General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 23 Nov 2017/8 Flint
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Popocatépetl

The Legend of Popocatépetl

Iztaccíhuatl, ‘the white woman’, lies on the highest point of the rim of mountains surrounding the Valley of Mexico, and near her stands Popocatépetl, “the smoking mountain”. Both lord it over the countryside many miles around and can be seen from three states. Some days their snow-covered forms stand out stark and clear against the skies, while on others they are hidden from view. At dawn the rising sun touches them with a warm light, and in the evening they are lost in the play of light and shadow. (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Painting by Jesús Helguera ‘La Leyenda de los volcanes’, ca. 1941, popularly reproduced on modern Mexican calendars
Painting by Jesús Helguera ‘La Leyenda de los volcanes’, ca. 1941, popularly reproduced on modern Mexican calendars

For those who live within view of their grandeur and beauty, Iztac and Popo, as we call them familiarly, have acquired human attributes; they seem like real people, like the lovers of the legend we so often hear.

Oil painting by Martin Stopher of ‘Popocatépetl from Cholula’ reproduced by kind permission of Martin Stopher
Oil painting by Martin Stopher of ‘Popocatépetl from Cholula’ reproduced by kind permission of Martin Stopher (Click on image to enlarge)

Iztaccíhuatl, beautiful daughter of a powerful Aztec emperor, was the only heir to his throne and glory. When her father became weak on account of old age, his enemies began to wage wars against him. He called to his aid the bravest of the young warriors of his tribes, and offered his throne and the hand of his daughter to the one who would vanquish his enemies. Among those who went into the fight was Popocatépetl, the bravest of all, who for years had been in love with the Princess and she with him.

Iztaccíhuatl today
Iztaccíhuatl today (Click on image to enlarge)

The war was long, cruel and bloody. When it was about to end and Popocatépetl could return in triumph to claim his rewards, his rivals sent back the false news that he had been killed. The Princess then became victim of a strange illness. Neither the witch doctors nor the priests were able to cure her. She languished and died.

When Popocatépetl returned and found her dead, nothing could assuage his grief. He did not wish to go on living, so he constructed a great pyramid upon which he laid his beloved, and next to it another for himself, where he stands holding a torch to illuminate her eternal sleep.

During the years that followed, the snows enfolded the body of the Princess and covered that of the warrior, but it never extinguished the torch, which continues lighted, warm and everlasting, like the love of Popocatépetl for his Princess.

Abridged from “A Treasury of Mexican Folkways” by Frances Toor
Photos of Popo and Izta by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

The volcano stories - myth or folklore?

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Mexicolore replies: Many thanks for this intriguing link! It says more about the origin of the third volcano than about Popo and Izta...