USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘la llorona’
Folk Beliefs
Tales /märchen

La Llorona

The informant, K, is 19 years old. She was born in Long Beach, California but was raised in Los Angeles. Her dad is from Guadalajara, Mexico (Southern Mexico) but moved to the United States when he was 2. Her mom was born in Obregon, Sonora (Northern Mexico) but grew in Mexicali (a US-Mexico border town), and she moved to the United States when she was 18. She is majoring in Applied Mathematics with a Computer Science Minor. She considers herself Mexican-American (or Chicana).


K-“Ok so we were told the story of La llorona, and for us it was basically like uh the background was that this woman this beautiful woman in this indigenous pueblo uh she fell in love with the Spanish conquistador and had children but then the conquistador left her for like another woman. Because she was in love with this man so much, every time she saw him in them, the children. And that’s the whole reason she drowned them in a like. After she drowned them, she like mourned them so she would go around at night saying ‘oh mis ninos’ (my children) and supposedly she kidnaps kids at night if they’re near the lake. And she is still a ghost that haunts that area where she used to live”

When did you first hear this story?

K-“Um I heard it in elementary school I think I was in 4th grade”

Have you heard this story from other people as well?

K-“Yup, I heard it from my family and the kids at school. Kind of all the same, all the same versions”

Did you use to live near a body of water or some forested area?


Analysis- This version of the story is seen as a way to ensure the proper behavior of children. The legend is specifically aimed to children, as it is the children that get drowned and the children that get kidnapped. The fact that she did not live near a body of water, which is where according to the legend is where the ghost appears, proves that this is a story told by the adults to make children behave. The legend is also given credibility by introducing some history into it in the form of the conquistador and the traditional Mexican woman. This legend would, therefore, not be easily accepted and used in other cultures.

Folk Beliefs
Tales /märchen

La Llorona

The informant, J, is 18 years old born and raised in Coachella, California. His mom is from Delano, California, while his dad is from Indio, California. He is majoring in Print and Digital Journalism with a Media, Economics, and Entrepreneurship minor. He also considers himself Mexican.

J-“So the folklore story that we used to hear was La Llorona and that was a big thing in Mexican culture. La llorona is this ghost of a woman and she lost her children while looking by the river they drowned and you can hear her crying and crying. Parents would tell their kids this stuff this story whenever they would do something that seemed pretty dangerous or they’re like behaving badly. So like I remember going to the park and doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing and like my parents telling me ‘oh you’re going to end up like la llorona’s kids like they drowned in the river because they were doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing.’ Just like when you were behaving bad they’re like ‘I want la llorona to come after you’ and stuff like that. I remember my aunts and uncles would tell me this stuff before going to bed, ‘I would hear her crying at night’, just trying to freak me out. Now as an older person is funny but then it wasn’t funny because you take that stuff pretty seriously when you’re that young”

Do you remember what age you were when you heard this?

J-“I think I was like 7 or 8. Oviously you’re not going to tell a 6 year old that because like they’re still naïve. But like when you’re 7 or 8 you have a better concept of the world around you. That’s when you can start telling kids stuff like this”

Do you still hear the story?

J-“Uh, like everyone that surrounds me is like pretty much grown up so they think its like a running joke like ‘remember when tio (uncle) would talk about la llorona?’ There’s like no little kids in our family”

Do you think there is a specific reason why they told you that story instead of another?

J-“Well I’m Mexican. The area that I grew up in California is mainly Mexican citizens and so that’s something very popular at least in Mexico folklore. So yea that’s probably the reason why. That’s what they grew up with in Mexico”

Are there any forested areas or bodies of water nearby where you lived?

J-“By my house there was this park that also serves as a rain ditch so whenever it rains that park takes all of the water so that way it doesn’t go into the streets. That place is full of grass 8 of 10 times of the year and then like the other 2 is filled with water. So that was usually a point of interest with la llorona because like she’s crying by the river so this would be considered the river by the house”

Analysis- In this version of la llorona, the children died accidentally while playing near the river. Traditionally, la llorona was the one that drowned her children. This could have changed so that it would not be so harsh and scary to the children who it was being told to. The body of water also changed to fit even the rain ditch. This shows how the folklore changes according to its context and who its being to. Since there are no more children to tell the story to, the legend is beginning to die away. It is now only a memory from time to time. If there are no children added to the family, the story may be completely forgotten. It is evidence that while the story is known by everyone, it is predominately used as a legend for children, and it is otherwise not really spoken about.

