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Residents of the Mexican volcano Popocatépetl believe that the 5,452-meter-high colossus has a soul and body, and see it as a being with a first and last name – Don Goyo. Baptized Popocatépetl (“mountain that emits smoke”) in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, it is also known as “Popo” to the locals. Dawn breaks in Xalitzintla, the closest community to the volcano, and José Marcos, 77, goes to work the land indifferent to the thick cloud coming out of the crater. He recalls the mountain, personified as a man, coming to his house to ask for a glass of water and a taco when he was young.

Tribute is paid to the volcano on the day of Saint Gregory the Great, March 12, where hundreds of residents of the region come to the “navel”, a ledge 200 meters from the crater, to offer typical dishes, tequila, mezcal, flowers, and clothes. They also sing “Las Mañanitas” to him. But this year, given the increase in the activity of the colossus that in 1994 woke up from a lethargy of almost seven decades, the authorities prohibited the passage, to the chagrin of the residents who warned that this would anger ” Don Goyo.”

According to pre-Hispanic legend, “Don Goyo” was a warrior in love with “Rosita” (Iztaccíhuatl), the daughter of a great lord who preferred another man of higher rank as his son-in-law: Pico de Orizaba, a volcano called Citlaltépetl in Nahuatl and the highest peak high in Mexico (5,636 meters). The suspicious father-in-law sent Popocatépetl to war confident that he would die; Iztaccíhuatl (“white woman”) was saddened and slept until death. This is how the warrior found her, who picked her up and took her to the mountain, where both were covered with snow until they became majestic volcanoes.

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Life in Xalitzintla, with about 2,000 inhabitants, revolves around volcanoes where the walls are dotted with images of “Don Goyo” and “Rosita” with the snow that once covered them. For this reason, the “timero,” a kind of medium who claims to communicate with “Don Goyo,” is an influential character in the community. Both old men, who insult each other, deny that version and differ about the current behavior of “Don Goyo.” Residents believe that Popocatépetl is a “man” and “he’s angry” if he’s not treated with respect.

“We couldn’t go up (for the offering) and they are provoking it because they go up” to take photos and “it starts to thunder,” says Castro about people who break the security fence to spread images on social networks. Analco maintains instead that “they are signs of nature,” and that although one day Popocatépetl “is going to get up,” the colossus will warn him in his dreams to keep everyone safe. Popocatépetl is a precious natural monument and one of the most important symbols of Mexican heritage and tradition which must be respected and preserved for the generations to come.

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