]2 The flag and coat of arms of New Spain were those of Spain
 
See: Spain: Royal Standards 1580-1700
[Cavalry Standard of the Conquest of Mexico, 1519-1521.
	By Eugene Ipavec]2

1785-1821 No image available yet [Spanish War Ensign 1785-1931, in use in New Spain until 1821.
	By Luis Miguel Arias]3 [civil ensign] ? [Spanish Civil Ensign 1785-1927, in use in New Spain until 1821.
	By Željko Heimer]4 See: Spain: Historical Flags 1785-1931
[Spanish Civil Ensign 1785-1927, in use in New Spain until 1821.
	By Željko Heimer]4 [war ensign]

16 september 1810 - ca. 1821 No coat of arms adopted No flag adopted   No naval jack adopted [Banner of the Virgen de Guadalupe flown by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla: 1810.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino villascán] The New Spain independence war broke up in 1810. Until 1815, there was not a serious proposal for adopting national symbols. All flags, standards and emblems were to identify certain armed group.
 
The first independentist colors carried a depiction of the Virgin of Guadalupe on white or white and blue backgroud.

1811-1817 [Seal of the Suprema Junta Nacional Americana: 1811-1817, variant. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] No flag adopted   No naval jack adopted [War flag of the Imperial Army of the Three Guarantees: ca. March 1821-2 Nov. 1821.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] Army colors.
[Seal of the Suprema Junta Nacional Americana: 1811-1817, variant. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]

3 July 1815 (confirmed 14 July 1815)- 2 Nov. 1821 [Coat or arms of the self-proclaimed América Mexicana: 1815-ca. 1821. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [War flag of the self-proclaimed América Mexicana: 1815-ca. 1821. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [War flag and ensign] No naval jack adopted   War flag and ensing.
The motto reads in uppercase: MEXICAN INDEPENDENCE YEAR 1810
 
Flag of truce.
 
Civil (merchant) ensign.
[Flag of truce of the self-proclaimed América Mexicana: 1815-ca. 1821.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] ?
[Merchant ensign of the self-proclaimed América Mexicana: 1815-ca. 1821.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Civil ensign]

ca. March 1821-2 November 1821 No coat of arms adopted No flag adopted   No naval jack adopted [War flag of the Imperial Army of the Three Guarantees: ca. March 1821-2 Nov. 1821.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] Army colors.

2 November 1821 (confirmed 7 January 1821)-14 April 1823 [Full coat of arms of Mexico (Mexican Empire): 2 Nov. 1821-14 April 1823.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Mexican Empire flag: 2 Nov. 1821-14 April 1823.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [National flag and ensign] ?  

The first flag to adopt the green, white and red vertical tricolor.
The corresponding decrees state that only a "crowned eagle" shall be placed on the white stripe.


Adopted-abolished Coat of arms National flags and ensigns Use Naval jack Other flags and ensigns Notes

14 April 1823-20 September 1863 /
15 July 1867-30 December 1880
[Coat of arms of Mexico: 14 April 1823-20 September 1863 / 15 July 1867-30 December 1880.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Flag of Mexico: 14 April 1823-20 September 1863 / 15 July 1867-30 December 1880.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [National flag and ensign] ?  

Second national (first republican) flag and ensign.
Green, white, red vertical tricolor with emblem of eagle, no crown, prickly pear, stone, lake and laurel and oak wreath.
 
Durign the Second Empire (1863-1867), the flag was flown by the republican government.
 
It was official restored on 15 July 1867.


20 September 1863 (by decree of 20 Sept. 1863) - 18 June 1864 [Full coat of arms of Mexico: 20 September 1863-18 June 1864.
	From a photo taken at the Museo Nacional de Historia, edited by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] It is unknow if there were any change of the flag   No naval jack adopted Due the state of war at the time, several flags were used. To distiguish monarchist from republican flags, the former flown tricolor flags with crowned eagles. Brand new emblem of crown, eagle, snake, prickly pear, stone and lake on a gold-bordered shield.
Plume, collar of the Orden de Guadalupe, scepter, quiver, macana, wreath, crown, scroll and mantling.
Motto "RELIGION INDEPENDENCE AND UNION" [RELIGION INDEPENDENCIA Y UNION].
 
The decree does not describes any flag; besides, there is no historical evidence that this coat of arms had been used on flags.