Folk Beliefs

La Llorona

There is a woman in a small town in Mexico and um she was very vain and prideful of her beauty and she would look at herself in the river in the town and she vowed she would only marry the most beautiful man in the world. And then she ended up marrying him and they had children but he left her and she drowned her children in the river and felt so bad about it and killed herself but the people in the town still see her crying and saying “mis niños” and “mis hijos” and they call her La Llorona because she cries all the time.


Background: I conducted this interview live, so this story was given to me in person. I had heard this legend before from another informant who had not been able to give me a report as detailed as this one. This is a story that the informant had been told many times since she was a young child. I thought this was interesting because it followed the lines of what we had learned in class or what we had read for the class, in the required readings. This was interesting to hear from someone who had not researched it but it was actually a part of the folklore passed around in her culture and from family members, something she had learned just through the environment she was in.


La Llorona

The informant heard the legend of the mythological creature, La LLorona (“She who cries”) was heard when she was a child in Guatemala.


EO: La Llorona. I guess she–I don’t know if she was poor or tired of her kids… so she took her kids to a lake and drowned them. And then afterwards, she felt really bad, so she killed herself. And now she just goes through all eternity crying for her kids. And she screams like “Mis ninos! Mis ninos!”.

Is she supposed to be scary?

EO: I would say so. If I hear La Llorona, I would probably cry.

Where’d you hear that one from?

EO: Um, my mom. I don’t think I heard it from anyone else. My mom.

Why do you think she’d tell it to you?

EO: In Latin America, um, they tell stories to scare children into behaving.



La Llorona is a famous legend in all Latin America, and is one of many used by parents to teach their children about the dangers of the world.

For example, this is a film based off the folklore of La Llorona


La llorona

Text (J is the informant, M is the collector):

J: So, she’s like this lady who, umm, was depressed or something until she killed — decided to kill her kids in this depressive episode. And then she went to, like, a river and — actually, I remember learning about “cenotes.” You know what that is?

M: No

J: In Mexico, they have them. They’re really really big, like huge circles and it’s like a water hole. And like you go really deep. And people used to, like I think during the Mayan and Aztec time, like they would sacrifice people and throw them in there.

M: Mhm.

J: So, I think I remember La Llorona having something to do with the cenotes. Like, killing her kids and dropping them in there — in a cenote. And then, so it was scary because there’s like a myth like after that — after she killed herself and like threw herself into the cenote, like she would find… like she would kidnap kids and do the same thing. That’s kinda the reason I was so scared of cenotes, too. Like the idea of a cenotes, really just a big water hole. There are a lot of like stories associated with it. With people being sacrificed and thrown in there and, uh, dying, so I’m pretty sure La Llorona.. She also used a cenotes. And it says that if you go near La Llorona that she’ll… you’ll know that it’s her because she’s saying, “Oh, mis hijos, donde estan mis hijos,” which means like “my kids, where are my kids?” And then she’d like take you and kill you.. And throw you in the cenote.


The informant is a first generation Mexican-American student. She learned this legend from one of her aunts who would tell the story to her and her cousins very late at night during family parties in Mexico. She said that the legend always made her feel very scared of La Llorona and cenotes, but it also made her feel more connected to the Mexican side of the family and her family’s history in Mexico.


This piece of folklore was performed while a group of college students sat around a bonfire at night during a camping trip. Several people had already told a scary story before this one, so the atmosphere was slightly on-edge.


I think the informant was spot on in analyzing her feelings about this legend. The reason adults probably tell this legend is to encourage kids to stay away from dangerous waterways, specifically cenotes. However, when this legend is brought outside the context of Mexico, part of the appeal is probably that, as such a prolific Mexican legend, it helps people identify themselves with their Mexican heritage.

For another version of this legend, see:

Coleman, Wim, Pat Perrin, and Martha Avilés Junco. La Llorona. South Egremont, MA: Red Chair, 2015. Print.

