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Popocatépetl is an active volcano and, at , the second highest peak in Mexicomarker after the Pico de Orizabamarker ( ). Popocatépetl is linked to the Iztaccíhuatlmarker volcano to the north by the high saddle known as the Paso de Cortésmarker, and lies in the eastern half of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt.

The name Popocatépetl comes from the Nahuatl words 'it smokes' and 'mountain', thus Smoking Mountain; the name Don Goyo comes from the mountain's association in the lore of the region with San Gregorio (St. Gregory), "Goyo" being a nickname-like short form of Gregorio.

Popocatépetl is southeast of Mexico Citymarker, from where it can be seen regularly, depending on atmospheric conditions. The residents of Pueblamarker, a mere east of the volcano, enjoy the views of the snowy and glacier-clad mountain almost all year long. The volcano is also one of the three tall peaks in Mexico to contain glaciers, the others being Iztaccíhuatl and Pico de Orizaba. Magma erupted from Popocatépetl is a mixture of dacite (65 wt% SiO2, two-pyroxenes + plagioclase + Fe–Ti oxides + apatite, 3 wt% H2O, P = 1.5 kbar, fO2 = NNO + 0.5 log units) and basaltic andesite (53 wt% SiO2, olivine + two-pyroxenes, 3 wt% H2O, P = 1–4 kbar).

The first Spanishmarker ascent of the volcano was made by an expedition led by Diego de Ordaz in 1519. The early 16th-century monasteries on the slopes of the mountainmarker are a World Heritage Site.


The glacier-clad stratovolcano contains a steep-walled, wide crater. The generally symmetrical volcano is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano. At least three previous major cones were destroyed by gravitational failure during the Pleistocene, producing massive debris avalanche deposits covering broad areas south of the volcano. The modern volcano was constructed to the south of the late-Pleistocene to Holocene El Fraile cone. Three major plinian eruptions, the most recent of which took place about 800 AD, have occurred from Popocatépetl since the mid Holocene, accompanied by pyroclastic flows and voluminous lahars that swept basins below the volcano.

Popocatépetl is one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico, having had more than 20 major eruptions since the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. 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 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 1200 years.

Legend of Iztaccíhuatl

Summit of Popocatépetl
There are many versions in popular Mexican culture of supposed accounts of the mountains in Aztec mythology. For instance, in one version Iztaccíhuatlmarker was a princess in an Aztec tribe. When she came of age, her father wanted her to marry an Aztec prince; however, she did not like any of them. One day by chance, she saw a prince named Popocatépetl in the street. He was the prince of a different indigenous tribe in Mexico (the Chichimeca tribe), so when he wrote a letter asking the emperor if he could marry his daughter, the emperor was furious and would not allow it. Iztaccíhuatl insisted on the marriage, though, so the emperor agreed to it on one condition: Popo and his tribe must help the emperor's troops in a war against their enemy. The emperor intended on the prince dying in the war.

Popo and the rest of the Chichimecas joined the Aztecs in war, but the Aztecs abandoned them at the height of the battle. Miraculously, the Chichimecas were still triumphant without the Aztecs' help. Even so, the emperor told his daughter that Popo had died in battle, and he wrote a letter to Popo saying that Iztaccíhuatl had died of sadness in his absence. Popo did not believe the emperor, and sneaked into the palace to reunite with Iztac. Together, they ran away to get married. When the emperor found out, he disowned his daughter and proclaimed she was dead to him.

Iztac and Popo built a humble house and lived happily for a few years. Suddenly, Iztac got sick and died, in spite of Popo's efforts to save her. An earthquake occurred, and two volcanoes formed. A voice from the heavens ordered Popo to bring Iztac's body to the peak of one of the volcanoes. He obeyed and placed Iztac's body on top of a bed of flowers on the volcano. Popo then lay down next to her and waited to die. Years later, snow covered their dead bodies and they became two mountains. Popo became the mountain with smoke (known as "smoking mountain", and Iztac became the mountain without (known as "white woman"). The two mountains are named after the lovers to this day.

A different tale was told by the Nahuatl-speakers of Tetelcingo, Morelos, according to whom Iztaccíhuatl (or , as they pronounce the name) was the wife of Popocatépetl, but Xinantécatlmarker wanted her, and he and Popocatépetl 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 Popocatépetl, 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.

Picture gallery

File:Mexico-Popocatepetl.jpg|The north side of Popocatépetl viewed from Paso de CortésmarkerFile:Popocatépetl sunrise.jpg|Popocatépetl at sunrise, looking west, from PueblamarkerFile:Ixta Popo from Puebla.jpg|Popocatépetl, the Paso de Cortésmarker, and Iztaccíhuatlmarker

See also


  • (in Spanish)

External links

Popocatépetl erupts, January 2004

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