Lockdown Diaries: Day 37 (Climbing the Popocatepetl in 1519)

Locked Down in London, Day 37: Agoraphobia

I dreamed I was on a bus that was getting more and more crowded, until we were all squashed against each other like sardines in a tin… and my neighbours leant towards me, breathing out pestilential air into my face.

It was only a dream. But if the government doesn’t stop the lockdown soon and the media doesn’t stop the constant scaremongering, I wonder how many people will emerge with newly acquired agoraphobia?

Virtual Escape: Climbing Popocatepetl in 1519

The Popocatepetl in Mexico [Photo by christopheducoin via Pixabay]
Today’s escape takes you not only to a different continent (this being subjective – maybe that’s where you live) but also to a different time.

What do you say to climbing the Mexican volcano Popocatepetl with a Spanish conquistador: Diego de Ordaz, one of the men of Hernán Cortés, and getting the first view of Tenochtitlán ever by a European?



… the volcano near Huexotzinco… was throwing out more fire than usual while we were at Tlascala. All of us, including our Captain¹, were greatly astonished at this, since we had never seen a volcano before. One of our captains, Diego de Ordaz, wishing to go to see what it was, asked the general’s² permission to climb it. Permission was granted, and Cortes even expressly ordered him to make the ascent.

Diego took two of our soldiers and certain Indian chiefs from Huexotzinco, who frightened him with the information that halfway up Popocatepetl – for this was the volcano’s name – the earth-tremors and the flames, stones, and ashes that were thrown out of the mountain were more than a man could bear. They said the guides would not dare to climb further than the cues of those idols that are called the Teules of Popocatepetl. Nevertheless, Diego de Ordaz and his two companions climbed on till they came to the top, leaving the Indians below too scared to make the ascent.

From what Ordaz and the two soldiers said afterwards it appears that, as they climbed, the volcano began to throw out great tongues of flame, and half-burnt stones of no great weight, and a great deal of ash, and that the whole mountain range in which it stands was so shaken that they stopped still, not daring to go forward for quite an hour, until they saw that the eruption was over and the smoke and ashes were getting less. They then climbed up to the crater, which was very round and wide and about a mile and a half across. From the summit they could see the city of Mexico and the whole lake, and all the towns on its shores. The volcano is about eighteen or twenty miles from Mexico.

Ordaz was delighted and astonished with the view of Mexico and its cities. After gazing at them for some time he went back to Tlascala with his companions, and the Indians of Huexotzinco and Tlascala regarded his climb as a very brave deed. When he told his story to Captain Cortes and the rest of us, we were greatly astonished. For we had never seen or heard of Popocatepetl as we have today, when many Spaniards, including some Franciscans, have climbed to the crater.

When Diego de Ordaz went to Castile he asked His Majesty to grant him the volcano as his coat-of-arms, which his nephew, who lives at Puebla, now bears.

(Bernal Díaz del Castillo: The Conquest of New Spain)

¹ Hernán Cortés
² Still Hernán Cortés. :) Evidently, Bernal Díaz was not really bothered by what military rank Cortés should go by; he was the chief and that was that.
Further Reading:Mexico's Popocatepetl Volcano Spews Ash and Gas into the Sky (video)Bernal Díaz del CastilloThe Memoirs of the Conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo (Project Gutenberg)
Keep safe, keep sane –  travel in time! 🙂

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