Folk Beliefs

Legend of La Llorona

“I remember my mother always warning to be cautious at night when coming home from a friends or if I was late from school when I was growing up in Chihuahua, Mexico. She would constantly warn that La Llorona was out there, ready to take children wandering at night by themselves. I never really knew who La Llorona was until I asked my mom, and she looked so nervous when I asked her. She was supposedly a lady who wanted to marry a rich landowner, though he would not accept her two children as his own. Eventually, the woman drowned her kids and when she told him what she had done, he was horrified and wanted nothing to do with her. She then realized what she had done and was overcome by grief and spent her time looking for her kids near the river. She then drowned herself and her spirit constantly is on the lookout for other children, wanting to drown them out of jealousy for her own missing children.”

The informant grew up in a rural town outside of Chihuahua but moved to Los Angeles in high school. Because he lived in the countryside, he felt people tended to believe in Mexican legends more than those who grew up in a city. I asked him at lunch this week if he remembered any Mexican folklore from growing up, and this story was the first thing that came to mind for him. He remembers always being afraid of being alone outside, due to his mom constantly warning him about La Llorona, which translates to “the crier.” When he was seven, he finally learned from his mom who she was and grew even more afraid of walking alone outside and made sure to always have friends with him if he had to go somewhere.

Though he never asked his mom point blank, the informant strongly believes that his mom regards the legend as true, due to her nervousness when explaining La Llorona’s story. His mom had learned about La Llorona from her mom, but the informant also heard other versions of the story from his classmates later on in elementary school. Some said she wore a black dress instead of a white one while some said she drowned her children for a different reason than that mentioned above. I think the story is creepy, and if I were the informant and heard about the story at such a young age, I would have probably believed it and be deathly afraid of walking outside by myself, especially at night. For another version of this legend, see Rudolfo Anaya’s novel La Llorona: the Crying Woman.

Anaya, Rudolfo. La Llorona: The Crying Woman. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2011. Print.


La Llorona- Colombia

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

Collector will be specified as “S”. Collector did not speak during this portion.


“M: A cousin always visit us, and he always scared us with a sort of story. He would use the crying woman or the Llorona… I remember he turned the lights off and everyone in the living room, we’d sit down in the living room, and he would repeat the same stories.

“Could you tell again the story of the Llorona?” [said by "M" and her siblings]

” …everyone needs to be quite, never look outside in the windows, she could be outside there.” [Said by the Cousin]

The story was of a woman tha…. Uh… let me see thinking about how is this story…. Yeah they say that the husband took the kids from her. Yeah, and she killed herself, and she appeared every night in the cemetery, and she crying “where are my kids, where are my kids?” and the more funny thing is, my cousin was so funny, he said: “I was drunk one day, I was crossing the cemetery”.

He wanted to take a shortcut, so he took the cemetery. And he said the short way was in the cemetery, and when he was passing he heard the voice say “where is my kids, where are my kids?” . He said he was so scared he peed in his pants, and he wasn’t anymore drunk, and he said he ran like a crazy. But the funniest thing is he peed in the pants, when he went in the house, and his in the blankets.

But he doesn’t know if that was real or not, because he was drunk.

That story start in the 18th century, they said that was the time that that happened, in the 18th century.

He told us a lot of stories, that is the one I remember more.



La Llorona is a myth that has heavily permeated Latin culture, being a very common piece of Folklore in these countries (Kirtley, 1960). La Llorona, or the cying woman, is referenced here with the assumption that the person collecting the folklore knows about her origins, and her ability to be interested as a generic sort of scare in a funny situation only serves to reinforce her ubiquity in Colombian culture. The covering of the windows showed that at the very least, she believe the story could have been true at the time it was being told to her. I should also note, “M”s explanation of her origin story was simply at my request, and did not reflect her original approach to the story (the portion directly after the ellipse).




Kirtley, B. F. (1960). ” La Llorona” and Related Themes. Western Folklore, 155-168.

Folk Beliefs
Tales /märchen

La Llorona

La Llorona

“pues la llorona es una senora que se volvio loca despues de que su marido se fue a la Guerra. El fue soldado en la independencia de Mexico, entonces creo que se murio el senor en la batalla y como nunca regreso, la senora se termino de volver loca. La senora al ver que su esposo no iba a regresar, decidio matar a sus hijos porque pues ya no los podia mantener. Ella los llebo al rio y los ahogo. Ahora, la senora pasa por todo el rancho buscando a sus hijos que perdio. Si uno escucha a la llorona se tiene que esconder, especialmente si es un nino porque lo puede matar o llebarselo con ella… esta historia no la contaba mi mama. Nos contaba esa historia especialmente cuando hibamos al baile de noche, y aveses si se escuchaba que alguien lloraba y lloraba asi que lo que asiamos nosotros era que le ciramos para la casa.”

