Flag Day in Mexico is celebrated on February 24 and has been since 1937. This particular date was selected because in 1821, the Plan de Iguala was devised based on the three principles of “Religion, Independence, and Unity” which Jose Magdaleno Ocampo personified with the three colors of the Mexican flag “white, green, and red” in that order.
The flag has undergone several modifications since then, most notably the rearrangement of the colors (green, white, red), their supposed significance (Hope, Unity, Blood of National Heroes) and the addition of an eagle devouring a serpent on a cactus over a lake. The national emblem found on the most recent design of the flag was designed by Pedro Moctezuma Díaz Infante y Francisco Eppens Helguera in 1968. This image is commonly credited as having been inspired by the myth of the wandering Mexicas. This nomadic tribe was given a sign from Huitzilopochtli that when they discovered the place where the eagle was feasting on the serpent, they should build their city. And build it they did. According to legend, the city that they founded is now known as the mighty metropolis of Mexico City.
There are some saluting customs that relate to the Mexican flag. While the escolta (honor guard) bring the flag into position, usually accompanied by the playing of the national anthem, spectators are to place their right hands at heart level, palm parallel to the ground and elbow sharply out. As the national anthem is a tad long, it’s a very tiring position to hold.
Then when the pledge of allegiance (el juramento) is recited the right arm is extended forward in the direction of the flag in what is known as the Bellamy Salute but looks a lot like Heil Hitler. This is always the right arm, never the left. Extending the left arm is a no-no, probably going back to the belief that the left was the side of the devil. The hand is always opened palm down, never fisted.
Government offices and required and civilians are encouraged to fly the flag at full mast in commemoration of significant events in the history of Mexico. Other days require the flag to be flown at half-mast as a sign of national mourning. In addition to those listed, the president of the republic can decree the flag be flown half-mast for other events such as in honor of the death of an important figure in Mexico, the head of state of another country or a major tragedy where loss of life is recognized, like an earthquake. This would be a good place to list the verses of the national anthem of Mexico, but it is long and the story certainly merits its own post.
Do you want to learn more about Mexican holidays and traditions?
Then check out A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays in Mexico!