Flags in their basic form are pieces of fabric flown from poles, that identify countries or groups of people. But the colors, symbols, and designs of the flags hold much more information about the people and cultures they represent. People may be able to distinguish and recognize numerous flags- but how many times do we really have insights into their background? My husband shared this fascinating legend behind the Mexican flag with my kids and me.
About 700 years ago (in the year 1325), the Aztecs lived in the arid desert in what is now northern Mexico. They were looking for the ideal place to build their new city. In the legend, the Aztec god Huizilopochtli (we-see-low-PōCH-tlee) told the Aztecs to build their city where they find an eagle, carrying a snake, that lands on a nopal (cactus). As was predicted in the ancient prophecy, they spotted the eagle with a snake in its beak, on a cactus- in a huge swampy area. Despite the challenging conditions, they built their city, Tenochtitlán on a small swampy island in Lake Texcoco. It was this area that eventually became Mexico City. This scene that the Aztecs first saw is displayed in the center of the Mexican flag, as the Mexican Coat of Arms.
The main design of the flag has been used since 1821. At this time, the colors represented the following:
red- union between Europe and the Americas.
President Benito Juarez (president of Mexico from 1858 to 1872) separated church and state, and the meanings of the colors were changed to represent:
red- the blood of the national heroes.
The Mexican flag is easy to recognize once you are familiar with the story and legend behind the symbols. The next time you see a Mexican flag, tell your kids the story of the eagle, the snake, and the cactus. As they learn the history behind the flags, they’ll get a glimpse into the culture and history that the flags represent.
If you’d like a short activity (reading and comprehension questions) to teach your kids about the Mexican flag–including a printable of the flag they can color–check out our Story of the Mexican Flag packet at Teachers Pay Teachers! This packet is great for home or school use.
I like to use this activity in my Spanish and ESL classes as a way to connect kids to another culture or their own heritage culture. It is perfect for Mexican Independence Day (Sept 16th), Cinco de Mayo (May 5th), or even a day that you are having a sub and need an activity that students can complete on their own.
Check out this short clip for ProjectExplorer.org that explains the flag further: