The informant is a 18-year-old freshman studying biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Shafter, CA but is now living on campus at USC. She grew up in a family of Mexican descent. I asked her if she had any urban legends she would like to share and she told me her version of La Llorona.
La Llorona was a story used to scare her and the younger members of her family to not go out at night when they were still children. La Llorona means the crying lady. The story behind it is that there was a lady in Mexico, a housewife, with two children and a husband. The husband worked a lot at an unspecified job. My informant had heard versions of the story where the lady was crazy and versions where the lady was just extremely jealous of the attention her kids received from her husband but leaned towards the lady being very jealous of the attention her children received. When either her insanity or her jealousy overwhelmed her, she drowned her children either in the bath or in a river. After she realized what she had done, she killed herself in the same manner. Her ghost/spirit now wanders around wailing for her children and attempting to find other children who happen to be outside. When I asked why she needed to be avoided, the informant said that La Llorona would kill the kids she did find while she was wandering, even though the story was being told in Shafter, CA and was removed geographically from the story’s origin.
This story was first told to her when she was around 6 or 7 years old, when she was old enough to understand the story. Though she did not seem entirely convinced that the tale was true now that she is 18 years old, she was very much scare by it when she was a young child. Though she does not regularly tell the entire legend, she does make references to the story and understand what people are referring to when they mention it. The story places an emphasis on the struggle between loving your children and having to share the love from your husband with them. This type of jealousy is taboo as mothers are “supposed” to give up everything for their children, including the affections of their husbands if need be. Though the children this is meant to scare probably do not immediately pick out this theme, it is certainly understood by the mothers telling the story.
La Llorona is the subject of many authored works, including a 2007 movie called The Cry (directed by Bernadine Santistevan). There is a lot of variation between different versions of La Llorona, but the general idea of a woman drowning children and stealing children that are not their own is pretty consistent throughout the different versions, including both the version I collected from my informant and the version presented in The Cry.