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Mexico - Coat of arms

Last modified: 2002-12-07 by juan manuel gabino villascán
Keywords: mexico | aztec | mexica | texcoco | triple alliance | anahuac | anahuac confederation | eagle | snake | cactus | blood | cortes | colonia | morelos | díaz ordaz (gustavo) | eppens helguera (josé) |
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[Mexico - Coat of arms]
by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, August 31, 2001


See also:

Golden version of the Mexican Coat of Arms

[Mexico - Golden Coat of Arms]
by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, September 16, 2001

This Coat of arms could be seen at the "Archivo General de la Nación" in Mexico City. It is remarkable, the ribbon remains tricolor, while stone, lake and eagle's grasps are grey. This version of the National Arms is used mainly by Mexican President, State Governors and State Secretaries.

Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, June 11, 2001.


History of the Mexican 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 México). 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 all 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, Michoacán (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.


Although the Mexican Coat of Arms has manteined the same heraldic figures since it was first adopted in 1821. The new arms were granted by Decree of October 18, 1966, and officially adopted on September 16, 1968. The Coat of Arms adopted was designed by Francisco Eppens Helguera, a famous Mexican Architect born in San Luis Potosí.

Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, June 11, 2001


Official description of the Mexican Coat of Arms

The coat of arms are described in the Article 2 of the "Ley sobre el Escudo, la Bandera y el Himno Nacionales" (Law on the National Coat of Arms, Flag, and Anthem) that reads:

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 are arranged in natural fan. It puts its left grasp on a bloomed nopal that is born in a rock that emerges from a lake. It is grasping with the right grasp and the beack, in attitude of eat, a curved serpent, so that it harmonizes with the whole. Several "pencas" of the nopal grow to the sides. Two branches, one of encino to the front of the eagle and another one of laurel opposed, form a lower semicircle and they are united by a ribbon divided in three strips that, when the National Coat of Arms is represented in natural colors, correspond to those of the National flag.

When the National Shield reproduces in the reverse side of the National Flag, the Mexican Eagle will appear standing in its right grasp, holding with the left one and the beack the curved serpent.

See image bellow:

[Mexico - Reverse side of the Coat of Arms] [Reverse side of the arms]
by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 06 April 2001

[Mexico - Reverse side of the Coat of Arms golden version] [Reverse side of the arms]
by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, September 16, 2001

Source:
Decreto por el que se reforman los artículo 2o, 18 y 55, y se adicionan los artículos 54 Bis,... de la ley sobre el Escudo, la Bandera y el Himno Nacionales.
Issued in DOF on May 9, 1995.

Quoted by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, June 11, 2001