Tag Archives: la llorona

La Llorona


MV is a 2nd generation Mexican-American from New Mexico. Half of her family is of Japanese-Mexican descent and much of her extended family lives in Mexico. I received this story from her in a video conference call from our respective homes. She learned this story from her grandmother, who told it to her as a child. She grew up in near the Rio Grande in Albuquerque New Mexico, a river which also goes through Mexico.


MV: So the story goes that um.. there was this woman. She doesn’t really have a name, but… she was like a really beautiful woman and she lived in this little town and she fell in love with this man and she loved him so much and they got married, and she was like really obsessed with him, she really wanted to like… marry him… and just have him. So they ended up getting married and they had a few kids, a boy and a girl. She really loved the kids and they were really beautiful too because she was the most beautiful woman in the village.

One day, like, she was noticing that he was, like, was coming home really late, and was really sus, and wasn’t telling her where he was going or if he was at work or what was going on. And so, she found out that he was having an affair, and this, like, shattered her entire world… she went crazy!

So, she goes into the Rio Grande, and she takes her kids, and she’s so sad about what happened and she can’t stop crying (which is why she’s called La Llorona, hehe) So she’s bawling and bawling and she drowns her kids! In the river, cuz she’s just so sad, crazy, and like, I don’t know she was really into this guy… She drown herself in the river too, with her kids, after that. And pretty much, the legend after that is like, when you hear the wind going through the bosque (forest) near the Rio Grande, like that howling is her crying… that’s La Llorona!

JS: What do you think the story means?

MV: I think it’s just, like, a heartbreak. She had her heart broken really badly and she didn’t know how to handle that.


The legend of La Llorona appears across a wide swath of Mexican and Central American folklore. In her historic-geographic study of the legend, Ana Maria Carbonell finds this destructive motherly figure to date as far back as the early days of colonization in the Americas. La Llorona is often seen as a figure to be feared, a deranged mother bent on murdering her kids, but Carbonell reads her against the patriarchal system which backgrounds her, and which causes her to place her self-worth or ontological justification within the (patriarchal) institution of marriage which, when shattered, has disastrous and deadly effects. This narrative shows the loss of the children not as a result of psychological derangement, but of hierarchical relations which compel la Llorona to destructive acts of love. Water is here a figure for destruction as well as birth. This figure of la Llorona, instead of a passive subject of the patriarchal gaze, has some subjective agency and is able to act out against a patriarchal order which subjugates her and which she fears for her children to enter. Note that the informant explained la Llorona’s actions in terms of the violence that was afflicted upon her and her inability to cope with it, not because of some internal fault, but because of external oppressions.

Carbonell, Ana Maria. “From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlique in Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros.” MELUS, vol. 24, no. 2, Religion, Myth, and Ritual. Summer 1999

La Llorona

The informant is marked IN. The collector is marked JJ.

IN: So the story goes that this woman in like colonial times in Mexico, she had a couple kids. And the story changes, like some stories say the kids drown, some say they got lost, or killed. So the story goes that at night whenever people hear any crying outside it’s like this woman that’s coming back to get kids and like kill them. So part of that is saying that you can hear like moaning and crying and you’re supposed to hide your kids and stuff. So I’m pretty sure they like take the kids and drown them in the river.

JJ: Did you hear it in your family like from older generations more?

IN: In my family they didn’t say it that much, but it was more like between friends when we were telling horror stories. I think it’s more of an older generation, and also in smaller towns where people walk around more in a smaller environment. But it mostly came up in people telling their friends or hearing it from like older grandparents.

IN: The main thing is there are people that say that they heard her and it’s actually popular enough that they made a movie recently. But if you hear her you’re supposedly supposed to die, so not many people really claim to hear her.

Context: The informant is my sister in law. I asked if there was any Folklore from Mexico that she remembered.

Background: The informant is from Mexico and has lived in California for about ten years. She heard this tale growing up from friends who would tell the story as being something they heard from their grandparents mostly. For her it was more of a horror/entertainment tale than a cautionary one, particularly because she lived in a bigger city so there wasn’t relevance for la Llorona.

