Chapter 1 Part 1

By dancingintheraine

July 24, 2008

Category: Uncategorized

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“The main islands were thickly populated with a peaceful folk when Christ-over found them. But the orgy of blood which followed, no man has written. We are the slaughterers. It is the tortured soul of our world.”
–William Carlos William

Chapter 1: Before Columbus
Part 1

It’s gone now, drained and desiccated in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest, but once there was an interconnected complex of lakes high up in the Valley of Mexico that was as long and as wide as the city of London is today. Surrounding these waters, known collectively as the Lake of the Moon, were scores of towns and cities whose population, combined with that of the outlying communities of central Mexico, totaled about 25,000,000 men, women, and children. On any given day as many as 200,000 small boats moved back and forth on the Lake of the Moon, pursuing the interests of commerce, political intrigue, and simple pleasure. (1)

The southern part of the Lake of the Moon was filled with brilliantly clear spring-fed water, but the northern part, in the rainy season, became brackish and sometimes inundated the southern region with an invasion of destructive salty currents. So the people of the area built a ten-mile long stone and clay and masonry dike separating the lower third of the lake from the upper two-thirds, blocking the salt water when it appeared, but—through an ingenious use of sluice gates—allowing the heavy water traffic on the lake to continue its rounds unobstructed by the massive levee wall. This southern part of the great lake thus became, as well as a thoroughfare, an immense fresh-water fish pond.

In the middle of this fresh-water part of the lake there were two reed-covered mud banks that the residents of the area over time built up and developed into a single huge island as large as Manhattan, and upon that island the people built a metropolis that became one of the largest cities in the world. With a conventionally estimated population of about 350,000 residents by the end of the fifteenth century, this teeming Aztec capital already had at least five times the population of either London or Seville and was vastly larger than any other European city. (2) Moreover, according to Hernando Cortés, one of the first Europeans to set eyes upon it, it was far and away the most beautiful city on earth.

The name of this magnificent metropolis was Tenochtitlán. It stood, majestic and radiant, in the crisp, clean air, 7200 feet above sea level, connected to the surrounding mainland by three wide causeways that had been built across miles of open water. To view Tenochtitlán from a distance, all who had the opportunity to do so agreed, was breathtaking. Before arriving at the great central city, travelers from afar had to pass through densely populated, seemingly infinite, surrounding lands—and already, invariably, they were overwhelmed. Wrote Cortés’s famous companion and chronicler Bernal Díaz del Castillo of their visit to one of the provincial cities at the confluence of Lake Chalco and Lake Xochimilco:

When we entered the city of Iztapalapa, the appearance of the palaces in which they house us! How spacious and well built they were, of beautiful stone work and cedar wood, and the wood of other sweet scented trees, with great rooms and courts, wonderful to behold, covered with awnings of cotton cloth. When we had looked well at all of this, we went to the orchard and garden, which was a wonderful thing to see and walk in, that I was never tired of looking at the diversity of the trees, and noting the scent which each one had, and the paths full of roses and flowers, and the native fruit trees and native roses, and the pond of fresh water. There was another thing to observe, that great canoes were able to pass into the garden from the lake through an opening that had been made so that there was no need of their occupants to land. And all was cemented and very splendid with many kinds of stone [monuments] with pictures on them, which gave much to think about. Then the birds of many kinds and breeds which came into the pond. I say again that I stood looking at it and through that never in the world there be discovered lands such as these. (3)

Impressive as Iztapalap was, the Spanish were seeking the heart of this great empire, so they pressed on. In addition to the cities that surrounded the Lake of the Moon, other towns were, like Tenochtitlán, built on smaller islands within it. As they neared the area that would take them to Tenochtitlán, Bernal Díaz wrote: “When we saw so many cities and villages built in the water and other great towns built on dry land and that straight and level causeway going towards [Tenochtitlán], we were amazed and said that it was like the enchantments they tell of in the legend of Amadis, on account of the great towers and [temples] and buildings rising from the water, and all built of masonry. And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream.”

