The Legend of Popoca and Mixtli

A story that began hundreds of years ago when the gods still walked the earth…


You can visit the towering white peaks that are over 5000m tall, 2 of the tallest mountains in Mexico and they are a popular destination for hikers and mountaineers, only 45 miles from Mexico City. The volcano Iztaccihuatl has long been extinct and is covered in snow all year around and Popcatepetl, the taller of the two, is actually still active, and occasionally spews ash and smoke.

The names aptly translate from the Nahuatl language to ‘white woman’ for Iztaccihuatl and ‘smoking mountain’ for Popcatepetl. Iztaccihuatl consists of 4 peaks wherein the silhouette of a sleeping woman can be seen.

These paintings below are by the incredible talent that was Jesus Helguera, who through his artwork demanded the respect for true Mexican art and culture it deserves.


The Legend of Popoca and Mixtli

Back when time began, according to the legend, when the Aztecs arrived in the Valley of Anahuac and before the mountains were formed, there was a princess called Mixtli and a young warrior Popoca. They were very much in love, even being close to them you could feel the warmth of their love for one another. However, before Popoca could marry the princess, her father Tizoc, the Tlatoani/Emperor of the Mexicas gave him a condition, namely to return victorious from battle with their tribe’s enemy.

Popoca needed to return with their leader’s head to show his victory.Mixtli knew how much danger her love was in and as time went by and knowing how ruthless and bloodthirsty their enemies were, she began to fear for his life.

On one cold and grey morning a message was sent back to the king informing him of the death of Popoca. However the message was false and made up by Axooxco, a cruel nobleman who amongst many others desperately wanted Mixtli as his wife, and hoped that she would take him if she heard such news.

However instead upon hearing the news the princess falls in to a deep sorrow.
The warrior was indeed victorious and returned that day to his beloved Mixtli only to find she had died of a broken heart.


Grief stricken beyond any measure, Popoca carries her body to the mountains in the hopes that the cold snow would wake her from her eternal slumber.

The Gods, having watched all that happened and feeling sorrow for the brave warrior, turned the humans into the mountains so that they can finally be together.

The mountains remain as they were with Mixtli sleeping and her warrior Popoca protecting her from harm, spewing ash to remind everyone that he will never rest and never leave the side of his love and will wait til the end of time for her to wake up.