view that adorns the world's largest city – Mexico City
– is enhanced by the majesty of two of the highest
volcanoes in the hemisphere: Popocatepetl
The presence of these
enormous millennial volcanoes has been of great
significance for the different societies that have
admired and revered them, being a source of inspiration
for the many legends about their origin and creation.
Among these, the best known are two that we will relate
Thousands of years ago, when the Aztec Empire
was in its heyday and dominated the Valley of Mexico, it
was common practice to subject neighboring towns, and to
require a mandatory tax. It was then that the
chief of the Tlaxcaltecas, bitter enemies
of the Aztecs, weary of this terrible
oppression, decided to fight for his people’s freedom.
The chief had a daughter named Iztaccihuatl:
the most beautiful of all the princesses, who had
professed her love for young Popocatepetl,
one of her father's people and the most handsome
Both professed a deep
love for each other, so before leaving for war,
Popocatepetl asked the chief for the hand of
The father gladly
agreed and promised to welcome him back with a big
celebration to give him his daughter’s hand if he
returned victorious from the battle.
The brave warrior
accepted, prepared everything and departed keeping in
his heart the promise that the princess would be waiting
for him to consummate their love.
Soon afterward, a love
rival of Popocatepetl, jealous of the love
they professed to each other, told Princess
Iztaccihuatl that her beloved had died in
Crushed by such tragedy and overwhelmed by sadness the
princess died, without even imagining it could be a lie.
returned victorious to his people, hoping to find his
beloved princess. Upon arrival, he received
the terrible news of the death of Iztaccihuatl.
Devastated by the
news, he wandered about the streets for several days and
nights, until he decided he had to do something to honor
her love and to assure that the princess would not ever
He ordered a great tomb
built under the sun, piling up ten hills together to form a
He carried the dead Princess in his arms, took her to
the summit and laid her on the great mountain. The young
warrior lovingly kissed her cold lips, took a smoking
torch and knelt in front of his beloved to watch over
her eternal sleep.
From then on, they
continue together, facing each other. Eventually
the snow covered their bodies, forming two majestic
volcanoes that would remain joined till the end of time.
The legend goes on to say that when the warrior
Popocatepetl remembers his beloved, his heart –
that preserves the fire of eternal passion – shakes and
his torch smokes.
That’s why, even
today; the Popocatepetl volcano continues
As for the coward,
Tlaxcala, who lied to Iztaccihuatl,
overcome with repentance for the tragedy that ensued, he
went off to die very near his land. He also became
a mountain, Pico de Orizaba, another of the
region’s volcanoes and now, from afar, watches the
eternal dream of the two lovers, never again to be
This legend has been passed on from generation to
generation since the time of the Aztec Empire,
in the XIV century, and the importance given to them is
clear, for the names that they have today were given to
them since that time.
derives its name from the Nahuatl word
popoa , which means smoke
and the noun tepetl , meaning
hill ; so its name literally means, hill
that smokes , because from that time, its
characteristic fumaroles already emanated from it.
Popularly, it’s known
as El Popo , although the populations
living on its slopes know it by the affectionate
nickname of Don Goyo .
the other volcano, derives its name from the
Nahuatl word iztac
which means white and
ciahuatl which is interpreted as
woman , so that its name translates as
Today, it is best
known as the Sleeping Woman because of its
distinctive profile, resembling a woman lying with her
face turned skyward.
is an active volcano with an approximate age of 730,000
It has a symmetrical
cone-shape and a maximum height of 5,450 meters above
sea level, which places it as the second highest peak in
It is united in its
northern part with Iztaccihuatl through a
mountain pass known as Paso de Cortes, a name
that refers to the route taken by Hernan Cortes
through that place, before reaching the
is an extinct volcano located in central Mexico. It is
the third highest mountain in the country, with an
altitude of 5,220 meters above sea level and both are
located within the territorial limits of the states of
Mexico and Puebla.
Currently, both volcanoes are still a source of great
artistic and literary creations, which will, no doubt,
go down in posterity as will this great legend.
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