Coat of arms of Mexico

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Coat of arms of Mexico
Escudo Nacional de México
Coat of arms of Mexico.svg
Seal of the Government of Mexico.svg
Seal of the Government of Mexico (linear).svg
Black and white version of the seal
Armiger United Mexican States
Adopted 16 September 1968
(latest version, by Francisco Eppens Helguera)
Escutcheon Atop a nopal pedestal, a Mexican golden eagle devouring a rattle snake
Supporters Oak and laurel leaves

The current coat of arms of Mexico has been an important symbol of Mexican politics and culture for centuries. The coat of arms depicts a Mexican golden eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus devouring a snake. To the people of Tenochtitlan this would have strong religious connotations, but to the Europeans, it would come to symbolize the triumph of good over evil (with the snake sometimes representative of the serpent in the Garden of Eden).

The Seal of the United Mexican States is the seal used by the government of Mexico in any official documents issued by the federal, state or municipal authorities. It is a modified version of the national coat of arms, with the addition of the full official name of the country Estados Unidos Mexicanos, in a semi-circular accommodation in the upper part of the seal. Current and past Mexican peso coinage have had the seal engraved on the obverse of all denominations.

Legend of Tenochtitlan[edit]

Variation of the founding myth as shown in the post-Conquest Tovar Codex, where the eagle is devouring a bird.

The coat of arms recalls the founding of Mexico City, then called Tenochtitlan. The legend of Tenochtitlan as shown in the original Mexica codices, paintings, and post-Cortesian codices, does not include a snake. While the Fejérváry-Mayer codex depicts an eagle attacking a snake, other Mexica illustrations, such as the Codex Mendoza, show only an eagle; in the text of the Ramírez Codex, however, Huitzilopochtli asked the Tenochtitlan people to look for an eagle devouring a snake, perched on an prickly pear cactus. In the text by Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, the eagle is devouring something, but it is not mentioned what it is. Still other versions (such as the backside of the Teocalli of the Sacred War) show the eagle clutching the Aztec symbol of war, the Atl-Tlachinolli glyph, or "burning water".

Moreover, the original meanings of the symbols were different in numerous aspects. The eagle was a representation of the sun god Huitzilopochtli, who was very important, as the Mexicas referred to themselves as the "People of the Sun". The cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica), full of its fruits, called "nochtli" in Nahuatl, represent the island of Tenochtitlan. To the Mexicas, the snake represented wisdom, and it had strong connotations with the god Quetzalcoatl. The story of the snake was derived from an incorrect translation of the Crónica mexicáyotl by Fernando Alvarado Tezozómoc.[citation needed] In the story, the Nahuatl text ihuan cohuatl izomocayan, "the snake hisses", was mistranslated as "the snake is torn". Based on this, Father Diego Durán reinterpreted the legend so that the eagle represents all that is good and right, while the snake represents evil and sin. Despite its inaccuracy, the new legend was adopted because it conformed with European heraldic tradition. To the Europeans it would represent the struggle between good and evil. Although this interpretation does not conform to pre-Columbian traditions, it was an element that could be used by the first missionaries for the purposes of evangelism and the conversion of the native peoples.[1]


Depiction of founding myth from the post-Conquest Mendoza Codex.
Teocalli of the Sacred War sculpted in 1325


In 1960, the Mexican ornithologist Rafael Martín del Campo identified the eagle in the pre-Hispanic codex as the northern caracara or "quebrantahuesos", a species common in Mexico (although the name "eagle" is taxonomically incorrect, as the caracara is in the falcon family). The golden eagle is considered the official bird of Mexico.[2] When Father Duran introduced the snake, it was originally an aquatic serpent. But in 1917, the serpent was portrayed as a rattlesnake, because it was more common than the aquatic varieties in pre-Hispanic illustrations. As a result of this, the design and color of the snake on the modern coat of arms do not correspond with those of any species of snake, and were inspired by the representations of Quetzalcoatl, a rattlesnake with quetzal feathers.


