1. Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl.
There are multiple stories explaining the volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, which overlook the valley of Mexico. In the most popular legend, Popocatepetl, which translates as “the smoking mountain,” was sent to battle in a distant territory. The father of “the white woman,” Iztaccihuatl, promised the warrior his daughter’s hand in marriage if he returned victorious. While he was away, a love rival announced Popocatepetl had died and the deeply distraught Iztaccihuatl killed herself. When the warrior returned to discover the death of his lover, he carried her to the snow, hoping the cold would wake her. Instead he collapsed and they both transformed into mountains. This is why Iztaccihuatl resembles a sleeping woman, while the volcano Popocatepetl is fired by the rage of loss.
2. The tragic lovers of Guanajuato
For the price of a few pesos, visitors to the beautiful colonial city of Guanajuato can listen to a local youth artfully recount the legend of the Alley of the Kiss.
There are several versions to the story, but in most accounts Ana was a rich Spaniard who lived on the left side of the street, while Carlos was a poor miner who rented a room on the right. One night, Ana’s father, who wanted his daughter to marry a rich noble, discovered the pair kissing as they leant from their windows.
He threatened to kill his daughter if it happened again but Ana, intensely in love, met with Carlos the next night. Surprising the pair, the cruel father took a dagger to his daughter’s heart. As she died, Carlos bestowed a final kiss on his beloved’s hand before jumping to his death in the local mine.
3. Maximilian and Charlotte
After fifty years of independence, the French Emperor had his eye on weakened Mexico. To help secure these interests, Austrian nobleman Maximilian was installed as monarch. He and his young wife Charlotte traveled to the New World, genuinely believing they had the support of the people.
Only months after their coronation, French troops withdrew from the country, leaving the royal family isolated and in danger. Charlotte returned to Europe to beg for assistance but her husband was overthrown by the liberal army. The new president, Benito Juarez, ignored European powers, who asked for clemency, and oversaw Maximilian’s execution. “Poor Charlotte,” he said as he faced the firing squad. His wife suffered a mental breakdown and never recovered.
4. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
The student Frida Kahlo used to spy on muralist Diego Rivera as he painted at her school in 1921, but they didn’t meet until a party seven years later. Their relationship was a tumultuous one, with persistent infidelity on both sides. One night, Frida was horrified to discover her husband in bed with her sister, while Diego was furious with his house-guest Leon Trotsky, after he learned the Russian revolutionary was having an affair with his wife.
Yet there was undoubtedly a profound depth of feeling to the relationship. Fridas’s love letters speak of their sublime connection. “I love you more than my own skin,” she wrote. The great muralist was a changed man following the death of his wife in 1954. “Too late now I realized that the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida.”
5. Alma Reed and Felipe Carrillo
The American journalist Alma Reed fell in love with the governor of Yucatan, Felipe Carrillo, on a visit to Mexico in the 1920’s. Carrillo introduced her to the culture and history of the Maya and briefly returned with her to San Francisco. The couple engaged in 1923 and Carrillo commissioned a musician to write “La Peregrina” (The Pilgrim), which is dedicated to his fiancee and remains popular to this day. Tragically, three weeks after returning to Mexico, the popular governor was captured by the rebel army of Adolfo de la Huerta. Carrillo was executed by firing squad only three months before the rebellion was put down.