El Popocatépetl (El Popo) is a stratovolcano (a volcano made up of layers of lava and ash) located in Southwest of Puebla and Central Mexico, about 43 miles South of Mexico city. The volcano is located in the Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park, and is part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt.
El Popo is the second tallest volcano in North America and one of the world’s most dangerous. It is the 89th most popular peak in the world and the 17th most well-known peak in North America. Scientists estimate that El Popo is about 730,000 years old. The volcano’s diameter is 16 miles at the base and over 40 villages are located at the slope of the volcano.
Popocatépetl was said to be the name of an Aztec warrior in love with a princess named Iztaccinuatl. Her father sent Popocatépetl to war in Oaxaca with the promise that Iztaccinuatl could be his wife if he returned. Then, the father told Iztaccinuatl that Popocatépetl died in battle causing her to die of a broken heart. When Popocatépetl returned, he killed himself with a knife through his heart over the loss of his princess. These mountains today are El Popocatépetl and Iztaccinuatl. The word Popocatépetl means “Smoking Mountains” and Iztaccinuatl means “Sleeping Woman.”
The mountains weren’t active until 1994. In December 2000, thousands of villages were forced to evacuate after another eruption. When volcano erupted January 9, 2020, it began to unleash ash high into the air and oozed lava. Since El Popo is so close to Mexico City, many cameras were already trained on the sunrise explosion. The erupting volcano was a sight to see.
[Source: MountainJourney.com, Oregon State University, Earthsky]