Why Does the Flag of Mexico Have an Eagle Perched on Top of a Cactus?

Today, Mexico City is the largest city on earth that is not on a river or a sea. According to a legend of the Aztec Indians, an eagle was responsible for selecting the site of the city. The eagle was seen landing on a cactus on a marshy island in Lake Texcoco, and the Aztecs took that as a sign to build their capital there.

That capital, called Tenochtitlan, was one of the oldest cities in the New World. Founded around 1300, it was a flourishing city of thousands of people when Spanish explorers conquered Mexico in the sixteenth century.

The city had a large network of canals that have since disappeared. Mexico City grew up around Tenochtitlan, and the city’s main cathedral now rests nearly on the site of the main Aztec temple!

The legend of the founding of Mexico’s greatest city is recalled by the flag of Mexico, which bears an eagle perched on top of a cactus.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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