  • The eagle, in a combative stance
  • The snake, held by a talon and the beak of the eagle
  • The nopal on which the eagle stands; The nopal bears some of its fruits (tunas)
  • The pedestal, on which the nopal grows, immersed in the Aztec symbol for water
  • Oak and laurel leaves encircling the eagle cluster; tied together with a ribbon with the Mexican flag's colors


  • The emblem has at least two abstraction levels. First, the pictographic representation of the name of the Aztec's capital city, Tenochtitlan, as tenoch is the word for the cactus fruit and titlan means "the place of." On another level, it represents one of the most important cosmological beliefs of the Aztec culture.
  • The emblem shows an eagle devouring a serpent, which actually is in conflict with Mesoamerican belief. The eagle is a symbol of the sun and a representation of the victorious god Huitzilopochtli, in which form, according to legend, bowed to the arriving Aztecs. The snake is a symbol of the earth and, in certain pre Hispanic traditions, a representation of Quetzalcoatl; more specifically, in Aztec (Mexica) tradition, the snake is the representation of Coatlicue, the personification of earth and mother of Huitzilopochtli. In some codices, the eagle holds the glyph for war to represent the victorious Huitzilopochtli. This glyph, the Atl tlachinolli, which means "burning water", has a certain resemblance with a snake, and may plausibly be the origin of this confusion.
  • With the element, the attributed element of the moon, it recalls the mythology of the god and hero of the Aztecs.
  • The fruit of the nopal cactus, called tuna, represents the heart of Copil, the nephew of the god Huitzilopochtli. The god ordered the people to "build the city in the place of Copil's heart" (Ramírez Codex), where the cactus grew on his land. It also alludes to the human sacrifice customs of the Aztecs.


Regional government[edit]