Analysis: I found the informants explanation interesting because from class I always imagined it being a cautionary tale to make sure your kids don’t wander away. I also understand why older generations and people in more rural areas might hear it more often or spread it for caution there to make sure that their kids don’t wander into forests at night.

La Llorona

The following is a Hispanic/Latin legend.  The informant is represented by L and I am represented by K.


K: Tell me about La Llorona.

L: Okay, so… I feel like it’s the first myth that EVERY little kid lear- every little Mexican hears about is La Llorona, and it’s usually, well, she’s active during the night, and near water, is what I’ve heard.  And that what happened is that she drowned her children…. it like evolves over time because it’s from.. drowning her children to like a river and to her bathtub, but I’m… pretty sure originally, it’s that she drowns her children in a lake… no! she doesn’t drown her children, she… doesn’t watch over them and they drown by themselves, and so.. she started… so… she kills herself, and so she’s just wandering around and looking for children to take as her own.  And so, she’s like dressed in white, really long black hair, that just covers her face… and, she’s just wailing, wailing during the night… and… she won’t.. come, near like large groups of children, is what I’ve learned.  It’s like one or two.. and that’s when she’ll strike and snatch you up, but I guess what it means to me is just… I don’t like being alone at night, it scares me ’cause…. and, I think it’s something that parents tell their kids to keep them in check.


The informant was sitting at a dining room table.  There was a group of 5 of us and we had all just celebrated Easter together.  We were sitting at the dining room table sharing folklore and she had a lot of Mexican folklore that she wanted to share with us.

My Thoughts:

La Llorona seems to be a legend meant to scare kids into not wandering alone at night.  This story is very popular in a lot of Latin American cultures, as my dad heard a version of it himself growing up in Nicaragua, and I have many Mexican friends who heard this story growing up.  I think the story is meant to remind kids that they should listen to their children and be cautious with whether they decide to wander alone at night or not.  I think it’s a super interesting story because there are a lot of different variations of La Llorona and slight details that change every time I hear it.  There’s a clear progression of the way the folklore has been passed down from different years.


For another version of this legend, please see “La Llorona” in Colo Arvada’s 1997 La Llorona: 43 Lloronas de Abelardo (Barrio Publications).

La Llorona

Main Piece (direct transcription):

Mom: When I was 10 and 11, we rented a house in Luis Lopez, which is right outside of Socorro (New Mexico).  It was rural, and we lived right on a ditch.  We had some neighbors that were a quarter of a mile down the dirt road we lived on, and they were a Catholic, Hispanic family that were very superstitious.  They had crosses everywhere in their house, and I slept over there one night, and there were six or seven kids and the oldest was nineteen.  There were a couple younger than me, too, and one my age.  I spent the night, and all four or five of us were in one double bed, and at night they were telling me about La Llorona, and how she was real, and how she was wandering around the ditch near our house.  They told me that they heard her over at the ditch at night, walking, and it scared me to death.

Me: Can you tell me the story of La Llorona that they would tell you?

Mom: Yeah… From what I can remember, they told me that La Llorona tried to drown her children when her husband left her, and she went mad.  After she had already thrown them into the river, and they had drowned, she came to her senses and regretted what she had done.  She ran along the ditch, trying to follow the quickly flowing water to grab her children, but tripped and fell.  She hit her head on a rock and died before she could get to her children.  Now, she wanders around ditches calling for her kids, trying to find them.


Context: The informant, my mother, is a pharmacy administrator living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  She was originally born in New York but moved to New Mexico with her family at a young age.  Her father, a playwright and artist, was invested in his Native American heritage.  From her travels around New Mexico, moving from place to place when she was young, and also hearing stories from her father and my father, who is from Iran, she has gathered a variety of folktales.  My mom and I were talking about ghost stories, and she remembered the time when she was neighbors with a Catholic, Hispanic family.  The family was superstitious and believed in ghosts.



My Thoughts: I thought that this story was interesting because I also heard the story of La Llorona first from my peers in New Mexico, since a lot of the population is Hispanic there.  It’s one of the most popular ghost stories that I had heard throughout my childhood, and I thought that my mom’s story was especially interesting because she actually lived near a ditch.  The kids claimed that they had actually heard La Llorona walking around at night.  The story that the kids had told my mom when she was young is incredibly similar to the one that I had heard while I was in elementary school from my classmates.  Of course, there are some differences, and the way that my mom told the story would be different than how the children in Luis Lopez would’ve told her, because that is the nature of folklore, for it has form and variation from individual to individual.

