Mexico: Legend of Popo and Izta

The following legend is one my friend Andrea has been hearing about ever since she was a little girl. She claims to have first heard it in primary school. According to her, this legend is known throughout all of Mexico City because of how culturally relevant it is. To give context on this legend, it is important to mention that it is based on the two mountains overlooking Mexico City. The mountains are shaped in the form of a sleeping woman and a kneeling man and the legend relates the tale of how the mountains emerged.


The legend of Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl tells the story of an Aztec warrior named  Popocatepetl and his love for the Aztec Princess, Iztaccíhuatl. The Aztecs were going to war and Popocatepetl, being the best warrior, took to the front lines. However, before leaving for battle, he asked the Chief of the Aztecs, Iztaccíhuatl’s father, for his daughters hand in marriage. When Popocatepetl left, one of his rivals told Iztaccíhuatl that her lover had died in battle. Stricken with grief, she dies. When Popocatepetl returns from battle victorious, he finds his bride to be dead and takes her up to the mountains where he lays her body and dies next to her of a broken heart. The two lovers can still be seen in the shape of the mountains. 


This legend reminded me a lot about the legend of Tristan and Isolde, where both lovers die of a broken heart. I find it very interesting that it includes the Aztec Empire and embeds into the story an explanation for how the land came to be. The fact that it includes the Aztecs speaks a lot about Mexican culture, as this is one of the most ancient tribes to have inhabited this area. Furthermore, I can understand why this would make the legend so widespread; it addresses not only the roots of Mexican people, but also provides an explanation for two of the most iconic mountains in the region.

I really liked this story and thought that it was very heartwarming and moving. I’m also Mexican so I understand the importance of this legend and how widespread it is through Mexico City. Everyone knows it. Part of the reason why I think it is so widespread is because the mountains that represent this legend can literally be seen on a clear day from any point in the city. It gives an explanation for how things came to be while still maintaing a close connection with Mexican roots and history. Furthermore, it provides insight into the culture that already existed in Mexico before the Spanish came and conquered. I find it extremely interesting that this story is not unlike most other tragic romance stories. This goes to show the similarities that can be found across different cultures.