Flag of Mexico

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Flag of Mexico
Flag of Mexico
Use National flag and ensign.
Proportion 4:7
Adopted September 16, 1968
Design A vertical tricolor of green, white and red with the Mexican coat of arms charged in the centre.

The Flag of Mexico is a vertical tricolor of green, white, and red with the national coat of arms charged in the centre of the white stripe. While the meaning of the colors has changed over time, these three colors were adopted by Mexico following independence from Spain during the country's War of Independence. The current flag was adopted in 1968, but the overall design has been used since 1821 when the First National Flag was created. The current law of national symbols that governs the use of the national flag has been in place since 1984.

Throughout history, the flag has changed eight times, as the design of the coat of arms and the length-width ratios of the flag have been modified. However, the coat of arms has had the same features throughout: an eagle, holding a serpent in its talon, is perched on top of a prickly pear cactus; the cactus is situated on a rock that rises above a lake. The coat of arms is derived from an Aztec legend that their gods told them to build a city where they spot an eagle and a serpent, which is now Mexico City. The current national flag, the Fourth National Flag, is also used as the Mexican naval ensign by ships registered in Mexico.

Design and symbolism

Official construction sheet.
Official construction sheet.

The official design of the Mexican Flag can be found in Article 3 of the Law on the National Arms, Flag, and Anthem, passed in 1984. The article dictates what must be featured on the flag and also its proportions. Copies of the national flag which are made according to this law are kept in two locations: the General National Archive (Archivo General de la Nación) and the National Museum of History ( Museo Nacional de Historia).

Art. 3: "The Bandera Nacional is a rectangle divided into three vertical stripes of identical measures, with the colors placed in the following order from hoist to fly: green, white, and red. Centered in the white stripe, the National Coat of Arms has a diameter of three-fourths the width of the white stripe. The proportion of the flag is four to seven (Ratio 4:7). It could carry a rope or tie of the same colors below the truck."

While the exact shades of the flag have not been defined by law, the Secretariat of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación) has suggested the following:

Scheme Green White Red
Pantone 3425c Safe 186c
RGB 0-104-71 255-255-255 206-17-38
CMYK 100-0-32-59 0-0-0-0-0 0-92-82-19

Coat of arms

Coat of arms.
Coat of arms.

The Coat of Arms is charged in the centre of the flag, and was inspired by an Aztec legend regarding the founding of Tenochtitlan. According to popular legend, the Aztec people, then a nomadic tribe, were wandering throughout Mexico in search of a sign that would indicate the precise spot upon which they were to build their capital. The god Huitzilopochtli had commanded them to find an eagle devouring a snake, perched atop a prickly pear cactus ( nopal in Spanish) growing on a rock submerged in a lake. After two hundred years of wandering, they found the promised sign on a small island in the swampy Lake Texcoco. Here they founded their new capital, Tenochtitlan, which later became known as Mexico City, the current capital of Mexico. The current coat of arms, which was redesigned in 1968, was designed by Francisco Eppens Helguera and approved by President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.

Meaning of the colors

The colors of the flag originated from the banner of the Army of the Three Guarantees, which lasted from 1821 until 1823. Originally, the colors had the following meanings:

  • Green: Independencia (independence from Spain)
  • White: Religión (religion, the Roman Catholic faith)
  • Red: Unión (union between the Europeans and Americans)
Flag of the Three Guarantees.
Flag of the Three Guarantees.

However, the meaning of the colors changed because of the secularization of the country, which was spearheaded by President Benito Juárez. The new colour meanings are as follows:

  • Green: Hope
  • White: Unity
  • Red: Blood of the national heroes

The World Encyclopedia of Flags, a book written by Alfred Znamierowski, also gives the following meaning to the colors of the flag:

  • Green: Hope
  • White: Purity
  • Red: Religion

Since Article 3 of the Flag Law does not give an official symbolism to the colors, other meanings may be given to them. Other groups have used the national colors as part of their own logos or symbols. For example, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) political party has adopted the national colors as part of their logo. Another political party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), also had the national colors as part of their logo, but changed them in the 1990s after a controversy surrounding impartiality issues, while the PRI did not. Several states, such as Querétaro and Hidalgo have incorporated either elements of the national flag, or even the entire flag, into their coat of arms.


Before the adoption of the first national flag, various flags used during the War of Independence from Spain, had a great influence on the design of the first national flag. Although it was never adopted as an official flag, many historians consider the first Mexican flag to be the Standard of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which was carried by Miguel Hidalgo during the Grito de Dolores on September 16, 1810. The Standard became the initial symbol of the rebel army during the Mexican War of Independence. Various other Standards were used during the war. José María Morelos used a flag with and image of the Virgin to which was added a blue and white insignia with a crowned eagle on a cactus over a three-arched bridge and the letters V.V.M. (Viva la Virgen María – "long live the Virgin Mary"). The Revolutionary Army also used a flag featuring the colors white, blue and red in vertical stripes. The first use of the actual colors—green, white and red—was in the flag of the unified Army of the Three Guarantees (pictured above) after independence from Spain was won.

