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Mexico - Coat of arms

Last modified: 2015-01-24 by juan manuel gabino villascán
Keywords: mexico | aztec | mexica | triple alliance | anahuac | eagle | snake | cactus | blood | eppens helguera (josé) |
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[Mexico - Coat of arms]
Photo by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán from original image at the National Museum of History at the Chapultepec Castle (MNH), 12 January 2015

See also:

Official description

Flag Act of 1984 [gob84] states:

Article 2. The National Coat of Arms is featured by an Mexican eagle exposing its left profile, the upper part of the wings in a level higher than plume and slightly displayed in a battle attitude; with the sustenation plumage downwards touching to the tail whose feathers displayed in a fan-like arrangement. The eagle's left claw perches on a bloomed prickly pear born from a rock emerging from a lake; while with right one and the beack is holding, in attitude of eating, a curved snake, harmonizing with the whole achievement. Several stems of the prickly pear grow to the sides. Two branches, one of oak to the front of the eagle and another one of laurel opposed, form a lower semicircle. The branches are united by a ribbon divided in three stripes which when the National Coat of Arms is represented in natural colors, equal those of the National flag.

Quoted and translated by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, June 11, 2001.

The coat of arms as depicted on the reverse side of the flag

[Mexico - Reverse side of the Coat of Arms] [Sinister hoist - the image is intended to be viewed with the staff on the right]
By [MNH], 31 October 2012

Article 2. in [gob84] continues:

(...) When the National Coat of Arms is featured in the reverse side of the National Flag, the Mexican Eagle shall appear standing in its right claw, holding with the left one and the beack the curved snake.

Quoted and translated by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, June 11, 2001.

Origin of the national coat of arms

The Mexican emblem recalls an old Mexica legend:

The Mexica people were guided by Huitzilopochtli to seek a place where an eagle landed on a prickly-pear cactus, eating a snake...

After hundreds of years of wandering they (the Mexica) found the sign on a small swampy island in the lake of Texcoco (present-day State of Mexico). Their new home they named Mexico-Tenochtitlan (pronounced: Me'shi'cco Tenuch'ti'tlan, where syllables in apostrophe are stressed), which means: "In the Moon's navel - Place of the Prickly Pear Cactus". In A.D. 1325, they built a city on the site of the island in the lake; this is now the center of Mexico City. Mexico-Tenochtitlan became the commerce, religious and political center of the Mexica Empire until August 21, 1521, when it fell at hands of Hernando Cortés who led and army of about 300 Spaniards and milliards of natives once subjected by the Mexica.

According to Fernando Álvaro Tezozomoc, the eagle was used as military emblem by the Mexica depicting it in serveral variants; some times alone, others attacking a jaguar (ocelotl), bird or a serpent.

It is difficult to say what was the Mexica (erroneusly called Aztecs) flag for both, their vexillological system was slightly different to that in Europe and, they, jointly with Acolhuas of Texcoco and Tecpaneca of Tlacopan (Tacuba), formed in 1430 something like a confederation or union of "independent states", identified as "Anahuac Confederation" or "Triple Alliance".
There is no data about the Confederation's symbol.

There is huge mistake regarding that the nopal over a stone is the Mexico-Tenochtitlan arms. Actually it is not. The Mexica's writing system was glyphic, then the nopal over a stone is the ideogram, hieroglyph or glyph of Mexico-Tenochtitlan; as much as a bunch of sand on a plataform, three flowers on a hill, and a coyote's head, for example, are for Tlaltelolco, Tlacopan, and Nezahualcoyotl respectively. in other words, drawing a nopal over a stone, is how the Mexica spelled their city's name. Thus, such a drawing would not be consider as a coat of arms of the city at least it be found depicted on a pantli (the Mexica word for flag).

