The 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 and Iztaccíhuatl. The presence of these enormous millenary 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 below. Thousands of years ago, when the Aztec Empire 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 warrior. Both professed a deep love for each other, so before leaving for war, Popocatepetl asked the chief for the hand of Princess Iztaccihuatl.
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 combat.
Crushed and overwhelmed by sadness, the princess died without even knowing that it was a lie. Popocatepetl returned victorious to his people, hoping to find his beloved princess. Upon arrival, he received the terrible news of the death of Iztaccihuatl.
One of the most beautiful Mexican legends recounts that the people of Aztlan, north of what is today Mexico, had to leave their homes by orders of their gods in search of the promised land.
It is believed that the Aztecs, whose name means the people of Aztlan, began to emigrate in the 6th century.
The future Aztecs or Mexica, formed by the Nahua peoples, on orders of their god Huitzilopochtli, the Sun and War god, had to abandon the place where they lived and start a pilgrimage to find a place where an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus, devouring a snake would be.
Huitzilopochtli told the Aztecs that when they found the eagle it would be the signal that they had reached land where they would build the most powerful empire in Mesoamerica, Middle America.
When the first men became conscious of the light that was emitted from the sun, and the relationship that exists between light and day; darkness and night; the sun and the moon; they assigned them each values. The sun received the positive values: life and flourishing nature; the moon’s values were a little more negative: the world of the dead, a decline.
From the sun comes positive energy, and to him, “Tonathiu”, the highest honors are given in the festivals and traditions that come from the “life cycles” – the same cycles which are associated with the arrival of Spring.
In all of the pre-Colombian cultures, the sun is associated with the Spring rituals, when life is reborn and flourishes. It is also the time of year to prepare the fallow land for harvest. In the “huichol” pueblos, a ritual is prepared for the “deer”, which is the sun that carries light to the pueblos throughout the three-day celebration.
The figure of the sun is even present in the roundness of our Mexican tortilla, which nourishes and provides energy for our body. The form of the tortilla – round — and the corn – yellow like the sun – bring together symbolic elements of the positive values.
The Pre-Hispanic cultures took advantage of the light of the sun, converting into energy for their own bodies. They would rub their hands together vigorously, and then expose their hands to the sun of the heavenly star for several minutes, sitting on the ground with their legs crossed in the lotus position.
In archaeological centers across the world, it has become a tradition for the people to receive the equinox. As the pyramids attract energy, people arrive dressed in white, ready to receive the forces of the sun. Many arrive early in the morning, climb the pyramids, and find a good place to receive the energy. Some wear flower necklaces; others wear red handkerchiefs around their foreheads; and those who are the most deeply rooted in the tradition light incense and walk in huaraches or go barefoot along the edifying rocks.
This huge monolith with at least 500 years of existence seems to speak to us from its silence of stone. The sunken eyes of Tonatiuh, the Aztec sun god, look out from the center of this cyclic sequence of glyphs and dates.
The impressive Stone of the Five Eras, has a diameter of 11.75 ft., 3.22 ft. deep and weighs 24 tons; but above all, it is a work of art, the epitome of the warrior cosmogony and dazzling civilization that occupied the Valley of Mexico.
It is believed that the Aztecs named this monolith Ollin Tonatiuhtlan meaning “Sun of Movement“, and refers to the era of the Fifth Sun. This era , according to the Mexica culture, would correspond to our present time, and which is expected to end with a series of earthquakes.
Despite its calendar-like appearance, some anthropologist maintain that it was used as a temalacatl, circular platform where the gladiatorial sacrifice was performed, and the blood and vitality of the warrior was fed to the sun god.
Obscure were the first centuries of existence of this monolith. It barely had a few years of splendor between 1512, when it was carved, and 1521, when Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, fell under the Spanish rule.
The Spaniards abandoned the monolith near the Viceregal Palace, leaving it outside at the mercy of the elements. Then, in an effort to erase all signs of the magnificence of the Mexica culture, it was turned face down and buried.
There it remained for two centuries until December 1790, when renovation works were carried out in the city, and was found just under half a meter of dirt, full of mud.
The discovery triggered many reactions. It was proof that the Aztecs were not uncivilized barbarians as the French and English thought at the time.
