The current Mexican flag was first used in 1968. It has three vertical stripes, one green, one white and one red. The white stripe in the centre has a seal that pictures an eagle, eating a snake, perched atop a cactus, below which is a half-circle of green oak and laurel branches.
The first Mexican flag to use this basic design was adopted in 1821. The design is an amalgamation of several designs used during the Mexican Revolution. One flag created by revolutionary forces fighting for freedom from Spain used the symbol of the eagle sitting on a cactus; another featured three stripes of red, white, and blue. "El Plan de Iguala," the peace treaty that ended the war, was represented by a flag of diagonal stripes in red, white and green.
The right panel of the flag is red and represents the unity of Mexico after it won its freedom from Spain. This symbolic meaning comes from the blood shed by Mexicans who fought and died in the revolution. Along similar lines, but more abstractly, the red is said to represent the men, especially Spaniards, who joined forces in the fight for independence.
The white middle panel of the flag symbolises purity, specifically the purity of the Catholic faith. While breaking with its mother country of Spain, Mexico did not break with its religion. Interestingly, the seal in the centre of this panel is an Aztec symbol, from the culture in Mexico before the arrival of the Spanish. So while the flag as a whole is a product of the revolution, the middle band is derived not only from Mexico's Spanish heritage but also its indigenous roots.
The green panel on the left side of the flag is said to symbolise both the independence movement and the fertility of the earth. Again, the flag illustrates both the modern and ancient beliefs of the Mexican people. The independence movement was driven by a desire for a Mexican state and greater equality for its citizens, while the reverence of the earth as fertile and life-giving is a basic tenet of Mexican societies before the Spanish conquest.
The seal in the centre of the flag consists of two parts: the eagle eating the snake while perched on the cactus, and the branches in a semicircle below it. The eagle is from an Aztec legend about the founding of Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City). The legend says the Aztecs were told by their god that they would find their promised land where an eagle landed on a cactus while eating a serpent. The Aztecs searched until they found this sign, and there they built Tenochtitlan. The branches below the eagle are green oak and laurel, symbolising strength and victory, respectively.
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