Mexico's Flag Throughout History.

Mexico's Official Flag
Mexico's flag is incredibly beautiful. I am not saying this out of some sense of nationalistic pride either, as I am not a nationalist in any sense of the word. I legitimately think Mexico's flag is incredibly beautiful, and I confidently believe that it is one of the most beautiful flags in the world. Most people, however, don't realize that the current iteration of the Mexican flag is only one of several throughout Mexico's history. Most do not realize that Mexico's flag has actually undergone well over ten various iterations, with most following a similar design. Today we will be going over a few different versions of the Mexican flag.


Mexico's Coat of Arms

One thing that the Mexican flag is known for is the coat of arms charged at its center. Mexico's coat of arms displays an eagle perched on a cactus facing towards the left, with a serpent firmly grasped in its right talons. Under the cactus perch there lies a half-circle of oak and laurel leaves, tied together with a ribbon represented in the colors of Mexico. The coat of arms is in reference to indigenous mythology surrounding the founding of the Mexica capital city of Tenochtitlan. 

The Mexican flag is a tricolor. The modern iteration of the flag has kept with previous versions in that it has kept the green, white, red bars running vertically as the main design for the flag. In fact, green, white, and red has remained the order in which the colors have appeared on the flag since Mexico's independence in 1821.  Although the colors have remained unchanged through all these years, what those colors represent has actually been changed overtime. The coat of arms has also changed with the flag, but the main concept of an eagle perched on a cactus has remained consistent. 

Army of the Three Guarantees Flag

Mexico's first use of the tricolor came during the year of its independence, although this flag was not necessarily the national flag of Mexico. This flag is the flag for the Army of the Three Guarantees. This flag was created in representation of the army created through the unification of Spanish troops led by Agustin De Iturbide, and rebel troops led by Vicente Guerrero on February 24th, 1821. The three guarantees mentioned in the name of the army were outlined in the Plan of Iguala, and were Religion, Independence, and Unity. The three guarantees essentially set the Roman Catholic faith as Mexico's official religion, Mexico's complete independence from Spain, and unity through the abolishment of the caste system which separated Mexicans on the basis of race.

The flag of the Three Guarantees consists of three diagonal bars, white, green, and red. The colors represent the three guarantees of independence, religion, and unity. Each bar also has a yellow star within it. As mentioned this is the first flag to use green, white, and red to represent the nation, although the order differs from what would become the standard in later versions of the flag. This flag is also lacking the Mexican coat of arms depicting an eagle perched on a cactus, with a snack in its talons. It should be noted that although this flag is considered Mexico's first flag by some, it really was meant more  as a representation of the Army that liberated Mexico as opposed to an actual national flag. 

First Mexican Empire

The first national flag of Mexico was the flag of the First Mexican Empire. The First Mexican Empire is the government that resulted from Mexico's successful fight for independence. Most people don't actually know that Mexico actually started its independence as a constitutional monarchy led by Agustin de Iturbide as as Emperor. The flag of the first Mexican empire was the first Mexican flag to set the standard coloration of green, white, and red vertical bars. This is also the first time that an Eagle perched on a cactus would be used in a coat of arms for the country. This first iteration of the Mexican flag does not have the eagle grasping a snake in its talons, nor does it have the half circle of oak and laurel leaves. The eagle in this version is depicted with a crown on its head in representation of the Mexican monarchy. This flag would be officially adopted in November of 1821, but would be replaced along with the monarchy on April 14th, 1823 after the Empire collapsed. 

First Mexican Republic

After the collapse of the First Mexican Empire, Mexico would go on to form a new government known as the First Mexican Republic. The republic would last for twelve years from 1823-1835, and in that time would made use of two different designs for the flag. The first design was used between 1823 to 1824. The main design change during this time was to the coat of arms. The crown was removed from the head of the eagle, as Mexico was no longer a monarchy. This version of the flag is also the first timer we see a snake being held in the eagle's talons, as well as the eagle's beak. This is also the first iteration of the flag to make use of oak and laurel leaves in its design, however in this design they are tied together with a white ribbon instead of one representing Mexico's tricolor. 

The second version of the republic's replaced the white ribbon on the oak and laurel leaves with a red one, and the cactus on which the eagle is perched was placed on a stone in the middle of a body of water. The design of the eagle changed a little bit, but overall remained the same with the eagle grasping a snake in its talons, while also holding it with its beak. This version of the flag remained in use from 1824-1835. After 1835 Mexico's flag would once again change as a result of yet another governmental revision. 

Centralist Mexican Republic

In 1835 Mexican conservatives repealed the constitution of 1824, and would institute a military dictatorship under the Centralist Mexican Republic. With the change in government Mexico also changed it's flag. The Centrist Mexican flag was actually incredibly innovative in its design as it was literally just the First Federal Republic's flag mirrored. All sarcasm aside, this flag was just the First Republic's flag flipped, with the ribbon tying the the oak and laurel together being changed in color. This is one of the laziest changes in the design of the Mexican flag. No significant change would come to the design of the Mexican flag until the fall of the Centrist Republic in 1846. 