Finally, they reached one of the causeways leading directly to Tenochtitlán. They pushed their way across it, although “it was so crowded with people that there was hardly room for them all, some of them going to and others returning from [Tenochtitlán],” said Bernal Díaz. Once in the city itself they were greeted by the Aztec ruler Montezuma and taken to the top of one of the temples, and from that vantage point they were afforded an almost aerial view of the surroundings through which they had just marched:

[O]ne could see over everything well [Bernal Díaz wrote], and we saw the three causeways, which led into [Tenochtitlán], that is the causeway of Iztapalapa by which we had entered four days before, and that of Tacuba, and that of Tepeaquilla, and we saw the fresh water that comes from Chapultepec, which supplies the city, and we saw the bridges on the three causeways which were built at certain distances apart through which the water of the lake flowed in and out from one side to the other, and we beheld on that great lake a great multitude of canoes, some coming with supplies of food and others returning with cargoes of merchandise; and we saw that from every house of that great city and of all the other cities that were built in the water it was impossible to pass from house to house, except by drawbridges which were made of wood or in canoes; and we saw in those cities [temples] and oratories like towers and fortresses and all gleaming white, and it was a wonderful thing to behold.

About 60,000 pale stucco houses filled the island metropolis, some of them single-story structures, some of them multi-storied, and “all these houses,” wrote Cortés, “have very large and very good rooms and also very pleasant gardens of various sorts of flowers both on the upper and lower floors.” (4) The many streets and boulevards of the city were so neat and well-swept, despite its multitude of inhabitants, that the first Europeans to visit never tired of remarking on the city’s cleanliness and order: “There were even officials in charge of sweeping,” recalled one awed observer. In fact, at least 1000 public workers were employed to maintain the city’s streets and keep them clean and watered. (5)

Criss-crossed with a complex network of canals, Tenochtitlán in this respect reminded the Spanish of an enormous Venice; but it also had remarkable floating gardens that reminded them of nowhere else on earth. (6) And while European cities then, and for centuries thereafter, took their drinking water from the fetid and polluted rivers nearby, Tenochtitlán’s drinking water came from springs deep within the mainland and was piped into the city by a huge aqueduct system that amazed Cortés and his men—just as they were astonished also by the personal cleanliness and hygiene of the colorfully dressed populace, and by their extravagant (to the Spanish) use of soaps, deodorants, and breath sweeteners. (7)

In the distance, across the expanse of shimmering blue water that extended out in every direction, and beyond the pastel-colored suburban towns and cities, both within the lake encircling its periphery, the horizon was ringed with forest-covered hills, except to the southeast where there dramatically rose up the slopes of two enormous snow-peaked and smoldering volcanoes, the largest of them, Popocatepetl, reaching 16,000 feet into the sky. At the center of the city, facing the volcanoes, stood two huge and exquisitely ornate ceremonial pyramids, man-made mountains of uniquely Aztec construction and design. But what seems to have impressed the Spanish visitors most about the view of Tenochtitlán from within its precincts were not the temples or the other magnificent public buildings, but rather the marketplaces that dotted the residential neighborhoods and the enormous so-called Great Market that sprawled across the city’s northern end. This area, “with arcades all around,” according to Cortés, was the central gathering place where “more than sixty thousand people come each day to buy and sell, and where every kind of merchandise produced in these lands is found; provisions, as well as ornaments of gold and silver, lead, brass, copper, tin, stones, shells, bones, and feathers.” Cortés also describes special merchant areas where timber and tiles and other building supplies were bought and sold, along with “much firewood and charcoal, earthenware, braziers and mats of various kinds like mattresses for beds, and other, finer ones, for seats and for covering rooms and hallways.

