Popocatépetl – Central Mexico’s reminder of who’s really in charge.

This past sunday, while enjoying the long weekend in the state of Morelos, we spotted what looked like a mushroom cloud way off in the distance. In my ignorance I exclaimed “there must have been an accident over there” (cue chuckles from those who know better); I was quickly informed that it indeed was an eruption from Popocatépetl,  a volcano some 70 km south-east of Mexico City.

I’ve always been fascinated by this volcano with the (until recently for me) unpronounceable name. The name Popocatépetl comes from a word compound in Nahuatl, Popoca = It smokes and Tepetl = Mountain, literally “Smoking Mountain”.

I can’t see Popocatépetl from my home in DF, nor was it visible from where I was in Morelos last Sunday. Distance and air contamination make it difficult to make out. When in the state of Puebla it would be much easier to see as its proximity and size makes Popocatépetl dominate the skyline there.

Once I arrived back to Mexico City; I investigated a little on what the situation is with this volcano and if there was any real danger. What I found was that Popocatépetl regularly ‘exhales’ as they say and that scientists do not expect an eruption in the immediate future. However it was clearly pointed out that there is never any way to tell for sure and as Popocatépetl is an active volcano there is always a chance that there could be an explosion at anytime.

The last eruption of Popocatépetl was in December of 2000. 30,000 residents within the immediate vicinity of the volcano had to be evacuated because of the gases and ash that were thrown up into the air. My partner told me that the ash reached as far as the north of Mexico City covering everything in layers of ash and soot.

Popocatépetl, an awesome and constant reminder that humanity is forever just guests on this earth.

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A fact of life in Mexico City is that if you live here you will undoubtedly suffer from Urban Stress at some point. Taxi drivers blatantly ripping you off, people pushing past you on the street, the noise, the traffic and the general hectic pace…an escape from it all is a necessity on occasion.

One of the favorite places that Defeños (those who come from Mexico City) go to in order to get away for the weekend is Cuernavaca in the tiny state of Morelos. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring”, the climate is warm and pleasant year round making it an ideal escape when weather conditions are less than favorable in Mexico City.

Besides enjoying the gorgeous weather some of the favorite things to do in Cuernavaca are eating delicious food, enjoying the many museums and archaeological sites in the area, walking around the plaza at night while people watching, shopping or simply hanging out by the pool if you’re lucky enough to have one (though Cuernavaca is also known as the Beverly Hills of Mexico because almost every home has a swimming pool).

One of my favorite things to do when I’m in Cuernavaca is to visit the Palace of Hernán Cortés. Built by Cortés himself and finished in 1535, it was occupied by Cortés and his decendants for many centuries until later being turned into the Museum that it is today.

Constructed on top of a Pre-Columbian pyramid; the base if which is still visable at the entrance to the museum. The Palace is one of the oldest examples of a European-style civil construction in the Americas.

The museum itself houses a large collection of artifacts relating to both the colonial and pre-colonial periods in the state of Morelos. But what most impressed me about the Palace were the murals done by famed muralist Diego Rivera. My first visit to the Palace was also the first time I had seen Riveras work in person. His style is unmistakeable and the dimensions and scale of his work truly blew me away!

I can’t wait to go back to Cuernavaca, I always have a good time!

Have you been to Cuernavaca? What are your favorite things to do when you are there?