For another version of this story, please see Kathy Weiser’s La Llorona-Weeping Woman of the Southwest (2017), which can be found here

La Llorona de Guanajuato

Main Piece:

“In Guanajuato there was a beautiful woman who had a husband that was a Count. When her husband left to work, he would always return very late. One day the wife found out that he was cheating on her. She was furious and wanted to punish him. She thought of many ways and one night she thought that when her husband returned one night, he would find his children with slit throats. She carried this idea out and the night came where her husband arrived with the children dead. The husband went crazy at the sight of his children. His screams brought the neighbors to their home, where they took his wife to the police. The wife was sentenced to be burned at the stake in a white dress. Before she was burned, a priest convinced the wife to repent for the sin she had committed. Her regret for her sins was immediate and she howled these words “Mis hijos! Ay mis hijos!” They burned her and she continued to yell this until her death. From that point on, the people of Guanajuato talk about a woman who walks around downtown Guanajuato yelling “Ay mis hijos.” Some have even seen her roam in the white dress she died in.



The informant is a 77-year-old Spanish speaking woman, born in Mexico. Her grandmother told her this story and the informant has passed the tale along to her children and grandchildren. She believes that the tale is a warning in decisions that are made in moments of absolute rage.



I agree with the informant, this crime committed by La Llorona was that of a crime of passion which could have been avoided. The saddest part of the tale is that because of the woman being blinded by rage, the young lives of her children were ended.

La Llorona in Venezuela

Informant: Are you allowed to use ghost stories for your project?


Interviewer: Yeah actually, I thought more people would tell me ghost stories but it’s only been like one.


Informant: Because back in Venezuela a really well known one is the legend of La Llorona.


Interviewer: What? That’s a thing in Venezuela too? I thought it was a Mexican thing.


Informant: Well, everyone I knew there knew La Llorona, so I’m guessing it’s a South America thing.


Interviewer: Yeah yeah, that’s cool. I think it’ll be interesting to see how it differs to the legend I’ve heard back home. Can you tell me how you remember it?


Informant: Basically, La Llorona, she was this young woman that fell in love with a soldier, and they have a child. Then the dude leaves, to war or something, and never comes back. The woman has no idea of how to take care of a baby by herself, and she gets so frustrated from the baby crying that she eventually kills him with her own hands. She becomes insane, and even starts kidnapping other people’s kids to kill them as well.


Interviewer: Yeah, that’s kinda different from the version I know. I remember her having 3 kids, and them.. Getting lost or drowning in a river, I think? She kills herself out of sadness, but doesn’t really pass on because of the regret. And when her spirit shows up, she screams “Ay, mis hijos!” (lit. “Oh, my children!”), which is why the spirit was named “La Llorona” (lit. “The Crying Woman.”)


Informant: Ah yes she also cries for her children in the version I know, I guess thats why the name is the same everywhere. But I think to us it was mostly a way to scare kids into behaving. My mom always said that if I wasn’t good the Llorona would kidnap me.


Different Versions

Most notably, the legend of La Llorona is being adapted into a modern horror film The Curse of La Llorona (2019). The legend has been adapted into film several times before, though. This particular film seems to be loosely based on the Mexican version of the folktale, according to the synopsis.


A written version of the legend of La Llorona is featured in José Alvares’s Leyendas Mexicanas (1998).

La LLorona – A Mexican Legend


The only thing I grew up with is probably the same thing you grew up with, The legend of La LLorona. The legend states that a woman once drowned her kids in a river and forever hated herself for it. So when she died her soul still mourned the loss of her kids so her ghost roams the streets of Mexico crying for her kids. People say that if you hear her, and she sounds like she’s far away, then it means she’s really close to you. The same goes for the opposite, if you hear her close-by it means she’s really far away.

Background information: The informant is my cousin who grew up in a small village in Mexico. He is about 7 years older than I am.

Context: As described, this is something the informant heard a lot as a kid. Parents would use the legend of La LLorona to frighten their kids so they wouldn’t stay out too late at night.