18 June 1864 (confirmed 1 November 1865) - 15 July 1867 [Full coat of arms of Mexico: 18 June 1864 (confirmed 1 November 1865)-15 July 1867.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Mexican Empire: 18 June 1864 (confirmed 1st. November 1865)-15 July 1867.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [State flag and ensign] [Mexican Empire: 18 June 1864 (confirmed 1st. November 1865)-15 July 1867.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]   Coat of arms changed to a European-styled one: gold-bordered blue, oval shield charged with an eagle, snake, stone, prickly pear, and lake. Wreath. Crown, griffin, scepter, sword, ribbons. Collar of the Gran Cruz de la Orden del Águila Mexicana. Scroll and motto "EQUITY IN JUSTICE" [EQUIDAD EN LA JUSTICIA].
 
According to a paint of the time, it seems to be that the imperial flag was used as naval jack.
 
All the imperial symbols were abolished on 15 July 1867 when the republican institution were officially reestablished.
[Imperial war flag and ensign; possible civil flag: 18 June 1864 (confirmed 1st. November 1865)-15 July 1867.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [War flag and ensign] or [War flag and ensign]
[Imperial civil ensign: 18 June 1864 (confirmed 1st. November 1865)-15 July 1867.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Civil ensign]

Adopted-abolished Coat of arms National flags and ensigns Use Naval jack Other flags and ensigns Notes

30 December 1880-31 December 1898 [Coat of arms of Mexico: 30 December 1880-31 December 1898.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Mexico: 30 December 1880-31 December 1898.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [National flag, and state and war ensign] [Mexico: 30 December 1880-31 December 1898.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]   The 1823-coat of arms first revision (1880-1898) consisted on a French-styled eagle, the snake, prickly pear, stone, lake, and a semicircular wreath of oak (right) and laurel (left), white ribbon.
[Mexico: 5 February 1934-15 September 1968. 
                        By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Civil ensign]

1 January 1899-30 September 1916 [Coat of arms of Mexico: 30 December 1880-31 December 1898.
	By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]   The second revision of the 1823 coat of arms (1899-1917) kept exactly the same elements just slightly stylized.
 
The flag actually did not suffer any changes. Serveral variants were used.

1 October 1916-4 February 1934 [1823 national coat of arms, third revision: 1916(1918)-1934. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [1823 national flag, third revision: 1917-1934. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [National flag and ensign] [1823 national flag, third revision: 1917-1934. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]   Flag first hoisted: Sept. 15, 1917.
Coat of arms finally approved: Aug. 22, 1918.
The eagle was arranged from frontal to profile position.
[Mexico: 5 February 1934-15 September 1968. 
                        By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Merchant ensign]

5 February 1934-15 September 1968;
by decree promulgated, published and in effect on 5 February 1934.
[1823 coat of arms, fourth and last revision: Feb. 5, 1934-Sept. 15, 1968. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [1823 national flag, fourth and last revision: Feb. 5, 1934-Sept. 15, 1968. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [National flag, and state and war ensign]

[1823 national flag, fourth and last revision: Feb. 5, 1934-Sept. 15, 1968. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]

[Naval jack 1945-1994 and 2000-present. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]

  Third official revision of the 1823 coat of arms.
 
The coat of arms was stylized adopting a pre-Hispanic shape while the eagle kept the profile position.
[Mexico: 5 February 1934-15 September 1968. 
                        By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Merchant ensign]

16 September 1968
By decree of 17 August 1968
 
Confirmed on 24 February 1984
by decree of 8 February 1984.
[Mexcian national coat of arms since 1968. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Mexican national flag since 1968. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [National flag and ensign]

[Naval jack 1945-1994 and 2000-present. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]

[Naval jack 1994-2000. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]

[Naval jack 1945-1994 and 2000-present. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán]

  Present-day natonal flag and coat of arms. The flag was adopted for all purposes.
&nbs;
Naval jacks were adopted in 1945, 1994 and 2000 repectively.

Adopted-abolished Coat of arms National flags and ensigns Use Naval jack Other flags and ensigns Notes


Text by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán
Images by: (1) André Serranho, (2) Eugene Ipavec, (3) Luis Miguel Arias, (4) ŽeljkoHeimer, and (rest of them) Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán


Anything below this line was not added by the editor of this page.