“Well la llorona is a woman who went crazy after her husband left to the war. He was a soldier in the Mexican independence so I think that he died in that battle and since he never returned back home, the woman went completely crazy. The woman once he saw that her husband would not be returning took her children to the river and drowned them. So now the lady haunts the village looking for her dead children. If one hears la llorona, one has to hide, especially if one is a kid because she can either kill you or take you with her… my mother used to tell us that story all the time. She would especially tell us that story when we would go out to dances at night and sometimes we would actually hear someone crying so what we would do is to hurry back home.”

The informant is an 85 year old male who has lived all his life in Mexico. He has been brought up on tales of the land. He never attended school, so all his knowledge has been passed down by his parents and other family members in his life. Since he has no other knowledge, he doesn’t really question the information, but rather takes it as the only truth. He has also never left his hometown village so the only information he knows is the information that pertains his village in particular.

This was interesting because the way the informant told this story was as if he knew that this story was 100 percent true. There was no doubt in his voice that this could somehow be a made up story, so one can infer from this that for older people, whatever stories were passed down, have made their way into a part of their daily life reality. Also, the fact that this individual had no other education also makes me think that it can serve as the reason as to why he did not question this story’s reality one bit; it’s all he knows that is to be true. However, when checking with other people, I have found that there are many more variations of la llorona, so technically, my informant can be wrong with his story, but regardless, it is one that he is very fond of. To look at aother variation of this legend, you can refer to:

Folk Beliefs

La Llorona

La Llorona

Interviewer: where did you hear this story?

Informant: My parents.

Interviewer: How old were you when you first heard it?

Informant: Probably like 6.

Interviewer: Do you know were they heard it from? I think they just kept passing it on, it’s like a Mexican story, where my parents are from. They heard it from their parents, I believe.

It’s like a story that’s supposed to scare us into listening to our parents. Let’s see , La Llorona is about a mother and her two kids. The two kids would never listen to their mother and they would always whine, complain, and cause the mother to keep crying. One day the mother, La Llorona, drowned the kids because they kept whining. They were not listening, so that was their punishment. But then La Llorona realized that was a mistake and she just kept crying, and crying, and crying. That’s what La Llorona means, “the crier”. She kept crying herself to death, so her spirit is of her crying.

Interviewer: So why is that supposed to scare you into behaving?

Informant: Because, if you don’t you get consequences from your parents and also if you misbehaved, La Llorona would come and steal you away or haunt your dreams

Interviewer: Is there a specific time of day that she comes?

Informant: probably when the kids are about to go to sleep, when they’re sleeping.

Interviewer’s notes:

Of all the variations of La Llorona, I believe this one to be the most unusual that I have heard. Instead of the cautionary aspect of the tale lying with the vindictive, ghostly Llorona, it comes from the fact that whiney children run the risk of being drowned by their parents. So instead of behaving because La Llorona might get you, one should behave because your parent’s might drown you just like La Llorona did to her kids.

for a different perspective see:

Folk Beliefs

La Llorona

La Llorona 

Informant: The story of La Llorona is about this lady, who had some children. She drowned, or killed her children. And she would walk, late at night at midnight. She would like walk on the streets screaming out about her children in sorrow. She would be like “Ay! Mis hijos! My kids! My Kids!”

Interviewer: Where did you hear it from?

Informant: Back in my country when I was little.

Interviewer: Who told it to you?

Informant: The kids . . . at school in Michuacan, Mexico.

Interviewer: Do you know anything else about La Llorona?

Informant: She was all dressed in white, with a veil. She had like, I think, signs of blood on her.

Interviewer: Are there like specific people she appears to?

Informant: Anybody, but only at Midnight

Interviewer’s notes:

In this instance, it is notable that the informant remembers motifs and physical details, but not the plot details. Also, she heard the legend from the local kids and not from her parents which would explain perhaps, why the “cautionary tale” aspect has been omitted and why La Llorona can appear to anybody, not just children. The story has a generational skew where the ghost is not quite as vindictive toward the children