Mexico's Old Man of the Water: The Resilient and Controversial Ahuehuete Tree

Discover the ancient and resilient ahuehuete tree, Mexico's national tree with a rich history and cultural significance. Learn about the famous Sad Night and Tule Trees, and the conservation efforts to protect these majestic trees.

Mexico's Old Man of the Water: The Resilient and Controversial Ahuehuete Tree
Despite its dark past, the Sad Night Ahuehuete has become a symbol of strength and perseverance. Credit: Winfield Scott / Secretariat of Culture-INAH

Mexico is home to a special tree that has been around for thousands of years, known as the ahuehuete. This tree has an important place in Mexican culture and is often referred to as the "old man of the water". The ahuehuete is so significant to Mexico that it is considered the national tree, and many people come from all over the world to visit it and celebrate its legacy.

What is an Ahuehuete?

An ahuehuete is a type of cypress tree that is native to Mexico. It can grow up to 50 meters tall and has a very long lifespan, with some trees living for over a thousand years. The ahuehuete is known for its resilience and ability to thrive in harsh environments, which has contributed to its longevity.

The Legend of the Sad Night Ahuehuete

Among the famous ahuehuetes, the Sad Night Ahuehuete is perhaps the most controversial. Located in Mexico City, this tree is named after its role as a silent witness to the tears of Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador who suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of the Aztecs in 1520.

According to legend, Cortés retreated to a small island in the middle of a lake after his defeat. He sat under the shade of the Sad Night Ahuehuete, weeping over his loss. The tree is said to have comforted Cortés in his sorrow, and its branches shielded him from the harsh sun.

Despite its dark history, the Sad Night Ahuehuete is now a symbol of resilience and perseverance. Visitors can see the tree in person and learn more about its role in Mexican history.

The Tule Tree: Mexico's Most Famous Ahuehuete

Undoubtedly, the most famous ahuehuete in Mexico is the Tule Tree, located in the town of Santa Maria del Tule, Oaxaca. This tree is over 2,000 years old and is so large that it takes more than 30 people to fully encircle its trunk. The Tule Tree has become a symbol of Mexican culture and heritage, and it attracts visitors from all over the world.

Every year, in October, the town of Santa Maria del Tule celebrates the International Tule Tree Festival. During this festival, hundreds of people gather around the Tule Tree to sing "Las mañanitas," a traditional Mexican birthday song. The festival is a celebration of the tree's legacy and its importance to Mexican culture.

The Future of the Ahuehuete

While the ahuehuete has survived for thousands of years, it is now facing new threats. Climate change, deforestation, and urbanization are all putting the survival of the ahuehuete at risk. To protect these ancient trees, conservation efforts are underway in Mexico, and initiatives have been launched to raise awareness about the importance of the ahuehuete to Mexican culture and history.


The ahuehuete is a tree with a rich history and an important place in Mexican culture. Its resilience and longevity make it a symbol of strength and perseverance, and it continues to inspire people today. While the future of the ahuehuete is uncertain, efforts are being made to protect these ancient trees and ensure that they continue to thrive for generations to come.

Citation: “Archives - Origen México.” Origen México,