Flag display at the History Museum of Monterrey, Nuevo León.
Flag display at the History Museum of Monterrey, Nuevo León.

The first official national flag was established in 1821, the first year of Mexican recognized sovereignty. The imperial government that was set up chose a tricolor flag of green, white and red and charged with the national coat of arms. The official decree stated that

"Sole article:(...) the national flag and flags of the army shall be tricolor, adopting forever the colors green, white and "encarnado" [flesh-colored red] arranged vertically, with the crowned eagle in the centre of the white stripe, according the following design..."

While similar to the national flag that is used today, the eagle in these arms is not holding a serpent in his talons and a crown has been affixed to the head of the eagle to signify the Empire. Variants of this flag that appeared in this period also included a naval flag that had the tricolor pattern, but only contained the eagle with the crown above its head. The military also used a similar, square, flag, but the eagle was larger than on the national flag. The national flag was officially decreed by Agustín de Iturbide in November 1821 and first officially used in July 1822. This flag was no longer used upon the abolishment of the empire.

The second national flag that was adopted came around the same time of the establishment of the first federal republic in 1823. The new flag chosen for the republic in April of that year, with the only difference is the appearance of the central emblem. The crown was removed from the eagle's head and a serpent was placed in the eagle's right talon. Another addition to the flag is a branch of oak and laurel branches, a tradition that was carried over to the current flag. This flag was discontinued in 1864 upon the dissolution of the federal republic.

The third official national flag was that of the Second Mexican Empire. Once again, the national flag used the green, white and red tricolor pattern with the white stripe being charged with the national arms. However, the ratio of the flag was changed from 4:7 to 1:2 and that four eagles, which had crowns above their heads, are placed at each corner of the flag. The design, which was ordered by the Emperor Maximilian, designed the arms to look similar to the French Imperial arms, but decided to add a bit of "Mexican flavor" to the flag. The coat of arms was described in a decree issued in November of 1865 as:

"(...) oval in shape in blue; in the centre is depicted the eagle of Anahuac, in profile and passant, supported by a cactus, supported, in turn, by a rock sunk on water, and ripping a snake. The border is gold charged by a garland of encino and laurel. The crest is the Imperial Crown. As supporters, two griffins from our elders' arms, their upper half in black and the lower in gold; behind the scepter and sword in saltire. The shield is surrounded by the collar of the Order of the "Águila Mexicana", and the motto: "Equidad en la Justicia" [Equity on Justice] (...)."

The flag was abandoned in 1867 when Maximilian was overthrown and executed by the Mexican people. The second national flag was adopted once again as the national flag, but it was not officially declared as such.

The current national flag was adopted on September 16, 1968, and was confirmed by law on February 24, 1984. The current version is an adaptation of the design approved by presidential decree in 1916 by Venustiano Carranza, where the eagle was changed from a front-facing to a side-facing position.

Before the adoption of the current national flag, official flags have been used by the government. All of these flags used the tricolor pattern, with the only differences being the changes in the coat of arms, which was still charged in the centre of the white stripe. One possible reason for the 1968 flag and arms change was that Mexico City was the host of the 1968 Summer Olympic Games. Around this same time period, the plain tricolor flag that Mexico used as its merchant ensign was also legally abandoned. The reasoning is that without the coat of arms, the flag would not be the Mexican flag; it would have become the Italian flag. There was also debate in 1984 about how the coat of arms will be depicted on the national flag, including the reverse. To solve this problem, a PAN deputy proposed a change to the Law of the National Arms, Flag and Anthem that same year to allow for the eagle to face to the right when the reverse of the flag is displayed. In 1995, the law was changed to include the following:

"When the National Arms is reproduced in the reverse side of the National Flag, the Mexican Eagle will appear standing in its right grasp, holding with the left one and the beak the curved serpent."

Evolution of the Mexican Flag
Standard of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Used by Miguel Hidalgo during the declaration of independence, September 16, 1810
First National Flag Used from 1821-1823 during the First Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide.
Second National Flag Used from 1823-1864 during the establishment of the Mexican Republic.
Third National Flag Used from 1864-1867 during the Second Mexican Empire of Maximilian I. Proportions 1:2
Second National Flag Readoption
Readopted from 1867-1881 during the reestablishment of the Mexican Republic.
Used from 1881-1899
Used from 1899-1917. Specified proportions 2:3
Used from 1917-1934, officially adopted by President Venustiano Carranza. Proportions 2:3
Used from 1934-1968, Coat of Arms designed by Jorge Enciso. Proportions 2:3
Fourth National Flag Adopted September 16, 1968 to present day. Coat of Arms designed by Architect Francisco Eppens Helguera.

