Like any worthwhile natural wonder Mexico City’s two iconic volcanos, the active Popocatapetl (Smoking Mountain), and dormant Iztaqccihuatl (White Woman) have a poignant love story to ensure their status. The pair is among 40 active, dormant or extinct volcanos in Mexico which features prominently on the Pacific Rim of Fire chain. Popocatapetl is one of the most volatile erupting spectacularly in 2000, and at regular intervals over intervening years, most recently this week spewing ash three kilometres into the air over nearby Puebla city and closing its airport.
One version of the myth portrays Popocatapetl and Iztaqccihuatl – or Mujer Dormida, Sleeping Woman in Spanish – as two unrequited lovers. The Princess Iztaqccihuatl is promised by her father to the warrior Popocatapetl if he returns from battle in Oaxaca. Iztaqccihuatl learns her father does not expect her beloved to return and has arranged other suitors. Heartbroken, the Princess kills herself with a dagger. Returning victorious Popocatépetl is devastated and takes her body to the top of the mountain hoping the cold will revive her. Instead he freezes to death. The gods transform him into a mountain and cover it/him, and the sleeping princess, with snow.
Approaching the volcanos by road from the Mexico City side on the way to Puebla one can make out the shape of the “sleeping woman”, with four individual snow-capped peaks from that angle depicting the “head”, “chest”, “knees” and “feet” of the stricken Princess. I don’t think the residents of Mexico City and Puebla will want Iztaqccihuatl to awaken from her slumber and join Popocatapetl.