Personal analysis: I never thought the legend of La LLorona would become such a well known legend. Seeing Disney turn it into a movie really put into perspective how exploitative capitalism can be. I take great joy in hearing legends like this being passed down from family members. But seeing a corporation use it to make money greatly discredits it.

For another version of this legend, see Mexico.mx. (2019). Horror Stories: The Legend of La Llorona. [online] Available at: https://www.mexico.mx/en/articles/horror-stories-the-legend-of-la-llorona [Accessed 26 Apr. 2019].

“La Llorona”

Main Piece: “The story of La Llorona, was one that my mom used to tell me a lot when I was a kid. The story goes that there was this lady who would go to the river and cry… and she would always be crying… every day. She would go to the river because one day years ago, when she went out to the river, she took her children with her and just drowned them cause she was possessed. So she felt horrible and ever since that day she would go down to the river every day and cry. My mom used to say that if I was bad, La Llorona would come and get me, and then take me to the river and drown me. My mom even said that one time she saw her when she was a child, and she was convinced that she existed. La Llorona would always be described as wearing a veil. One day when my mom was younger and she was home, she went outside and sine she grew up on a ranch there were a bunch of corn fields that lined the property. And while she was outside, she looked over and standing at the edge of the cornfield there was a lady with a veil standing in-front of the corn field.”


Background: UV knows this myth from his mother from when he was growing up in Mexico. His mother would tell him this story along with his other siblings, and he said that it always scared him. He mentioned that this was a very common myth that was told in Mexico, and that almost everybody he knew had been told some variation of this story. It was something that was very prevalent in UV’s life. UV also discussed that when he heard this story, that the themes and the message he got out of it was that, La Llorona represented the consequences if you do bad. Probably not a demon, but if you disobey your parents and if you do bad things then bad things will happen to you. Specifically in this case since he was told this as a child, he said that it further reinforced his obedience because he didn’t want anything to happen to him so he made sure to be kind and follow the rules so that La Llorona wouldn’t come get him.


Context of Performance: UV told me this story while we were hanging out at my apartment and talking about the different stories and myths that our parents used to tell us when we were kids. We were also talking about how the story of La Llorona was being made into a live action film, and he wanted to tell me the story that he had heard when he was a child so that we could see how it compared to the new movie.


Analysis: Being from America, I was vaguely familiar with this story but only from a very surface level. It was certainly interesting to hear how dark this story was and especially the consequences that come from it. Given that this was mainly a story to be told to children, it was just surprising to me to hear about a specter figure who would seek children who were bad and then drown them if she got a hold of them. But this story may simply seem dark to me because American myths for children are generally more lighthearted, and my own cultural bias may be playing into this. Based on the conversation I had with UV, I find that this story is a pretty effective tool for parents to use to ensure their children do not disobey them or act out. UV mentioned that Mexico is very big on respect and especially obeying your family, so this story certainly reinforces that idea for young kids. I think in some ways, this story could also even remind parents to keep an eye on their children so that they aren’t getting into trouble. La Llorona may be a scary specter for children, but it may also even represent a looming danger around children, one that parents must always make sure they are aware of so that they can keep their children safe.


For another version of this legend, see:

The Curse of La Llorona. Directed Michael Chaves. Warner Bros. Entertainment, 2019.

La Llorona

Context: I was teaching a class of 6th graders through the Joint Education Project (JEP) in a middle school near USC. Almost all of the students in the class are of Latino descent. When I asked the class to tell me any legends that they knew, this was the most commonly known one amongst the students (whose names have been replaced with aliases). 


Instructor: Can anyone tell me a legend that they have heard of? Maybe one I would not know (the students knew that I was from Ireland and might not know some of their culture’s legends).

Angel: Oh sir, sir! (raising his hand high)

Instructor: Yes, Angel. (gesturing to him to speak)

Angel: La Llorona is a legend.

Instructor: Who’s that?

Angel: She’s like a evil spirit that roams around at night near lakes n stuff and if you hear her scream or…eh…see her, I think (slowed down expressing unsureness), it means you’re gunna die soon.

Instructor: Where did you learn this legend?

Angel: My mom told me.

