Mexican Flag Day

According to my daily planner, today is Día de la Bandera, that is, flag day in Mexico. Wikipedia states that “The date was selected [in 1937] because more than a century earlier (February 24, 1821), the “Plan of Iguala” or “Plan of the three guarantees” was proclaimed by Agustin de Iturbide and General Vicente Guerrero. This plan was based on three principles: Religion, Independence and Unity, which were represented by the flag’s colors.”

Also from Wikipedia, a photograph of a collection of Mexican flags on display at the Mexican History Museum of Monterrey, Nuevo León:

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The central device on the flag is the Escudo Nacional, that is, the national shield (even if it isn’t a shield as such). Here is the current standard depiction:

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That is, it shows a Mexican golden eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus devouring a rattlesnake, an image that has resonance in both Aztec and European culture.

Flaggery

As regular readers know, I am a great fan of heraldry, flags, and identifying emblems in general. On a recent road trip from Georgia to Texas and back again, I was pleased to note a lot of historic flags in use.

1. As we passed into Texas on I-10, we saw six flags flying at the Welcome Center, representing the six sovereign entities that have ruled Texas in the past.

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These are, from left to right: the United States, Texas, the Confederacy, Mexico, France, and Spain. Some notes:

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Flag of Texas (Wikipedia).

• Texas, of course, acted as its own country from 1836 to 1845, between its secession from Mexico and its joining the USA. It retains this former national flag as its state flag. The design is wonderfully simple, even striking, and consequently flown quite a lot by Texans (including massive ones at car dealerships). This positively reinforces civic pride, as Roman Mars notes.

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First national flag, CSA (Wikipedia).

• The Confederate Flag flown is the first national flag with seven stars, which is appropriate as Texas was one of the original seven signatories to the CSA in early 1861. Displaying the Stars and Bars helps to avoid the appearance of the ever-controversial Confederate Battle Flag, which appears on the canton of the second and third national flags.

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Second national flag, CSA (Wikipedia).

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Third national flag, CSA (Wikipedia).

• The Mexican Flag (Texas was a Mexican state between 1821 and 1836) is actually the version flown in the 1820s, i.e. this:

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Flag of the Mexican Republic, 1823-1864 (Wikipedia).

And not this:

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Flag of the United Mexican States, from 1968 (Wikipedia).

I appreciate such attention to detail!

• Bourbon France is represented by Argent semé de lys Or, i.e. a white field strewn with gold fleur de lys, one of the flags that the regime used:

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Wikipedia.

The “Six Flags” display is popular in Texas; other royal French flags employed elsewhere include Argent three fleur de lys Or (i.e. a white field with only three gold fleur de lys on it) and Azure three fleur de lys Or (i.e. a blue field with three gold fleur de lys). This last one makes for the best flag in my opinion – you want a dark color to contrast with the sky, and with the fleur de lys, even though this one is technically a banner of arms, and not a flag. Here it is at the Alamo:

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• Finally, there are several options for the flag of royal Spain. The flag displayed, according to Wikipedia, is Spain’s “navy and coastal fortifications flag 1785-1843, and national flag 1843-73 and 1874-1931.”

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Ensign of Spain, 1785-1843 (Wikipedia).

Elsewhere, Texans fly a quartered flag of Castile and Leon:

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Outside the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

An elaborate war ensign:

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From a display at a Spanish mission in San Antonio.

Or, best of all in my opinion, the Cross of Burgundy Flag. It’s simple, distinctive, and historically accurate.

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At Misión San José in San Antonio.

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From a display in Misión San Francisco de la Espada in San Antonio.

2. The Louisiana Welcome Center on I-10 flies two flags, the current Louisiana flag, and the Bonnie Blue Flag (apparently upside down!).

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The Bonnie Blue Flag was used by some Confederates as an unofficial emblem; it is immortalized in a song. What people tend not to realize, however, is that this flag had been used earlier by Fulwar Skipwith’s breakaway Republic of West Florida for a few months in 1810, and the I-10 welcome center is in one of these so-called Florida Parishes.

Interestingly, in the Louisiana State Capitol, the Bonnie Blue Flag is shown as light blue. Apparently this was the actual shade of the flag of the Republic of West Florida. Thus, it appears that the RWF and Somalia have something in common.

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3. To the immediate left of the Bonnie Blue Flag in the photo above is a flag the reader has probably not seen before.

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Flag of Louisiana, 1861 (Wikipedia).

This is the flag flown by Louisiana between its secession from the Union, and its joining of the Confederacy, in 1861. Not a bad design – I wish they had kept it as their state flag, in the mode of Texas.

(You’ll also note the flag of Republican France on the right in the photo above – Napoleon reacquired Louisiana from Spain in 1800, but then sold it to the United States in 1803.)

(You’ll also note the third national flag of the CSA. It would not surprise me if this gets changed sometime soon.)

