Shield Of The Umsnh: History And Meaning

The shield of the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH) represents, through the symbols of its four barracks, the identity and values ​​of the largest house of studies in the Mexican entity of Michoacán. 

This house of studies is considered a faithful heir to humanism and the ideals of renowned figures such as Vasco de Quiroga, Miguel Hidalgo, José María Morelos and Melchor Ocampo.

It is the first autonomous university in Latin America, thanks to the initiative of Pascual Ortiz Rubio. Today it is a public and secular institution, offering training at the upper-middle and higher levels.

History of the institution and the shield

To know the history of the coat of arms of the Universidad Michoacana it is necessary to go back to its origins, specifically to the founding of the Colegio de San Nicolás Obispo by the first Basque Bishop of Quiroga.

It is said that Don Vasco kept his family’s crest during the first years in New Spain, around the 18th century. The emblem had been taken by their ancestors in 715, when a knight defended Galicia from the entry of the Moors.

It is not specified at what moment it happened, but in the portraits that were made of the Bishop in that same century, some modifications begin to be appreciated. A Maltese Cross is transformed into an anchor, the tree in the last barracks acquired the characteristics of a cypress. In addition, some colors like the dice change and the red and green backgrounds alternate in the barracks.

Political tension and closures

The Colegio San Nicolás Obispo was closed for political reasons during the Mexican War of Independence . Then it was reopened in 1847, thanks to the then governor of the entity, Don Melchor Ocampo.

The institution changes its name to Colegio de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, but the memory of its founder remains . In his honor and by regulation, students had to wear a purple, blue, green or white ribbon loop, with Quiroga’s weapons.

Additionally, the shield was maintained, although quite reformed. In the second barracks there is now a Greek cross and in the fourth there is only one mountain, instead of two, with the cypress slightly inclined to the left.

In 1863, the educational campus was closed again when Morelia fell into the hands of the imperialist regime. Its building was practically in ruins, so together with its reopening in 1867, the reconstruction works also began.

The restoration of the campus was completed around the year 1881. Not only the building was modified, but the shield. The sink was left with more symmetrical edges and a stylization of the fleur-de-lis is added.

The four barracks do not have major modifications, although the episcopal hat is modified to one with a wide brim. The plaque is enclosed in a double circle with the legend in capital letters: Colegio Primitivo y Nacional de S. Nicolás de Hidalgo.

University foundation

With the foundation of the university campus, in 1917, the Quiroga family coat of arms was adopted with the modifications that had been made up to now. It was only in 1919 that the previous inscription was replaced by that of “Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo. Morelia ”.

In 1921, under the rector of Dr. Ignacio Chávez, other elements were added to it, such as the border that crowns it and where the name of the University is read, as well as two lighted torches and the improvement of the edges of the divided sink.

The colors red, green, white and gold were unchanged. By the 1960s, the five clubs in the third barracks were transformed by five wooden clubs. Since then no modifications to the emblem have been detected.

Shield Meaning

The coat of arms of the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH) is of the «modern Spanish» type, quartered in a cross, which generate 4 parts with their respective ideographies. Its colors are 5 in total: backgrounds in red or green, with elements in white, indigo blue and gold.

In the first of its barracks, six dice arranged in pairs with points can be seen. The first pair has one and four points, the next two and five points and the last three and six points. In the second quarter is included the anchored cross, typical of the coats of arms and symbol of hope or of the new beginning.

Five wooden clubs or clubs can be seen in the third quarter. In the last one, there is a cypress tree on a small hill, next to a spearhead as a lower finish.

In the upper part and in front of the shield, a wide-brimmed Episcopal hat can be seen. In addition, the episcopal pretenses are embracing the plate.

On the other hand, the university inscription is printed on a ribbon that comes from a circle. It is held by two lighted torches, which represent the sciences and humanities. Finally, in the lower area of ​​the emblem there are two crossed branches: one of laurel and the other of olive.

The emblem is usually interpreted as follows: “Given in harmony, under the shadow of religion, united in fraternal bond, towards the light of knowledge, in peace and in victory.” While the motto adopted by the institution has been “Cradle of heroes, melting pot of thinkers.”


  1. Michoacan University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo. (sf). History. Recovered from
  2. The Internet Archive. (sf). Quiroga’s shield in the 18th century. Recovered from
  3. Garibay, E. (2015, October 15). 98th Anniversary of the Michoacan University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Cradle of Heroes, Crucible of Thinkers. Eduardo Garibay Mares. Recovered from
  4. Times Higher Education (sf) Michoacán University of San Nicolas of Hidalgo. Recovered from
  5. Varela, A. (2017, March 28). Universidad Michoacana De San Nicolás de Hidalgo -UMSNH- Recovered from

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