Flag protocol

When the flag is paraded in front of a crowd, those in military uniform must present a salute according to their regulations. Civilians that are present give the following salute to the national flag: standing at attention (firmes), the civilian raises their right arm and places their right hand on their chest, in front of the heart. The hand is flat and the palm of the hand is facing the ground.

President Vicente Fox performing the civil salute
President Vicente Fox performing the civil salute

This salute is known as the "El saludo civil a la Bandera Nacional" ("The Civil Salute to the National Flag"). When the President is acting in the capacity of the Head of the Armed Forces, he salutes the national flag with a military salute. When the national anthem is played on television to open or close daily programming, the national flag will be shown at the same time.

During certain times of the year, the flag is flown by both civilians and government personnel. Mostly, these events coincide with national holidays and days of significance to the country. During some of these occasions, the flag will be flown at half-mast to honour the death of important Mexicans. These dates are listed in Article 18 of the Law of the National Flag, Arms and Anthem.

The national Día de la Bandera (Flag Day) celebration occurs on February 24. On this day in 1821, all the factions fighting in the War of Independence joined together to form the Army of the Three Guarantees in response to the Plan de Iguala, which was signed by Vicente Guerrero and Agustín de Iturbide, declaring Mexico officially an independent country. General Vicente Guerrero was the first military official who swore allegiance to the national flag. Another flag tradition is that before every Olympics in which Mexico is a participant, the President hands a flag over to the flag bearer, chosen by their peers, to carry with them to the host city.



There are two variants of the national flag that are allowed by law. Mostly used by the state and federal governments, the difference between the national flag and the variants are the designs of the coat of arms. In the first variant, which is used by the President of Mexico and secretaries of federal bodies, the entire coat of arms is colored gold, with the exception of the tricolor ribbon, which is green, white and red, and with the stone, lake and talons of the eagle colored in silver. In the second variant, the entire coat of arms is colored gold, even the ribbon, lake, stone and talons. The second variant is used mostly by State governments and federal bodies who are not able to use the first variant.

Flag devices

Article 3 of the Law on the National Arms, Flag and Anthem (Ley sobre el Escudo, la Bandera y el Himno Nacionales) also describes that the national flag can be decorated with a special tie called a corbata (cravatte). The corbata is composed of a bow, two ribbons of different length and both ribbons are attached with a golden tassel called fringe. The corbata is placed on the top of the flag at the point where the truck is, and the colors of the corbata match that of the national flag. Organizations and political parties can adopt their own corbatas, such as the National Action Party (PAN), which uses a white corbata with blue fringes.

Banderas monumentales

A bandera monumental in Monterrey, Nuevo León
A bandera monumental in Monterrey, Nuevo León
Bandera Monumental in Ensenada, Baja California
Bandera Monumental in Ensenada, Baja California

In 1999, President Ernesto Zedillo started a program erecting giant flags across the country. Directed by the Secretariat of National Defense, the banderas monumentales (monumental flags) were placed in various cities and spots, most of which of high significance to the nation. In a decree issued on July 1, 1999 by Zedillo, the flags were to be placed in Mexico City, Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, and Veracruz. The decree also stipulated for the flags to measure 14.3  meters by 25 meters, which are raised on flag poles that are 50 meters high. After these initial monumental flags were created, cities such as Ensenada, Nuevo Laredo and Cancún were reported to have their own monumental flags. Smaller flags, called banderas semi-monumentales, have been erected in smaller towns and at various educational institutes.

The biggest monumental flag in Mexico is the one located at the Mirador del Obispado in Monterrey (northeast) with a pole of 120 tons and 100.6 meters of height. The flag measures 50 by 28.6 meters and weights 230 kilograms. This is four times the size of most other monumental flags. It is located at the top of the Cerro del Obispado (Bishopric Hill) at an altitude of 775 meters above the sea level (city's altitude 538 meters).

Example Locations
  1. Monterrey, Nuevo León
  2. Querétaro, Querétaro
  3. Mexico City, Federal District:
    • Zócalo, in the city centre
    • Campo Militar Marte, military base behind Los Pinos
    • San Jerónimo rondabout, in Periférico Sur
  4. Iguala, Guerrero
  5. Tonalá, Jalisco
  6. Mérida, Yucatán
  7. Cancún, Quintana Roo
  8. Mexicali, Baja California
  9. Tampico, Tamaulipas
  10. Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas
  11. Campeche, Campeche
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