  1. The Aztecs, who probably adopted the custom from the Toltecs, used flags to organize and coordinate their warriors in battle. The flags or pantli were made out of different colored feathers and displayed the personal coat of arms of the officer carrying them. During the battle the flags were carried on the back to allow mobility and to display prominently the prestige of the warrior. Bernal Díaz del Castillo states that Hernán Cortés defeated the Aztecs in Otumba by knocking the flag off of the Aztec general. The Aztec warriors thought that the general was taken prisoner and thus fled the battleground. Aztec rivals, especially the kingdoms of Tlaxcala and Michoacán, had their own coat of arms. For a few months, after the deposition of Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor, Cortés governed Mexico as virtual sovereign. Therefore, it could be said that his coat of arms was the official one in Mexico. His personal insignia bore the image of the Virgin Mary. It is known that he carried his insignia throughout the conquest of Mexico.
  2. In 1581, Father Duran drew his version of the foundation of Mexico on his book about Mexico; the snake was included for the first time. It would become a common icon, but it would still not be used as a coat of arms.
  3. From 1521 to 1821, the coat of arms of New Spain as Mexico was known, was the Cross of Saint Andrew. It was always displayed alongside the coat of arms of Spain.
  4. In 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo, leader of the first stage of the Independence war, used the Virgin of Guadalupe as a flag or estandarte. It was seized from the parish of Atotonilco. The flag is displayed in the National Museum of History alongside, and with the same rank as, later Mexican flags. In that sense, this religious image could be officially regarded as the first Mexican coat of arms.
  5. In 1812, the second stage of the Independence war, José María Morelos y Pavón used a crowned eagle standing atop of three arches and a cactus. In small print inside the arches was the acronym "VVM", which stands for "Viva la Virgen María" (or, Long live the Virgin Mary). In large print and surrounding the eagle, there are golden letters with the legend "OCVLIS ET VNGVIBUS AEQVE VICTRIX", meaning "By her eyes and grip equally victorious".
  6. In 1821, Agustín de Iturbide, the first Emperor of Mexico, introduced a royal crown on the eagle as a symbol of his empire. The elements were drawn in a European style; the eagle was drawn in front view.
  7. In 1823, with a design by José Mariano Torreblanca, the crown was removed, and new elements from European tradition were introduced to celebrate the victory of the Republic. The coat of arms was now official and began to be used in coins, stamps, seals and official papers. But until 1917 it would not be defined by law, so many variants could be found.
  8. In 1863, Maximilian I of Mexico, the second emperor of Mexico, reintroduced the royal crown, and the coat of arms was surrounded by the imperial mantle with the motto Religión, Independencia ("Religion, Independence").
  9. In 1865, in a second version for Maximiliano, the royal crown disappeared and two glyphs were introduced with the motto Equidad en la Justicia ("Equity in Justice").
  10. In 1867, after the fall of the Second Mexican Empire, the Republic restored most of the elements of the 1823 version.
  11. In 1887, President Porfirio Díaz made changes to the eagle so that its overall appearance reflected the French style.
  12. In 1916, President Venustiano Carranza reversed the changes made by Díaz, and restored some of the original Aztec symbols: the water snake was replaced with a rattlesnake, and the eagle was now seen in a side view instead of a front view. This design was created by the artists Antonio Gómez and Jorge Enciso. However, due to the political problems of the time, it was not made official until 1932, under President Abelardo L. Rodríguez.[3]
  13. In 1968, President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz ordered a small change, so the eagle would look more aggressive. This design, by the painter Francisco Eppens Helguera, is still used today. Also, a law was made to define and control the use of the national symbols.
  14. In 1984, President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado enacted the current law governing the official design and usage of the national symbols, among them the coat of arms. (The coat of arms also forms the center of the Mexican flag.)
  15. In the official documents of the Mexican government secretariates during Vicente Fox's presidency (2000–2006), the images of the head of the eagle and the snake appear coming up from a stripe. The detractors of the Fox administration called this image El Águila Mocha – literally "the slashed eagle" but colloquially also "the prudish eagle", referring to Fox's government links with the religious right (mocho can mean both "mutilated" and "reactionary").
  16. In 2006, President Felipe Calderón adopted the complete coat of arms for official documents and rejected the "slashed eagle".
  •      National
  •      Non-National
Colonial Mexico
Northern America - New Spain - Mexican America
1535 — 1821
17 April 1535
27 September 1821
Greater Coat of Arms of Charles I of Spain, Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor (1530-1556).svg Royal Greater Coat of Arms of Spain (1761-1868 and 1874-1931) Version with Golden Fleece and Order of Charles III Collars.svg
Sovereign Mexico
Mexican Nation - Mexican Empire
Mexican Republic - United Mexican States
1821 — present
2 November 1821
14 April 1823
Escudo de Armas de S.M.I. Agustín.svg
14 April 1823
15 July 1864
Coat of arms of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg
15 July 1864
19 June 1867
Coat of Arms of the Second Mexican Empire.svg
19 June 1867
1 April 1893
Coat of arms of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg
1 April 1893
20 September 1916
Coat of arms of Mexico (1893-1916).svg
20 September 1916
5 February 1934
Coat of arms of Mexico (1916-1934).svg
5 February 1934
16 September 1968
Coat of arms of Mexico (1934-1968).svg
16 September 1968
Coat of arms of Mexico.svg

Current entities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ancient Mexico, Editorial Milenio
  2. ^ González Block, Miguel A. (2004). "El Iztaccuhtli y el Águila Mexicana: ¿Cuauhti o Águila Real?". Arqueología Mexicana. Retrieved 2009-01-18.  (Iztaccuhtli should be iztaccuahtli and cuauhti should be cuauhtli.) This page shows the beginning of an article in Arqueología Mexicana XII: 70, pp. 60–65 (2004).
  3. ^ Flags of the World by Byron McCandless, p. 368

External links[edit]