Mexican Volcano Popocatépetl: A Being with Soul and Body
Residents in the Mexican town of Xalitzintla believe that the Popocatépetl volcano is a being with soul and body, which they refer to as “Don Goyo” or “Popo.” They see the 5,452-meter-high colossus as a man who gets angry, shakes the earth, and spews ash and incandescent rocks. The volcano has been named Popocatépetl, meaning “mountain that emits smoke” in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs.
The residents believe that the volcano manifests itself to them and has a first and last name. They have given several nicknames to the natural monument, reflecting the rich oral traditions of Mexico.
Paying Tribute to Popocatépetl
On March 12, the day of Saint Gregory the Great, hundreds of residents from the region come to the “navel,” a ledge 200 meters from the crater, to offer typical dishes, tequila, mezcal, flowers, and clothes to pay tribute to the volcano. They also sing “Las Mañanitas” to him.
However, due to an increase in the activity of the volcano, the authorities have prohibited the passage this year, much to the chagrin of the residents. They warned that this would anger “Don Goyo” and have asked him to wait until next year, hoping to organize a great event to celebrate Popocatépetl’s birthday.
Legends and Stories
Pre-Hispanic legends describe “Don Goyo” as a warrior in love with “Rosita” (Iztaccíhuatl), the daughter of a great lord. However, the suspicious father-in-law sent Popocatépetl to war confident that he would die. Iztaccíhuatl was saddened and slept until death. Popocatépetl found her and took her to the mountain, where both were covered with snow until they became majestic volcanoes.
According to Isabel, another resident of Xalitzintla, the arrival of “El Pico” (Pico de Orizaba) and his jealousy led to the cutting off of Popocatépetl’s head, which resulted in the formation of the crater.
Living with The Volcanoes
Life in Xalitzintla revolves around volcanoes, and the walls are decorated with images of “Don Goyo” and “Rosita” with the snow that once covered them. Antonio Analco and Nazario Castro, two old men who claim to communicate with “Don Goyo,” are influential characters in the community. However, their disagreements over the current behavior of the volcano have divided the town.
While Castro believes that people who break the security fence to take photos provoke the volcano, Analco thinks the signs are of nature. He believes that one day, the colossus will warn him in his dreams to keep everyone safe, even though it may get up.