February 24 Is Día de Bandera

by Judy King 23. February 2010 17:37

Hooray for the Red, White & Green!!

It was the only Mexican Emperor Agustín de Iturbide who degreed the approval of Mexico’s first flag in  in 1821 at the conclusion of Mexico’s war of independence from Spain. That first Mexican tricolor flag was replaced by another variation after about a year and the pattern of changing flags with changes of government continued until the current version of the flag was approved in 1968.

Many of the changes were small, the removal of a crown on the eagle’s head, The addition of ribbons beneath the national emblem, turning the forward facing eagle to the side, changing the type of leaves that crown the figure. Today’s banner was made official in a 1984 law of national arms which also set the protocol for the use of the flag and  officially accepted the country’s traditional national anthem.

The Symbolism of Mexico’s Colors

honor-guard The colors of Mexico’s flag are symbols to remind the country’s citizens of the valiant fight to obtain independence and freedom from Spain.  Green represented the Independence movement, hope and the land for which the battles were waged. White, the color of purity is also reminiscent of the country’s faith and of the peace fought for and won. Red remembers the blood shed by the national heroes on the country’s behalf and symbolized the union created here. 

Mexico’s National Emblem

The Mexican National Emblem or coat of arms is featured in the center white area of the flag, distinguishing Mexico’s tri-color from that of Italy (which adopted the red, white, and green colors well after Mexico). This emblem is also the Aztec pictograph which symbolized Tenochtitlan the island center of the Aztec empire, the site of modern Mexico City.

mariachi04 141Aztec legend tells of how the ancestors came from the white-covered northlands, walking, searching for a place to settle. They had been instructed to continue until they found the scene which would mark their new home -- discovered an eagle with a snake perched on a cactus plant growing on an island. 

Mexico Insights Lakeside Legend:

An old Lake Chapala legend suggests that the Aztecs overshot their intended mark by more than 300 miles. Area folks point out that the Aztecs evidently didn’t see their symbols and signs here and so continued on their weary way. They undoubtedly saw the two islands in the lake, but missed looking to the west from the top of Cerro Miguel in Chapala or the hillside now known as upper Chula Vista. From either vantage point, local folks say, the Aztecs would have seen the image of an eagle’s head (with a snake in his mouth) imprinted on Piedra Barranada—the bald mountain on the curves east of San Juan Cosalá. 

DCP_8638Flag Day Events

El Dia de la Bandera (Flag Day) on February 24 is not an officially mandated paid holiday for Mexican employees, but it doesn’t pass without a good deal of pomp and circumstance as national, state and local governments and schools take time from the day’s activities to salute the flag and to recall the wars fought to ensure the country’s independence and union.

Brushing up on Flag Facts

Are you thinking that approval of Mexico’s current flag makes it a late arrival for national symbols in North America? The 1968 approval of Mexico’s banner was later than flags of the northern neighbors, but not by much.

The Stars and Stripes – First on the North America Scene

three-flagsThe design of the current US 50-star flag was adopted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s executive order in 1959 with the flag first flown on July 4, 1960 – just eight years before Mexico’s tri-color was made official. Surprised?

Here’s another bit of forgotten trivia…the title of designer of the flag of the United States is up for grabs! In fact, so is the name of the person who stitched the new republic’s first flag.

Yes, the beloved Betsy Ross was a friend of George Washington, and is confirmed as the artist of the 1777 Pennsylvania flag, but there were several other flag makers at work at the time and any of them could have sewn the first banner. In fact the “Betsy Ross Flag” (with its circle of 13 stars) was not in use until the early 1790s.  

The Maple Leaf – Another 1960s Flag

The maple leaf has served as a symbol of the nature and environment of what is now Canada since the 1700s but Canada didn’t always use a red and white flag. In a 1921 proclamation, King George V set Canada’s colors as red from St. George’s Cross and white from the French royal emblem.

The maple leaf flag didn’t become the official symbol of the country until the stylized leaf designed by Jacques Saint-Cyr was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II as the flag of  Canadian, replacing Union flag on February 15, 1965.

Why was the 11-pointed version of the leaf chosen over the 13 or 15-point? Tests proved it looked less blurry in a strong wind than other maple leaf graphics. 


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

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