“Each kind of merchandise is sold in its own street without any mixture whatever,” Cortés wrote, “they are very particular in this.” (Even entertainers had a residential district of their own, says Bernal Díaz, a place where there lived a great many “people who had no other occupation” than to be “dancers… and others who used stilts on their feet, and others who flew when they danced up in the air, and others like Merry-Andrews [clowns].”) There were streets where herbalists plied their trade, areas for apothecary shops, and “shops like barbers’ where thy have their hair washed and shaved, and shops where they sell food and drink,” wrote Cortés, as well as green grocer streets where one could buy “every sort of vegetable, especially onions, leeks, garlic, common cress and watercress, borage, sorrel, teasels and artichokes; and there are many sorts of fruits, among which are cherries and plums like those in Spain.” There were stores in streets that specialized in “game and birds of every species found in the land: chickens, partridges, cane birds, parrots, eagles and eagle owls, falcons, sparrow hawks and kestrels [as well as] rabbits and hares, and stags and small gelded dogs which they breed for eating.”

There was so much more in this mercantile center, overseen by officials who enforced laws of fairness regarding weights and measures and the quality of goods purveyed, that Bernal Díaz said “we were astonished at the number of people and the quality of merchandise that it contained, and at the good order and control that it contained, for we had never seen such a thing before.” There were honeys “and honey paste, and other dainties like nut paste.” Waxes, syrups, chocolate, sugar, wine. In addition, said Cortés:

There are many sorts of spun cotton, in hanks of every color, and it seems like the silk market at Granada, except here there is much greater quantity. They sell as many colors for painters as may be found in Spain and all of excellent hues. They sell deerskins, with and without the hair, and some are dyed white or in various colors. They sell much earthenware, which for the most part is very good; there are both large and small pitchers, jugs, pots, tiles and many other sorts of vessel, all of good clay and most of them glazed and painted. They sell maize both as grain and as bread and it is better both in appearance and in taste than any found in the islands or on the mainland. They sell chicken and fish pies, and much fresh and salted fish, as well as raw and cooked fish. They sell hen and goose eggs, and eggs of all the other birds I have mentioned, in great number, and they sell tortillas made from eggs.

At last Cortés surrendered the task of trying to describe it all: “Besides those things which I have already mentioned, they sell in the market everything else to be found in this land, but they are so many and so varied that because of their great number and because I cannot remember many of them nor do I know what they are called I shall not mention them.” Added Bernal Díaz: “But why do I waste so many words in recounting detail… Some of the soldiers among us who have been in many parts of the world, in Constantineople, and all over Italy, and in Rome, said that so large a marketplace and so full of people, and so well regulated and arranged, they had never beheld before.”

And this was only the market. The rest of Tenochtitlán overflowed with gorgeous gardens, arboretums, and aviaries. Artwork was everywhere, artwork so dazzling in conception and execution that when the German master Albrecht Dürer saw some pieces that Cortés brought back to Europe he exclaimed that he had “never seen in all my days what so rejoiced my heart, as these things. For I saw among them amazing artistic objects, and I marveled over the subtle ingenuity of the men in these distant lands. Indeed, I cannot say enough about the things that were brought before me.” (8)

If architectural splendor and floral redolence were among the sights and smells that most commonly greeted a stroller of the city, the most ever-present sounds (apart from “the murmur and hum of voices” from the mercantile district, which Bernal Díaz said “could be heard more than a league off”) were the songs of the many multi-colored birds—parrots, hummingbirds, falcons, jays, herons, owls, condors, and dozens and dozens of other exotic species—who lived in public aviaries that the government maintained. As Cortés wrote to his king:

Most Powerful Lord, in order to give an account to Your Royal Excellency of the magnificence, the strange and marvelous things of this great city and of the dominion and wealth of this Mutezuma, its ruler, and of the rites and customs of the people, and of the order there is in the government of the capital as well as in the other cities of Mutezuma’s dominions, I would need much time and many expert narrators. I cannot describe one hundredth part of all the tings which could be mentioned, but, as best I can I will describe some of those I have seen which, although badly described, will I well know, be so remarkable as not to be believed, for we who saw them with our own eyes could not grasp them with our understanding.

In attempting to recount for his king the sights of the country surrounding Tenochtitlán, the “many provinces and lands containing very many and very great cities, towns and fortresses,” including the vast agricultural lands that Corté soon would raze and the incredibly rich gold mines that he soon would plunder, the conquistador again was rendered nearly speechless: “They are so many and so wonderful,” he simply said, “that they seem almost unbelievable.”

