The eagle that sits in the center of the Mexican flag and makes up the country’s national emblem is the golden eagle. Depicted devouring a rattlesnake, the golden eagle hearkens to Aztec legend and is representative of the city of Tenochtitlan – known today as Mexico City.
The golden eagle was sacred to the ancient Aztecs and was believed to be linked to the sun. Sacred, prophetic manuscripts depicted the golden eagle on the cover and the highest ranked soldiers had the golden eagle as their sigils.
Learn more about the rich history of the Mexican flag and the symbolism behind the golden eagle.
The Golden Eagle: A Symbol of the Aztec Empire
According to Aztec legend, the first people of the Aztec empire were traveling through what is now southern Mexico in search of a place to build the capital of their empire. The gods told the Aztecs that once they saw a golden eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake, they found the perfect location to build their city.
The city was known as Tenochtitlan and quickly became the thriving center of the Aztec Empire. Today, the city and its surrounding lands is now known as Mexico City.
The golden eagle was one of the ancient Aztecs most sacred symbols and was believed to have been present at the creation of the sun. Therefore, the golden eagle reliefs in Aztec art and symbology are depicted with blackened wing tips, as though singed.
Despite the golden eagle being depicted on the Mexican flag and used within the national emblem, this bird of prey isn’t the national bird. The official bird of Mexico is the crested caracara, also known as the Mexican eagle. The two birds differ in size and appearance, though many mistakenly identify the bird on the Mexican flag as the crested caracara.
Design of the Mexican Flag
Mexico’s flag is a tricolored design with three vertical bands of equal width: green on the left, white in the center, and red on the right. The Mexican national emblem – the golden eagle on a cactus devouring a snake – sits squarely in the flag’s center against the white band.
History of Mexico’s Flag
Mexico’s current flag was officially adopted on September 16, 1968. In the 1800s, during Mexico’s fight for independence from the Spanish, the unofficial national flag was the standard of the Virgin of Guadalupe – which was famously carried by Miguel Hidalgo during the Grito de Dolores that kicked off the war for Mexico’s independence.
The first colors of the flag, added to the Virgin of Guadalupe’s standard, were red, blue, and white. The current configuration of red, green, and white wasn’t adopted until Mexico successfully won their war for independence.
Similarities to the Italian Flag
There has been some controversy over the similarities between the flags of Mexico and Italy. And if you take away the emblem in the center of the Mexican flag, it isn’t hard to see why.
However, the Italian flag uses a lighter shade of green than Mexico’s flag, and Italy’s flag has no emblem.