The flag of Mexico is a vertical tricolor of green, white, and red with the national coat of arms charged in the center 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, and subsequent First Mexican Empire. 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, Law on the National Arms, Flag, and Anthem, that governs the use of the national flag has been in place since 1984.
Red, white, and green are the colors of the national liberation army in Mexico. The central emblem is the Aztec pictogram for Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), the center of their empire. It recalls the legend that inspired the Aztecs to settle on what was originally a lake-island. The form of the coat of arms was most recently revised in 1968. A ribbon in the national colors is at the bottom of the coat of arms. Throughout history, the flag has changed four 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 on a nopal eating 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.
Before the addition of the first national flag, people flags used during the War of Independence from Spain had a great influence on the design of the first national flag. It was never adopted as an official flag, but 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. Jose Maria Morelos used a flag with an 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 Marla - “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 after independence from Spain was won.
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 Augustin de Iturbide in November 1821 and first officially used in July 1822. This flag was no longer used upon the abolishment of the empire.
When the flag is paraded in front of a crowd, those in military uniform must present a salute according to military regulations. Civilians who are present give the following salute to the national flag: standing at attention, they raise their right arms and place their right hands on their chests, in front of the heart. The hand is flat and the palm of the hand is facing the ground. 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 honor the death of important Mexicans.
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