The Legend of the Mexican Flag

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Social Studies, World History

Grade 2- 4


Students learn about Cinco de Mayo and color the Mexican flag in honor of this holiday.


Cinco de Mayo (the fifth of May) is a Mexican national holiday also celebrated by Hispanics in the United States. Hispanic students and others enjoy this as a fiesta that comes near the end of the school year and celebrates their ethnic identity as Mexican-Americans and Spanish speakers.
How did it all start? During the American Civil War (1861-1865), while the United States was fighting internally over the slavery issue and economics, Europeans decided to invade Mexico to collect some bad debts. France also wanted an empire, so in 1862, they sent an army to take over Mexico.
Benito Juarez, the first president of Mexico (who was also a Zapotec Indian) resisted the French invasion, rallying the Mexican people to resist. The Battle of Pueblo took place on May 5, 1862. The Mexican Army, under General Ignacio Zaragoza, defeated the well-trained French Army with poor Indian peasants. The victory proved that the French were not invincible. The French "empire" in Mexico collapsed five years later when Emperor Maximilian was executed.
Along with the music and dances of Mexico that play a big part in any Cinco de Mayo celebration, the flag of Mexico is displayed.
The Legend of the Mexican Flag
The Mexican flag dates back to 1821. It is divided into three vertical sections. The left section is solid green for independence. The center section is white for religious purity. The right section is red for national unity.
In the middle of the center section is the Mexican coat of arms. This symbol depicts an eagle perched on a cactus and devouring a snake. This symbol is borrowed from an Aztec legend. The Aztecs were latecomers to the central plateau of Mexico. When they arrived from the north around 1325, most of the land was already divided among the tribes who had already been living there. The Aztecs believed that their deity Huitzilopochtli had given them a vision: that when they saw an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a cactus, they would be home. They spotted this on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. It is here that they established their home of Tenochtitlan.
When the conquistadors arrived in 1519, Tenochtitlan was larger than the great cities of Europe. Today, as then, it is the largest city in the world.

Directions for Flag

  1. Color the flag on page 109 according to the legend.
  2. Cut the flag out and tape it to a ruler or dowel.
  3. Wave your flag and cheer for Mexico.
Directions for Coat of Arms
  1. Cut out the coat of arms on page 110.
  2. Tape or glue it to a large piece of paper for a "Class Coat of Arms."


  • copies of flag (page 109) and coat of arms (page 110)
  • rulers
  • tape or glue
  • crayons or markers
  • scissors

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