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The Legend of Popocatépetl and IztaccihuatlThe The Sleeping lovers

This ancient legend comes from the oral tradition of the ancient Náhuas.

Many years before Cortés came to Mexico, the Aztecs lived in Tenochtitlán, today’s Mexico City.  The chief of the Aztecs was a famous Emperor who was loved by all the natives.  The emperor and his wife, the Empress, were very worried because they had no children.  One day, the Empress said to the Emperor that she was going to give birth to a child.  A baby girl was born and she was as beautiful as her mother.  The called her Iztacciuatl which in Náhual means “white lady”.

All the natives loved Izta and her parents prepared her to be the Empress of all the Aztecs.  When she grew up, she fell in love with the captain of a tribe.  His name was Popoca.

One day, a war broke out and the warriors had to go south to fight the enemy.  The Emperor told Popoca that he had to bring the head of the enemy chief back from the war so that he could marry his daughter.

After several months of combat, a warrior who hated Popoca sent a false message to the Emperor.  The message said that his army had won the war but that Popoca had died in battle.  The Emperor was very sad when he heard the news and when Izta heard, she could not stop crying.  She refused to go out and would not eat any more.  A few days later, she became ill and died of sadness.

When the Emperor was preparing Izta’s funeral, Popoca and his warriors returned victorious from was.  The Emperor was taken aback when he saw Popoca and told him that other warriors had announced his death.  Then he told him that Izta had died.

Popoca was very sad.  He took Izta’s body and left the town.  He walked a long way until he arrived at some mountains where he ordered his warriors to build a funeral table with flowers and he put Izta on top.  Then, he kneeled down to watch over Izta and died of sadness too.

The Gods were touched by Popoca’s sacrifice and turned the tables and the bodies into great volcanoes.  The biggest volcano is Popocatépetl, which means “smoking mountain”. He sometimes throws out smoke, showing that he is still watching over Iztaccihuatl who sleeps by his side.

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