After the Conquest (1521), the Triple alliance, the Purepecha empire and independent and almost-independent kingdoms in Mesoamerica, all disappeared, given place to the Viceroyalty of New Spain, a political entity created by Spaniards to administrate the territory and that yet unsubjected. From that time on, Spanish religious and military authorities worried, ones, to christianize native population, and others, to subject them and drop out every sign of their culture. That is the way using the Mexica mythic symbol in New Spain was forbidden. Such prohibitions were not always fulfilled; according the Osuna Scroll (Codex), wrote about the XVI century by tlacuilos (native people specialized in nahuatl (ideographic writing) shows a group of Mexica soldiers, wearing European armors, marching toward Florida (1559-1560), while their captain flies a standard with a depiction of an eagle over a nopal. Exceptions like this were common during the Colonia, giving birth among New Spain population a different identity and cultural felling from those born in Spain; books' covers, mission's emblems, paintings, sculptures, furniture, monuments, temples' façades and so on, related to Mexico City (capital of the New Spain) and some times to New Spain itself were featured by the eagle (eating or not a snake) over a nopal.

It will be immediately apparent that the three hundred years of Spanish rule have been judiciously ignored. Fighting to reach the former Mexica splendor, Morelos used the Municipality of Mexico City's coat of arms for his own. In 1815, in Puruarán, Michoacan (present-day Michoacán de Ocampo), he would adopt the mythic Mexica symbol to proclaim the independence of América Septentrional. For the government established by Morelos did not came into effect, his emblems and flags should be considered as proposals.

It would be until November 2, 1821, when by decree, the arms depicted with the eagle (eating or not a snake) over a nopal, would be adopted. Since then, the Mexican coat of arms has remained the same with variations only in its design. The last one occurred on September 16, 1968 under the Gustavo Díaz Ordaz administration.

Rita Ramirez, January 18, 1998;
Edward Mooney, April 28, 1998; and
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, January 12, 2002.

During a campaign to the Florida (ca. 1550's), Spain-led troops formed by native-Americans, mestizos, and Spaniards, depicted the eagle and prickly pear in their standards [flr00]. In civic celebrations through all the Colonial age, Mexico City inhabitants, both criollos (creoles) and mestizos, flown standards and banners featuring all the eagle, snake and the prickly pear [flr00]. At the beginings of the independence war, Hidalgo's hosts adorned their banners with the eagle, snake and prickly pear. So it did José María Morelos [smz01].
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, August 2005.

Other versions of the national coat of arms

  • Golden/grey coat of arms
  • Full golden coat of arms
  • 2006 version of the coat of arms
  • President Calderón's speech about the national flag and coat of arms

  • [Mexico - Golden/grey coat of arms. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Variant]
    by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, September 16, 2001.

    [Mexico - Full golden Coat of Arms. By Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán] [Variant]
    by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, September 16, 2001.

    [Mexico - Coat of arms adopted as identity image by 2006-2012 federal government. By 2006-2012 Federal Government] [Variant]   [Mexico - Coat of arms adopted featured by CorelDraw 8. By CorelDraw 8] [Variant]
    by 2006-2012 Federal Government
    [Gobierno Federal]
    February 24, 2014.
        by CorelDraw 8  

    The Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's government (2006-2012) adopted as identity image the image contained in the CorelDraw 8 clip art wich was added withe the official country name the upper hemicircle.
    The coat of arms in the clip art is identified as "MEXICO2.CDR" within the "MISC" directory in CD 2. In addition the clip art does not contain the flag of Mexico, instead it features the Air Force roundel in the same directory under the name "MEXICO.CDR".
    Such a coat of arms has been widely used in flags, specially in those used in the 2008 Beijing summer olympic games, and 2014 Sochi winter olympic games.

    Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, February 24, 2014.

    On December 4, 2006, just after having taken oath as President of the Estados Unidos Mexicanos, Felipe Calderón adopted a new logo for the government. The logo is not other but the National Coat of Arms in its original features. Here is what President said in the act:

    Muy buenas tardes, amigas y amigos de los medios de comunicación:

    Es un honor para mí presentar hoy a ustedes la nueva imagen institucional de la Presidencia de la República y del Gobierno Federal.
    En esta nueva imagen institucional, que habrán de retomar todas las dependencias y entidades del Gobierno Federal, he querido que se refleje tanto el respeto que siento por nuestros Símbolos Patrios, como la voluntad de mi Gobierno de rendirle el tributo que se merecen.
    El Escudo, la Bandera y el Himno Nacional son los símbolos de la Patria, son los símbolos de México, de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, como lo marcan nuestras leyes.
    En ellos está nuestra historia, nuestros valores, nuestros ideales; en ellos y en sus colores, en su música está su historia.
    Como dijera el gran Ramón López Velarde: “La imagen que encarna el ideal más hermoso de la Patria mexicana”.
    En nuestros Símbolos Patrios está la pasión que todos sentimos por México, por nuestra Patria y en ellos está también, lo mejor de nosotros mismos.
    Por eso hoy en la imagen institucional de la Presidencia y del Gobierno de México se restablece el Escudo Nacional en sus rasgos originales, con todo su realismo, colorido y grandeza.
    En la nueva imagen institucional nuestro Escudo Nacional se inserta en una composición estéticamente balanceada; de corte moderno y vanguardista, que al mismo tiempo que destaca la belleza y el significado del Símbolo Patrio, subraya el camino que México se está abriendo hacia el futuro.
    Esta imagen destaca el rico y diverso mosaico que es México; sus muchas voces, miradas y colores, nuestras raíces y también, nuestro presente de libertad y de respeto.
    A lo largo de la historia nacional, el Escudo Nacional ha tenido diversos significados en sus elementos, algunas de las interpretaciones que han predominado y que quiero resaltar porque se identificarán con mi Gobierno, son las siguientes:

    1. Que el águila representa al pueblo mexicano, su posición de combate hace referencia a que el pueblo está listo para enfrentar los retos que la vida y el mundo les presenta.
    2. Que la serpiente representa a los enemigos de México y el hecho de que la serpiente esté siendo devorada por el águila, significa que el pueblo mexicano vencerá a sus enemigos.
    3. El nopal con sus espinas, representa los retos y problemas de México; al águila que está desafiante sobre el nopal, significa que el pueblo mexicano superará estos retos.
    4. Que las ramas del laurel y encino, representan la victoria y el martirio, a la vez, de quienes han dado su vida por la Patria mexicana.

    Al igual que el águila que nos representa en el Escudo, los mexicanos estamos dispuestos a enfrentar los retos que se nos presentan y decididos a salir airosos del combate.
    Lo hemos hecho en el pasado y también ahora habremos de vencer, habremos de ser un México ganador.
    Debajo del águila se unen dos ramas, una de encino y otra de laurel, que están unidas gracias a un listón tricolor que representa nuestra Bandera.
    Este Escudo que nos ha acompañado a los mexicanos en nuestra larga lucha por mantenernos como un pueblo libre y soberano, acompañará también a este Gobierno.
    Representa la unión, además, de tres grandes tradiciones que son esencia de nuestra identidad nacional: el pasado indígena, la herencia colonial y nuestro desarrollo como Nación independiente y soberana.
    El Escudo Nacional acompañó al generalísimo Morelos durante la lucha por la libertad y acompañó también, a la República en sus primeros tiempos.
    Estuvo presente en la resistencia contra la invasión estadounidense y también, en la expulsión del imperio de Maximiliano.
    El Escudo Nacional acompañó siempre a don Benito Juárez y a los patriotas que defendieron nuestra Independencia, ha acompañado y protegido a nuestro pueblo ante todo embate enemigo.
    El Escudo Nacional es una muestra de la enorme riqueza espiritual y cultural del pueblo mexicano; es y ha sido símbolo de lo que nos une, que es el amor por nuestro México; de que todo mexicano vibra desde el centro de su corazón con sólo oír el nombre de México.
    Hoy más que nunca México está dispuesto a cambiar para mejorar, avanzar con la frente en alto hacia el país de libertad y equidad, de prosperidad y de justicia que todos queremos.
    México, como bien lo simboliza nuestro Escudo Nacional, prevalecerá siempre sobre la adversidad, sobre los retos y sobre los enemigos.
    La condición es que nos mantengamos unidos y que avancemos juntos hacia el México que soñamos.
    Señoras y señores:
    Como Presidente de la República es para mí un honor encabezar la marcha del pueblo mexicano hacia ese destino.
    No tengo duda de que con trabajo, con amor y pasión por México, juntos habremos de construir ese México ganador, justo, que todos queremos y todos llevamos en el corazón.
    Reitero a ustedes que en esta nueva imagen institucional la Presidencia y el Gobierno de la República desean mostrar su respeto a nuestros Símbolos Patrios y a todo lo que ellos significan.

    Muchas gracias.

    From: Palabras del Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, Lic. Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, en la presentación de la Imagen de la Presidencia
    Quoted by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, April, 2009.

    Anything below this line was not added by the editor of this page.