Instructor: Has anyone else heard of this legend?

Most of the students nodded or said ‘yeh’ or ‘uhuhh’ in response.

Mr. Salamander (presiding teacher): When I was a kid, my mom told me that story too. It’s to scare kids to keep them from wandering around at night, especially near lakes or rivers ye’know? La Llorona means like uh…weeping lady.

Instructor: Do you know the backstory to the legend?

Mr. Salamander: Yah. Apparently, she drowned her kids after her husband left her for a younger woman and so know she is cursed to wander the Earth as a spirit. So she weeps for her children and looks for other kids to drown or replace her own or something.


Clearly this legend has a didactic purpose to keep children from wandering at night, especially near bodies of water. Legends can be useful in this way because children don’t have as much of an appreciation for how dangerous the world can be like adults do. Children have a tendency to think that they’re somehow indestructible and can put themselves in dangerous situations, like standing on the edge of river banks, without appreciating the threat of the situation. These kinds of stories help to give those dangers a face, and a scary face at that, which children respond to better than mere adult interdictions. An adult saying, ‘stay away from the water, it’s dangerous’ will not be taken to heart by a child as much as them saying, ‘remember, if you go too close to the river, La Llorona might come out weeping and drag you under the water’.

Mexican Legend of La Llorona

Subject: The Legend of La Llorona.


“Interviewee: There’s two versions of this that I learned, and it always- it always ended up with the children in the river… So, basically, the one of them that I learned was that her- so, La Llorona was like really annoyed with her two kids, they kept on crying and she didn’t know how to deal with them so she drowned them in the river, right like She was just like annoyed and she like- she just lost her temper and like drowned them, essentially.

Um and then the other one was like her husband like left her, and um like she was left with the kids and every time like he visited like, or visited- not visited but like that he- that he saw her on the street, he was like with another woman or whatever. I know, classic story. Man leaves woman for another woman. And every time, he would like ignore her, and like just care about the children and ignore her. So, she felt like resentment for the children, so she drowned them in the river.

And for both of these stories, when she realized what she had done, she like searched and, uh, it was too late obviously, she threw them in the river… um… she threw them in the river and when she realized what had happened, it’d been too late, and she just like went around, for the rest of her life looking for her boys… Woah! I think they were boys. Yeah! That’s interesting. I think they were two boys. Um, looking for her kids. ‘Mis niños. Mis niños’. Yeah, that’s like the classis thing that they would say…

Interviewer: In what context would you hear them?

Interviewee: Always like in Spanish class… my parents didn’t really like, well I guess they did… I think there was a movie about it too. Um, and yeah, like in school and like other people would tell their version of the story. I don’t know where I first heard it… but the most recent one was always in high school. Like Spanish class, high school.”

Background Info: Z. Cantú is a twenty-year-old college student majoring in Theater at the University of Southern California. She is from Brownsville, Texas and is bilingual in Spanish and English. Both of her parents immigrated to the United States as teens where they met and started a family. She has grown up with a melding of American and Mexican traditions.

Context: This account was given to me by my roommate in a conversation late at night. I asked her to recount it for my records a week later.

Analysis: In Z. Cantú’s accounts of La Llorona, multiplicity and variation are explicitly visible since she gives the two most common legends associated with the figure that she has heard in her lifetime.

In the first account provided, La Llorona is depicted to be cold and murderous, the opposite of how mothers are typically portrayed in cultural models and how they are expected to behave. In the second, La Llorona’s motivations are more human; however, she is still subverting the traditional model of the mother in which the woman is caring and warm. The portrayl of La Llorona aligns more with the archetype of woman as a witch, as opposed to matron. This connotates her character with the histories of witches and unfeeling women, which then compounds upon the content of the legend, strengthening the three categories of women as slut, mother, and witch.

Furthermore, this legend supports traditional societal structures and morals by addressing the story primarily to children. At an early age, young girls are being exposed to good and bad models of womanhood. Their age compatibility to the children being killed would then augment fear and hatred of the woman’s behavior. It also can be used by adults to control their children by evoking the authority and fear of La Llorona. This reinforces family structures and perhaps even sends the message to children to be appreciative for their parents, as opposed to the unfeeling murderess.