Prior to Cortés’s entry into this part of the world no one who lived in Europe, Asia, Africa, or anywhere else beyond the Indies and the North and South American continents, had ever heard of this exotic place of such dazzling magnificence. Who were these people? Where had they come from? When had they come? How did they get where they were? Were there others like them elsewhere in this recently stumbled-upon New World? (9) These questions sprang to mind immediately, and many of the puzzlements of the conquistadors are with us still today, more than four and a half centuries later. But while scholarly debates on these questions continue, clear answers regarding some of them at last are finally coming into view. And these answers are essential to an understanding of the magnitude of the holocaust that was visited upon the Western Hemisphere—beginning at Hispaniola, spreading to Tenochtitlán, and then radiating out over millions of square miles in every direction—in the wake of 1492.


(1) Woodrow Borah and Sherburne F. Cook, The Aboriginal Population of Central Mexico on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest, Ibero-Americana, Number 45 (Berkley: University of California Press, 1963); Michael Coe, Dean Snow, and Elizabeth Benson, Atlas of Ancient America (New York: Facts of File Publications, 1986), p. 145.
(2) Rudolph van Zantwijk, The Aztec Arrangement: The Social History of Pre-Spanish Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), p. 281, is one of the many recent writers who puts the figure at 350,000. More cautious scholars are likely to accept the general range of 250,000 to 400,000 proposed almost thirty years ago by Charles Gibson, although as Gibson notes, informed sixteenth-century estimates ranged as high as 1,000,000 and more. See Charles Gibson, The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519-1810 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964), pp. 377-78. For the population of London in 1500 see Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 147; for Seville, see J.H. Elliot, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964), p. 177.
(3) Bernal Díaz del Castillo, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, 1517-1521, translated by A.P. Maudslay (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1928), pp. 269-70. All subsequent references to and citations of Bernal Díaz in this chapter come from this same volume, pp. 269-302.
(4) Hernan Cortés, Letters from Mexico, translated and edited by A.R. Pagden (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1971), p. 107. All subsequent references to and citations of Cortés in this chapter come from this save volume, pp. 100-113.
(5) Diego Durán, The Aztecs: The History of the Indies of New Spain, translated by Doris Hayden Fernando Horcasitas (New York: Union Press, 1964), p. 183; J. Soustelle, Daily Life of the Aztecs (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1970), pp. 32-33.
(6) Venice, even in the middle of the sixteenth century, still had barely half the population of Tenochtitlán before the conquest. See the discussion of Venice’s population in Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Phillip II (New York, Harper & Row, 1972), Volume One, p. 414.
(7) Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano, Aztec Medicine, Health, and Nutrition (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990), pp. 127-28.
(8) Quote in Lews Hanke, Aristotle and the American Indians: A Study in Race Prejudice in the Modern World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1959), p. 49.
(9) For discussion of these matters among Europeans up through the eighteenth century, see Lee H. Huddleston, Origins of the American Indians: European Concepts, 1492-1729 (Austin: University Press, 1969).


**I want to clarify the term “Aztec” because I feel that this grouping is too vague, and it’s important to remember all people that are grouped together under this common term. The term Aztec is often used to refer to certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who achieved political and military dominance over large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the Late post-Classic period in Mesoamerican chronology. Often the term “Aztec” refers exclusively to the people of Tenochtitlan, situated on an island in Lake Texcoco, who called themselves Mexica Tenochca or Colhua-Mexica. Sometimes it also includes the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan’s two principal allied city-states, the Acolhuas of Texcoco and the Tepanecs of Tlacopan, who together with the Mexica formed the Aztec Triple Alliance which has also become known as the “Aztec Empire”. All too often, general history courses throughout my primary schooling depicted a people of barbaric ways, but once you read the reports of Cortés and Díaz, you would be a fool to think this of them. They were an intelligent and passionate people, and their downfall is a great loss to the world.

If this book does not follow through with the telling of their downfall (which I think it will) then I will do more research after this series and bring it to you.

I am happy to see that people are finally standing up proud of their heritage and embracing their blood, while uncovering and shouting the truth.

**I looked up the Lake of the Moon and found one located in Mexico State, 80 km west of Mexico City. It’s one of two lakes formed in the crater of the now extinct Nevado de Toluca Volcano, which is the 4th largest mountain in Mexico.

The other lake is named Lake of the Sun. While it’s noted that this volcano that overlooks the Toluca basin was found to have last erupted with pyroclastic flows and surges about 3,300 years ago, it’s not claimed by all to be incapable of large-scale devastation. Considering that this inhabitant of the Trans-Mexican Volcano Belt grew on the exact intersection of three complex fault systems (the Taxco-Querétaro Fault System (from NNW to SSE), the San Antonio Fault System (NE-SW), and the Tenango Fault System (E-W)), it moves through its deformation processes. These three faults not only control the seismic activity of the region, but also the flank collapses of the volcano, something that will have to be dealt with sooner or later. Artifacts found at this location indicate that people used both the volcano and the lakes as sacred sites from as early as 100BC and into the era of Spanish conquest. In May of 2007, archaelogoists found wooden scepters shaped like lightning bolts that matched 500-year old descriptions by Spanish priests and conquerors writing about offerings to Tlaloc, the Aztec rain god. Cones of copal incense (burned to form “clouds) and obsidian knives were also found by divers. These things were left in the lake to bring rain storms. They also found spines of the maguey, a cactus that doesn’t grow at the altitude of 13,800 feet, where the lake is nestled. It was thought that they used these spines to draw their own blood as an offering. From what was found, it was clear that the Aztecs felt that this was an important place of Tlaloc. It’s important to know that the original Lake of the Moon (Largo de la Luna) lies buried beneath modern-day Mexico City.

**When speaking with a few of my Hispanic friends, I learned the “Tenochtitlan” is pronounced as (ta no shit lan) to the Mexicans, instead of (ta nok ta lan) as I learned in school It feels smoother in their tongue.

The Templo Mayor (commonly known by this Spanish name, meaning “Great Temple”) was the main temple of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico City).

The temple rose 60 m (197 ft) above the city’s ritual precinct, surmounted by dual shrines to the deities Huitzilopochtli (god of war and sun) and Tlaloc (god of rain and fertility).

It was mostly destroyed in 1521 after the conquest of the Aztec empire by the Spanish conquistadores under the leadership of Hernán Cortés. Remains of the lower portions of the temple complex have been discovered by modern archaeologists buried under a portion of modern Mexico City. Numerous smaller buildings and platforms associated with the temple formed a closely-situated complex around its base. A stucco relief depicting a tzompantli, or “skull rack”, decorated one platform leading to the temple. The temple was enlarged several times, and for the last time in 1487. It was excavated between 1978 and 1987 in a major project directed by Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. A small portion has been excavated and is now open to visitors. Mexico City’s Zócalo, the Plaza de la Constitución, is located at the location of Tenochtitlan’s original central plaza and market, and many of the original calzadas still correspond to modern streets in the city.

This statue commemorates the foundation of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán.

The remains of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan at the Museo del Templo Mayor in Mexico City. Nested layers of successive generations of the pyramid shown (the pyramid continually subsided because it was built on a marsh).

**There were actually several Montezumas in Aztec history, and it is actually spelled “Moctezuma”, not as it was first indicated. Moctezuma I ruled from 1398-1469, and was the fifth Aztec emperor. It was Moctezuma II (1466-1520), the nineth ruler, who as in power at the beginning of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. He is known as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin prounounced “Mo-tek-zu-ma So-koi-yot-sin” (wat(usually spelled Montezuma in English). The original Nahuatl (Uto-Aztecan) form of his name was pronounced [motek so ma]. It is a compound of a noun meaning “lord” and a verb meaning “to frown in anger”, and so is interpreted as “he is one who frowns like a lord” or “he who is angry in a noble manner.” (Using “Introduction to Classical Nahuatl” by J. Richards Andrews (1975) and “Ancient Nahuatl Poetry” by Daniel G. Brinton (1890) together). He is a monumental closing figure of Aztec history.

