A Legendary Love Story About Volcanoes in Mexico City

During main holiday weekends like 15 de Septiembre (Mexican Independence Day) and Spring Break, the chilangos (people from Mexico City) flee the city to a more tropical place and leave the city empty. Okay, not empty, that would be impossible, but way less crowded. Enough people leave making the city smog-less for a few days. This gives way to the visibility of two famous volcanoes in Mexico.

When chilangos come back to the city from Acapulco or other preferred holiday destinations like Guanajuato or Baja California, they enjoy clear skies and the sight from two beloved volcanoes in Mexico: Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl which overlook the Valley of Mexico.

mexico city view popocatepetl

mexico city view


Modern smog (as opposed to the 20th century term), is present in cities like Los Angeles and Mexico City. Smog is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines and industrial fumes that react in the atmosphere with sunlight. These form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emissions to form photochemical smog. Too much mumbo jumbo?

Furthermore, temperature inversion traps pollution close to the ground and increases pollution levels in cities.

mexico city view2


Popocatepetl, one of the two most famous volcanoes in Mexico, is an active volcano with an approximate age of 730,000 years. 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 Mexico.

Popocatépetl “The Smoking Mountain” derives its name from the Nahuatl word popoa, which means smoke, and the noun tepetl, meaning hill. Since the Aztec Empire, its characteristic fumaroles already emanated from it.

Most people refer to it as El Popo. However, the populations that live on its slopes have an affectionate nickname for it: Don Goyo.

mexico city view popocatepetl1


Iztaccihuatl, located in central Mexico, is an extinct volcano. It is the third highest mountain in the country, with an altitude of 5,220 meters above sea level.

The name Iztaccihuatl “The White Woman”, is derived from the Nahuatl word iztac which means white, and ciahuatl which means woman.

Today, people refer to it as the Sleeping Woman because of its distinctive profile which resembles a woman lying with her face turned skyward.

Both volcanoes are within the territorial limits of the states of Mexico and Puebla.

A story legend relates the Nahua romance of the princess Iztaccíhuatl and the warrior Popocatépetl about two of the famous volcanoes in Mexico, as told below.

mexico city view4

The Legend of Popocatepetl & Iztaccíhuatl

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. She had professed her love for young Popocatepetl, one of her father’s people and the most handsome warrior.

Both had a deep love for each other, so before leaving for war, Popocatepetl asked the chief for the hand of Princess Iztaccihuatl.

mexico city view1
Volcanoes Iztaccíhuatl on the left and Popocatépetl on the right, overlooking the Valley of Mexico.

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 their love, told Princess Iztaccihuatl that her beloved had died in combat.

Crushed by such tragedy and overwhelmed by sadness the princess died, without even imagining it could be a lie…

mexico city view7

Popocatepetl 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 be forgotten.

He ordered a great tomb built under the sun, piling up ten hills together to form a huge mountain.

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.

mexico city view bw

The legend goes on…

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 spewing fumaroles.

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 supposedly became a mountain, Pico de Orizaba. Which is another of the volcanoes in Mexico and now, from afar, watches the eternal dream of the two lovers, never again to be separated.

(story source)

volcanoes in Mexico
A plane flies near Iztaccíhuatl
mexico city view
Mexico City with smog. Can’t see the volcanoes.
Wasn’t that the greatest legend you’ve ever heard?

2 thoughts on “A Legendary Love Story About Volcanoes in Mexico City

  1. Nice story. As for the smog, I remember visiting Castillo de Chapultepec one September afternoon. Nearly four months of almost-daily rain had washed away the pollution, and from the castle grounds I saw all the hills that surrounded Mexico City. I gasped, as most of those I had never seen before!


    1. Oh, that sounds pretty amazing ,the view up there is pretty great but I’ve never seen it with clear skies.


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