The Legend of Popocat�petl and Iztacc�huatl
On a clear day, the towering white peaks of the
legendary Popocat�petl and Iztacc�huatl volcanoes can
be seen from the great metropolis of Mexico City.
Rising beyond 17,000 feet in elevation, these two
majestic mountains offer the viewer a breathtaking
sight. Snowcapped year round, the well-known landmarks
have captured people�s imaginations throughout the
ages. Located just 45 miles southeast of the nation�s
capital, Popo and Izta, as many affectionately call
these two volcanoes, share a story that reaches back
into the mists of time.
Geographically, these two glacier-iced volcanoes
represent the second and third highest mountains in
Mexico. The name Iztacc�huatl in the indigenous
Nahuatl language means �White Woman� and the mountain
actually includes four peaks, the tallest of which
reaches 17,158 feet. Many see her silhouette as
resembling that of a sleeping woman, complete with
head, chest, knees and feet. Iztacc�huatl is an
extinct volcano and is a popular destination for
adventurous mountaineers and hikers.
Popocat�petl is the taller of the two mountains,
reaching an incredible 17,802 feet in height.
Popocat�petl and Iztacc�huatl are connected by a high
mountain pass known as the Paso de Cort�s.
Popocat�petl is still active with the volcano having
spewed smoke and ash as recently as 2001. In the
N�huatl language Popocat�petl means �Smoking Mountain�
and as we shall soon see, was aptly named.
The sleeping woman - Artist Jesus Helguera|
In Aztec mythology, the volcanoes were once humans who
were deeply in love. This legend features two
star-crossed lovers, the young brave warrior
Popocat�petl and the beautiful princess Iztacc�huatl.
The father of Iztacc�huatl, a mighty ruler, placed a
demanding condition upon Popocat�petl before he could
take Iztacc�huatl as his bride. His mandate required
that Popocat�petl first engage in battle against the
tribe�s enemy and return victorious. Variations of the
legend include the added stipulation that Popocat�petl
needed to return with the vanquished enemy�s head as
proof of his success.
The story continues with Popocat�petl setting off for
battle with Iztacc�huatl waiting for her beloved�s
return. Treacherously, a rival of Popocat�petl�s
sends a false message back to the ruler that the
warrior has been slain when in fact, Popocat�petl has
won the battle and is ready to return to his
Iztacc�huatl. However, the princess upon hearing the
false news, falls ill and succumbs to her deep sorrow,
dying of a broken heart. When Popocat�petl returns
triumphant to his people only to encounter his
beloved�s death, his heartbreak is inconsolable.
Iztacc�huatl and prince
Popocat�petl - Artist Jesus Helguera||
He carries Iztacc�huatl's body to the mountains
whereupon he has a funeral pyre built for both himself
and his princess. Grief-stricken beyond measure,
Popocat�petl dies next to his beloved. The Gods,
touched by the lover�s plight, turn the humans into
mountains, so that they may finally be together. They
remain so to this day with Popocat�petl residing over
his princess Iztacc�huatl, while she lay asleep. On
occasion, Popo will spew ash, reminding those watching
that he is always in attendance, that he will never
leave the side of his beloved Izta.