So I was at Disneyland and the topic of Disney princesses came up – which is to be expected since you can’t turn a corner without seeing a Disney princess. But we always end up in the discussion of how there’s no Disney princesses from Mexico. Being that I’m half hispanic, I’m usually then asked if there’s any princess like stories in Mexico.
The story I know is one that is not many American Hispanics know, but at the same time is widely known by the Latino community. You ask them if they know the story of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl and they’ll give you a blank stare, but if you ask them about the velvet painting of the Aztec warrior carrying an unconscious woman and they’ll admit that they have seen it in their local Mexican restaurant or own one themselves.
It’s a very beautiful story about an Aztec princess (I go into more detail below), though a bit tragic. But a ton of tragic princess stories were turned into happy Disney films. The Little Mermaid is a fantastic example of this or Sleeping Beauty (the real story is not a pleasant one). So why not do the story of Princess Izta?
So after telling this story to many people wondering if there’s a Latina princess, I decided to draw her out.
The story of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl:
I remember always being entranced by those paintings and always wanted to learn the story when I was a kid. I love folklore and ended up searching for the story behind the painting.
The story of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl (aka Popoca and Izta) is a story that was passed down by word of mouth and there are many versions of it. The one I know of is where the Emperor and Empress of Tenochtitlán (Mexico City) were wanting a child but were having difficulty. Finally the Empress became pregnant and gave birth to Princess Izta, who was loved by all and was being raised to become the Empress of all the land.
Izta eventually fell in love with Popoca (a chief of a tribe) and Popoca asked the Emperor’s permission to marry Izta. A war was going on and the Emperor agreed to let Popoca marry his daughter if he went out and brought back the head of the enemy chief. Popoca went to war and promised to return victorious.
While he was away, Popoca’s rival (who was also in love with the princess) went to the Izta and said that her love had been killed at war. The princess is grief stricken and falls ill.
Popoca returns from battle with the head of his enemy to learn that Izta has recently died. Popoca tells his warriors to build a funeral table with flowers, when the work is complete, he lifts Izta and carries her to the table. Popoca kneels down next to her body and watches over her. The gods were so touched by this that they turned Izta into a mountain and Popaca into a volcano.
This mountain and volcano currently oversee the Valley of Mexico and sort of do look like a woman laying on her back and there is a volcano nearby. Some stories says that when the volcano errupts, it’s Popoca watching over Izta. Other say that it’s Popoca’s anger and grief spewing out from the mountain.