Last modified: 2013-04-04 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
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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by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, August 31, 2001
Based on [sdn76].
The first Europeans to visit the coast 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 Mexica on August 23, 1521. Such is a brief space of time in which the so-called Nueva España 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) [csm60], [g2c83] and [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 complited by trophies of war [smz01] and [trn99].
In 1813, in the frame of the independence war, insurgent forces declared the independence of New Spain under the name of América Septentrional [ala85] and [bus85]. In 1815, coat of arms and flags of war, truce and commerce for the new internationally-unrecognized country were adopted, to be abolished in 1821, though in 1823, there were failed-attemps to restore them [lve91], [cpe70] and [sjs40]. 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. 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 independent New Spain as a whole [lve91] and [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 to be saluted in New Orleans, USA, with 19 cannon shots [lve91], [cpe70] and [sjs40].
In 1821, a recent-formation Army of the Three Guarantees, which would led to the independence from Spain, adopted for its own 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].
When New Spain finally gained independence from Spain as Imperio Mexicano in 1821, the flag for the new country adopted the colors of the Three-Guarantess Army, but 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] and [flr00].
Since then (1821), Mexico has retained as its national flag the vertical green-white-red tricolor in various proportions, 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], [col90], [ban95] and [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], and [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 field's ratio [csm60], [sma56], [gob68], [sdn76], [sdn79], [gob84], [ban95], [glr96] and [gag97].
The 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. 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 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 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 "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 since 1880, during the Porfirio Díaz's regime [csm60] and [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 of the eagle 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 July 9, 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 Ley sobre las Características y el Uso del Escudo, la Bandera y el Himno Nacionales, 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 law, 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 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 form [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, etc [gob68]. The Presidential sash, emblem of the Excecutive Power, is also 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].
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, June 15, 2009.
All images by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán.
|#||Coat of arms||Coat of arms
|Flag||In use / Revisions dates in italics||Use||Other flags and ensigns||Naval jack|
|Pre-independece||July, 1815 -ca. 1821|
|1.||Nov. 2, 1821 (confirmed on January 7, 1822)-Apr. 14, 1823|
|2.||Apr. 14, 1823-Sept. 20, 1863 / July 15, 1867-Sept. 15, 1968.
Apr. 14, 1823-Sept. 20, 1863 / July 15, 1867-Dec. 30, 1880.
|Dec. 30, 1880-Dec. 31, 1898||
National jack until September 1945.
|Jan. 1, 1899-Sept. 30, 1916|
|Oct. 1, 1916-Feb. 5, 1934
Flag first hoisted: Sept. 15, 1917.
Coat of arms finally approved: Aug. 22, 1918.
|Feb. 5, 1934-Sept. 15, 1968|
|3||September 20, 1863-Jun. 18, 1864||Coat of arms adopted by the Imperial Regency in 1863|
|4.||Jun. 18, 1864 (confirmed: Nov. 1, 1865)-Jul. 15, 1867||
National jack (?).
|5.||Since Sept. 16, 1968
Confirmed on February 24, 1984.
by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, May 24, 2002
Anything below this line was not added by the editor of this page.