** Popocatépetl (commonly referred to as Popo, El Popo or Don Goyo) [popoka tepet] is an active volcano and, at 5,426 m., the second highest peak in Mexico after the Pico de Orizaba (5,636 m). Popocatépetl comes from the Nahuatl words popoca ‘it smokes’ and tepetl ‘mountain’, thus Smoking Mountain. Popocatépetl is linked to the Iztaccíhuatl volcano to the north by the high saddle known as the Paso de Cortés, and lies in the eastern half of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt. Popocatepetl is one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico, having had more than 20 major eruptions since the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. Popo is currently active. A major eruption occurred in 1947 to begin this cycle of activity. Then, on December 21, 1994 the volcano spewed gas and ash which was carried as far as 25 km away by prevailing winds. The activity prompted the evacuation of nearby towns and scientists to begin monitoring for an eruption. In December 2000, tens of thousands of people were evacuated by the government based on the warnings of scientists. The volcano then made its largest display in thousands of years. Popocatepetl is only 70 km to the southeast of Mexico City, from where it can be seen regularly, depending on atmospheric conditions.

***The legend of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl In Aztec mythology, Popocatépetl was a warrior who loved Iztaccíhuatl. Iztaccíhuatl’s father sent Popocatepetl to war in Oaxaca, promising him his daughter as his wife if he returned (which Iztaccíhuatl’s father presumed he would not). Iztaccíhuatl’s father told her that her lover had fallen in battle and she died of grief. When Popocatépetl returned, and discovered the death of his lover, he committed suicide by plunging a dagger through his heart. The gods covered them with snow and changed them into mountains. Iztaccíhuatl’s mountain was called “La Mujer Dormida, (the “Sleeping Woman”), because it bears a resemblance to a woman sleeping on her back. Popocatépetl became the volcano Popocatépetl, raining fire on Earth in blind rage at the loss of his beloved.

A different tale was told by the Nahuatl-speakers of Tetelcingo, Morelos, according to whom Iztaccíhuatl (or Istacsohuatl, as they pronounce the name) was the wife of Popo, but the Nevado de Toluca wanted her, and he and Popocatepetl hurled rocks at each other in anger. This was the genesis of the rocky mountain ranges of the continental divide and the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt that lie between the two mountains. Finally Popocatepetl, in a burst of rage, flung an enormous chunk of ice, decapitating the Nevado de Toluca. This is why the Nevado is flat-topped, with wide shoulders but no head. Conceivably this legend preserves the memory of catastrophic eruptions.

The most popular legend about Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl comes from the ancient Náhuas. As it comes from an oral tradition, there are many versions of the same story. There are also poems and songs telling this beautiful story.

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. They called her Iztaccíhuatl, which in Náhuatl means “white lady”. All the natives loved Izta and her parents prepared her to be the Empress of the Aztecs. When she grew up, she fell in love with a 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 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 did not eat any more. A few days later, she became ill and she died of sadness.

When the Emperor was preparing Izta’s funeral, Popoca and his warriors arrived victorious from war. The Emperor was taken aback when he saw Popoca, and he 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 lying 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 in Náhuatl means “smoking mountain”. He sometimes throws out smoke, showing that he is still watching over Iztaccíhuatl, who sleeps by his side.

Another tale is much like the one before. Some warriors who did not want Popoca to be with Izta, since they liked her themselves, sent a message to the emperor saying that Popoca died. Izta was very sad. She then died of sadness. When Popoca returned he heard about Izta’s death. He was also very sad. He went out of town with Izta’s body and ordered his soldiers to make a mound for him and Izta. He put Izta’s body on one mound and got onto the other with a smoking torch. He stays there forever looking after Izta. Over time dirt, snow, rocks, and Mother Nature covered them turning them into great mountains. Popoca’s torch is still smoking as a reminder of what happened.

The picture is Popocatépetl, the Paso de Cortés, and Ixtaccíhuatl.


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