The Aztecs were a very civilized culture that knew and used the geometric circle, and were able to create a work of poignant beauty like that monolith. So a few months after being discovered, it was decided it would be placed in the west tower of the Metropolitan Cathedral, so it could be admired by all who visited the beautiful city of Mexico. That same year another Aztec monolith was found, the impressiveCoatlicue (Earth goddess of life and death), a complex figure difficult to be understood by the Spanish conquistadors.
These two amazing discoveries ignited the sense of the Mexican people of their right to be an independent, sovereign nation..
Although obviously liberal influences from Europe had already permeated into 1790 New Spain’s society, undoubtedly the Sun Stone and Coatlicue became a spark that ignited the wish to rebel, the trigger that was needed to start the war for independencefromSpain.
From its privileged location, the Sun Stone was a quiet witness to this and other battles, such as the American occupation in 1847. For more than 100 years it stood outside it was sheltered in the Monoliths Gallery of the National Museum, in the Historic Center of Mexico City.
Its permanent location is now, and has been for decades, in the Bosque de Chapultepec at the world known National Museum of Anthropology. It finally has a place of honor and the centralelement in the impressive Mexica Room.
This beautiful legend recounts the love story of two young Aztecs, Xóchitl and Huitzilin, a romance from which the cempasuchil flower was born.
This wonderful love story began when the two young Aztecs were still little. They used to spend all their spare time playing and enjoying discovering their town together. Although Xochitl was a delicate girl, her family let her join in the adventures of her neighbor Huitzilin. With time, it was only natural that their love would flourish.
They particularly enjoyed hiking to the top of a near mountain where they would offer flowers to the Sun god Tonatiuh. The god seemed to appreciate their offering and would smile from the sky with his warm rays. On a particularly beautiful day at the top of the mountain, they swore that their love would last for ever.
When war broke out the lovers were separated as Huitzilin headed to fight and protect their homeland.
Soon the dreaded news of Huitzilin‘s death reached Xóchitl. She felt her world falling to pieces, her heart completely torn.
She decided to walk one last time to the top of the mountain and implore the sun god Tonatiuh, to somehow join her with her love Huitzilin. The sun moved by her prayers threw a ray that gently touched the young girl’s cheek. Instantly she turned into a beautiful flower of fiery colors as intense at the sun rays.
Suddenly a hummingbird lovingly touched the center of the flower with its beak.
It was Huitzilin that was reborn as a handsome hummingbird. The flower gently opened its 20 petals, filling the air with a mysterious and lovely scent.
The lovers would be always together as long as cempasuchil flowers and hummingbirds existed on earth.
This is how the cempasúchil flower came to be the Day of the Dead Flower.
Bolonchen de Rejon is a beautiful village in the state of Quintana Roo. Bolonchen means Nine Cenotes.
Legend has it that guided by a wise man, the first settlers of Bolonchen arrived at the place where they found nine cenotes, or deep natural wells created by the gods to collect rain water.
But it was not easy for them to take over the place. For years they had to fight, led by a brave young man and a great warrior.
In the town lived a beautiful young woman named Xunaan, whose sweetness and kindness won her the love of all the settlers. They say that her voice had the beautiful sound of water springs.
The young warrior upon laying eyes on her immediately fell in love. He could think of nothing else than the enchanting Xunaan. His love was corresponded, as she also was madly in love with him; but between them was the mother of Xunaan, who afraid of losing her daughter, decided to hide her in a cave in Akumal.
The desperate young warrior could not do anything but search for her. In his search, he neglected his people who lost their wellbeing and happiness.
The whole town decided to search for the girl but after months of searching, they couldn’t find her. She had vanished. One day, many months later, a beautiful bird approached several women who were washing clothes near a well.
With its beautiful plumage, the bird splashed them so that they would hear in the distance the voice of Xunaan coming from the bottom of the well.
They quickly alerted the young warrior who guided by the messenger bird, arrived at the place where his beloved was hidden.
It was not easy to descend the narrow rock walls of the cave, but his love gave him great courage.
After so much pain and desperation, they were finally together again. Love triumphed, and happiness and prosperity returned to the people of Bolonchen.
They say that after so many centuries have passed, every night the young warrior returns to the grotto to hear the song of his beloved Xunaan.
Nowadays tourists can visit this legendary cenote called Xunaan or Hidden Lady in Akumal, Quintana Roo.