Second Federal Republic

From 1846-1863 we have the period of Mexico governed by the Second Federal Republic. As with the previous changes in Mexico's government, this new government brought with it a new flag. When researching this topic, there were actually two flags that came up as the official flags for the Second Federal Republic. Both flags display the eagle from a frontal view, grasping a snake in its left talons, while perched  on a cactus. The first flag has an eagle with his wings fully extended, with the oak and laurel branches bound together by a small tricolor ribbon on which the cactus stands. The second flag has the eagle with his wings only partially opened, perched on a cactus that is on a stone in the water, with longer oak and laurel branches bound by a more intricate tricolor ribbon. It appears that out of these two designs, the first design may have been the actual official national flag at the time, as this flag was most prevalent when researching this topic. By this time the three colors of the tricolor had also come to represent something different from their original design. While green, white, and red were originally mean to represent independence, religion, and unity (respectively), under the new design the colors represented hope, purity, and religion (respectively). 

Second Mexican Empire

In 1864 Mexico would once again become a constitutional monarchy under what is known as the Second Mexican Empire. The Second Empire was a puppet state set up by France in Mexico. The goal of the French was to set up a monarchy in the Americas that was friendly to French interests, as well as attempt to check the growing power of the United States of America. Under this puppet government Mexico received yet a new facelift for its flag. The flag of the Second Mexican Empire was designed by the Empire's puppet head of state Maximilian the first of Mexico (don't let that title fool you, he was an Austria-Hungarian Archduke). The basic tricolor design of the flag was kept, but the coat of arms received a pretty extensive redesign. The coat of arms consisted of the well known eagle symbol placed inside of a golden oval with gryphons on either side. Atop the oval is placed a crown to symbolize the monarchy of the Empire, and towards the bottom is a banner reading "Fairness in Justice". The corners of the flags are also decorated with golden eagles all bearing a crown. The design of the coat of arms was actually designed for the sole purpose of resembling the French Imperial arms. Fortunately this horrendous flag, and the puppet government which it represented met their end in 1867. 

Restored Republic

After 1867 when the Second Mexican Empire collapse, the country entered what is known as the "Restored Republic" era lasting until 1876. During this era the Mexican flag would return to the standard tricolor scheme with the coat of arms. Like previous versions of the flag, the flag of the Restored Republic had an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its talons. The cactus is growing out of a rock like in previous versions however this version doesn't have the rock placed within a body of water. The oak and laurel leaves are once again tied together by a white ribbon, this is something we see in other versions although the color of the ribbons tends to change from version to version. 


Starting in 1876 Mexico would begin a period of time known as the Porfiriato, named after President Porfirio Diaz. This period in time would last until 1911. The Flag under the Porfiriato displayed a coat of arms where the eagle faced towards the viewer with its wings spread. Like other flags the eagle is perched on a cactus and grasping a snake in its talons. Unlike the coat of arms of the Restored Republic, the oak and laurel leaves of the Porfiriato flag were tied together with tricolor ribbon as opposed to a solid white one. At this point in time we should also point out that the meaning of the colors was changed yet again. In this iteration, and future iterations of the flag the colors of green, white, and red represent hope, union, the blood of Mexican heroes (respectively). 

1934-1968 Official Flag

After the Porfiriato, Mexico's flag would go to have a few other design changes, all of them basically following the same pattern. It really isn't until the 1930s that we begin to see the more recognizable flag with the side profile of the eagle holding a rattle snake in its talons. My favorite of the designs spanning from 1930 to the late 1960s is a variant of the flag used between 1934-1968 which shows the oak and laurel leaves make a full circle around the eagle. It is visually pleasing to me to see the oak and laurel leaves fully envelope the rest of the coat of arms as opposed to only making a half circle. Although this flag was used within this time period it should be noted that this flag is only a variant, and that the official flag still only had the oak and laurels making a half circle under the eagle.

1934-1968 Variant

The current flag of Mexico would finally be adopted in 1968. This flag was designed by Francisco Eppens Helguera, a Mexican painter, muralist, and sculptor. The coat of arms shows a side profile of the eagle while perched on a cactus bearing fruit. The eagle is holding a rattle snake in its right talon while perched on the cactus, which is cradled by branches of oak and laurel. As with previous iterations, this flag has opted to tie the two branches together a tricolor ribbon. 

Overall the Mexican flag has changed almost as often as Mexico's government has changed. Although most flags follow a strict pattern, it is clear to see the influence of the time period in which each design served as Mexico's official colors. One thing is for certain, Mexicans around the world love their flag. To us this is a symbol not just of the nation we hail from but the culture we have built for ourselves. It is a symbol of our resilience, of our determination. The red represents the blood of heroes, but I believe it best serves as a representation of the blood of the Mexican people who travel far and wide, but always remain connected to our roots.

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