4. A similar situation prevails in Mississippi. We drove most of the way from Mobile, Ala. to New Orleans, La. along a coastal scenic route. We thus passed Beauvoir, President Jefferson Davis’s retirement home and now Presidential Library. I did not get any pictures, but Beauvoir doesn’t mess around: flying out front are large versions of the Bonnie Blue Flag, the three national flags of the CSA, the Confederate Battle Flag, the current Mississippi flag, and the Magnolia Flag:

Wikipedia.

Magnolia Flag (Wikipedia).

According to Wikipedia, this flag was Mississippi’s official flag from 1861 until 1865; it remained in unofficial use until 1894, when the current state flag was adopted. And we all know the problem with the current flag.

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The Confederate Battle Flag on the canton survived a referendum in 2001, but I would have no problem with the governor changing it by fiat anyway, because Confederate symbols have no place connected to current symbols of sovereignty. Furthermore, the Confederacy lasted all of four years, was in defense of a horrible cause, and went down in flames. (Why not a canton of the Union Jack, or the Cross of Burgundy? Those were also episodes in Mississippi’s history – and probably happier ones.) The Magnolia Flag is a nice design and especially appropriate to the state: eleven states were in the Confederacy, but there’s only one Magnolia State.

In the meantime, when displays of all the state flags are needed, the Mississippi flag should probably be placed a little more discreetly than it was at the Superbowl this year:

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Or at this citizenship ceremony:

immigration5. The City of New Orleans has a nice flag, even if it has gold fleurs de lys on a white background:

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6. In 1965, Thomas J. Arseneaux designed the flag of Acadiana, that is, a flag for those of Cajun ancestry:

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I was pleased to learn about this one, because there is a similar flag in Canada: the flag of Acadia is a French tricolor, defaced with a gold star.

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Wikipedia.

7. We spent the night in Gonzales, Texas, and thereby discovered the existence of the Gonzales Flag.

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Wikipedia.

In 1831, the Mexican government had given the residents of Gonzales a cannon for defense. At the outbreak of the Texan Revolution in 1835, however, the Mexicans sent a force to take it back, and the Gonzalans replied with a suitable Laconic phrase, embroidered on an improvised flag. The Battle of Gonzales was the first military engagement in the Revolution, and inspiring for the Texans, as the Mexicans were forced to retreat without their cannon.

I’m surprised that this flag is not more popular among right-leaning Americans (cf. “Don’t Tread On Me“). Current residents of Gonzales certainly cherish it:

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8. Finally, the Louisiana state history museum exhibits an unofficial flag celebrating Louisiana’s admission as the eighteenth state of the Union in 1810.

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You’ll notice that this flag has eighteen stars – and eighteen stripes! Actually the official flag of the United States stopped with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes when Kentucky was admitted in 1792, but people kept adding both stars and stripes anyway out of pride. Only in 1818 did official word come down that the number of stripes should revert to thirteen, and the number of stars increase to twenty, for the number of states by that time.

Spring Break

Dr. Anne Good joined the annual Reinhardt spring break trip to Mexico again this year. Some photos:

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At the top of Vera Cruz mountain outside Ixmiquilpan.

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From the top of Vera Cruz.

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Communists!

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Seventeenth-century crucifix.

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Cistern for the well project that Reinhardt students have been fundraising for.

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Dry stone wall above the village of La Noria (where RU students replaced the roof on the school).

The Mexicans

In preparation for next year’s Year of Mexico, I’m reading Patrick Oster’s The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People (1989). Oster was a journalist stationed in Mexico City in the 1980s and the book is a collection of his columns, each one dealing with a different aspect of Mexican society, not all of them flattering (e.g., police corruption or journalistic cowardice). I was curious to read the chapter entitled “The Evangelista,” as it deals with an interest of mine:

There are those in San Juan Jaltepec who say that their village’s luck changed when they got a new patron saint. All villages in Mexico adopt a special saint who is supposed to watch over them. For centuries, the patron saint of San Juanito, as most call the tiny settlement, had been San Juan Bautista, or St. John the Baptist. But some time early in this century – no one seems to remember exactly when – there was a change. Things were going very badly for San Juanito. The village priest suggested a new patron saint might bring better luck. He proposed a switch to the Virgin of Candelaria.

The Virgin was known to bring good luck to children if they were brought before an image of her shortly after their birth. Sometimes she even performed miracles, it was said. Another village already had the Virgin as a patroness. But that was all right, the priest had said. her goodness was big enough for San Juanito, too.

To make the switch, the villagers bought a three-foot-high plaster statue of the Virgin. Her white countenance now looks down from the altar upon a sea of brown faces that worships her from the cold marble floor of the village church.

While the Virgin’s miraculous abilities seem to focus on infants, the story goes that if you ask her for something else – better crops, good health, a son – you might get that, too. But if you do, you have to offer some sacrifice in thanks on her feast day. February 2. Typically, people bring flowers, such as the red gladioli and yellow mums that festooned the altar that February night that I visited San Juanito’s church. But gifts of candles and homemade clothes for her statue are common, too.

 

Saints Galore

For a year starting in August 2013 I posted a saint a day to Facebook. I was reminded of this project again today when visiting the Lake Acworth Antique and Flea Market, at which San Benito Libreria Católica had a space. As the name of this shop suggests, it largely caters to Mexican Catholics, and so featured saints that are significant to them in various ways. Alas, San Jorge is not one of them! But I found the next best thing:

This, believe it or not, is St. James the Apostle (“Santiago Apóstol”), in his aspect as the Matamoros, that is, the Moor-Slayer. St. James’s major shrine is at Compostella in Galicia; over the course of the Middle Ages he became a patron of the reconquest of Iberia from the Muslims (even if the battle where he made his first appearance was entirely made up).

Other prayer cards. I did not cover any of these on Facebook:

Wikipedia: Santo Niño de Atocha or Holy Child of Atocha is a Roman Catholic image of the Child Jesus popular among the Hispanic cultures of Spain, Latin America, the Philippines and the southwestern United States. It is distinctly characterized by a basket he carries, along with a staff, drinking gourd, and a cape with the shell symbol of a pilgrimage to Saint James.

Wikipedia: Maximón, also called San Simón, is a folk saint venerated in various forms by Maya people of several towns in the highlands of Western Guatemala. The veneration of Maximón is not approved by the Roman Catholic Church…. He is less a benevolent deity than a bully whom one does not want to anger. His expensive tastes in alcohol and cigarettes indicate that he is a sinful human character, very different from the ascetic ideals of Christian sainthood. Devotees believe that prayers for revenge, or success at the expense of others, are likely to be granted by Maximón.

Wikipedia: Saint Charbel Makhluf, O.L.M. (1828-1898) was a Maronite monk and priest from Lebanon. During his life he obtained a wide reputation for holiness and he has been canonized by the Catholic Church.

A prayer to the Powerful Arm (even if the illustration is of the Powerful Hand). I would like to know more about this.

UPDATE: From Lucky W. Amulet archive:

The image is of a huge wounded (but not bleeding) right hand, which points up through clouds, cut palm toward us. The lines in the palm are shown, and it looks like the head line is cut. The fingers are all of eerily uniform length, with a long thin thumb. Small, disembodied, winged cherub-heads float in the sky above the hand.

To the left and right of the hand are four kneeling female angels who gaze upward and bear the tools of the crucifixion. Of the two on the left, one holds a bowl to catch Jesus’ blood; the other holds a spear and vinegar sop in one hand and hammer and nails in the other. Of the two on the right, one holds a cross and the other a crown of thorns.

Atop clouds on the little finger stands an older male saint with a book. The ring finger’s clouds hold a female saint; the middle finger’s, a younger male saint with a white lily; the forefinger’s, the Virgin Mary; and the deformed thumb’s clouds bear the toddler Jesus holding a globe in his right hand and raising his left.

The prayer on the back is printed first in Spanish and then in English. The English version:

“O Powerful Hand of God! I place my Christian soul before you, and in my despair and anguish, beseech you to aid me with your almighty power. At your feet I place the devotion of my sorrowful heart that I might be delivered from my suffering. May the loving kindness of your power help me and give me strength and wisdom to live in peace and happiness. (Here present your petitions). Amen.”

To which… a reader of this page… informs us that “the figures atop the four fingers represent St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. The Christ Child is depicted on the thumb.”

Wikipedia: Dominic Savio (1842-1857) was an Italian adolescent student of Saint John Bosco. He was studying to be a priest when he became ill and died at the age of 14, possibly from pleurisy. Savio was canonised a saint on June 12, 1954, by Pope Pius XII, making him the youngest non-martyr to be canonised in the Catholic Church.

Wikipedia: Saint Hedwig of Silesia (1174-1243), a member of the Bavarian comital House of Andechs, was Duchess of Silesia from 1201 and of Greater Poland from 1231 as well as High Duchess consort of Poland from 1232 until 1238. She was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1267.

Wikipedia: Expeditus is said to have been a Roman centurion in Armenia who was martyred around April 303 in what is now Turkey, for converting to Christianity. Considered the patron saint of speedy cases, he is commemorated by the Roman Catholic Church on April 19.

Not a prayer card, but an entire novena to Saint Toribio Romo González (1900-1928), who “was a Mexican martyr who died in the Cristero War… There is a belief among some Mexicans that Toribio Romo has appeared to some who cross the border illegally to assist them in distress. He is used as an icon for the hope of food, water and money, as well as safety” (Wikipedia). He was canonized in 2000.

In fairness, I should also say that there were plenty of other prayer cards and posters to better-known saints, like Michael, Lucy, Martin of Tours, and Jude, who will ward off Protestant propagandists:

 

St. Benedict, whose day it was:

And the Virgin of Guadeloupe, who is here rendered in the style of Precious Moments™, although Dr. Anne Good tells me that there is a specific diminutive name for this depiction, and that they’re fairly common in Mexico: