Tag Archives: Mexican legend

La Llorona


Background: My informant is a high school junior. She is also Mexican American. She grew up listening to this story from her mother, but after learning of its folk roots, decided to create her version of the story based on other versions of the story. She is part of the Latin American society on her campus, so she has heard a few versions of this and other Latino legends. 

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Tell me about La Llorona

Informant: There’s a lady who lives in Mexico, I don’t know exactly where, but it’s somewhere near the Rio Grande, and she falls in love with a Spanish man, but she’s not of status. So, after they have two children the Spanish man leaves her for another Spanish, for a Spanish woman, who is obviously more high class because colonization. And um, one day — because he disappears, he GHOSTS her, you know— So, one day she’s in the town and she sees him ride by in his like fancy carriage WITH the other woman and she gets so enraged and so made that she ends up going back home and throwing her two boys into the river. But then she gets so distraught that she did that, she throws herself into the river to drown. But, when she dies and goes up to heaven she gets denied at the gates because she doesn’t have her children with her. So they sent her back down to go find her children so she can enter heaven. But, obviously she can’t find them, and she steals whatever little kid is running by the river to go bring it up to god to be like, “Hey, this is my child!” But, it never works. 

Interviewer: Where did you hear this story?

Informant: Uh, I don’t know. That’s just like, um. I know I heard some of it obviously from my mom and stuff, but I know that wasn’t like the full version. Like that wasn’t — where I got the actual like… pretty sure I musta watched TED ED or something. 

Context: This conversation happened casually over the phone. The informant and I were both aimlessly talking, when I used the opportunity to ask her about her version of a story we both know well. My informant’s tone was extremely casual and slightly sarcastic, like she was telling a story about a friend. 

My thoughts:  As mentioned before, La Llorona is a popular legend for the Latinx community. I have heard many versions also from family, teachers, and friends. What struck me the most about my informant’s version was how casual she talked about a ghost story.  My version was always interlaced with fear, as I heard it always in the context of instilling that fear. The informant is slightly younger than I, and seems more well connected with a more progressive version of the story. The informant highlights La Llorona’s lover did to her in order to cause a temporary insanity. And while she doesn’t praise La Llorona for having some agency as some versions I’ve heard do (see in ‘Annotations’ below), she doesn’t judge the character. Her words were void of emotion in the sense that she just explained what happened. Matter of factly linking action to consequence but not claiming anything. This balanced view of the story was refreshing. Especially since it is a glimpse that the younger generation hopefully sees La Llorona as someone who is not necessarily in the right, but who also did what she had to do and paid the price for it. My version was always interlaced with fear, and I’m thankful to be introduced to versions of this Legend fused with a quiet power, and undeniable agency. 


Annotations: For another version of this Legend that explores feminist themes please see page 54 of MELUS Vol. 24, No.2  (The Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, 1999) for Ana María Carbonell’s “From La Llorona to La Gritona: Coatlicue in Femenist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros”

El Cucuy

Context:

MV is a 2nd generation Mexican-American from New Mexico. Half of her family is of Japanese-Mexican descent and the other half is mestizo. 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 when she was a child.

Text:

JS: Tell me the story of El Quiqui (alternatively el cucuy)

MV: All right so el quiqui lives in tunnels in the mountains. And he’s a really creepy guy who takes away bad children and eats them. There’s this girl, her name is Rosa or some other Mexican shit it doesn’t really matter (laughs). And she’s such a good kid, always does her chores, is obedient and all that. Her sister, though, her name is… Margarita (laughs), she’s awful, just a bad kid all around. So one night el quiqui comes and takes her to the mountains. Rosa goes up and just as he is about to eat Margarita, she saves her, and also finds all these other kids in his tunnels and sets them free.

JS: What do you think the story means?

MV: Classic. Classic! “Do your chores or you’re gonna get eaten (laughs)”

Thoughts:

The practical utility of this legend, as the informant stated above, is obvious. It is a tool for persuading children to take care of household duties. Paradoxically, to give them a sense of responsibility, the story scares them into obedience. The informant’s response, “classic,” suggests that household duty and obedience are important parts of being a woman in a Mexican family. Interestingly, in this informant’s account, the two children were girls. This gendering of the objects of El Cucuy’s aggression suggests that young girls are more often trained at a young age to assist with chores around the house than young boys. The faithful Rosa is a model child, one with a sense of responsibility to her sister and to her family. She is a model of domesticity and virtue. Additionally, El Cucuy is masculine, suggesting that a girl who is not obedient will be taken away and consumed by a mysterious and dangerous man. The story can be used to scare children into doing their chores, but it also contains a gendered lesson of matronly duty and selflessness, that if one does not practice obedience, she will end up with an unfavorable man and meet her demise.

For a more comprehensive look at El Cucuy and other Mexican children’s folk legends, see Domino Renee Perez’s book There was a woman: La Llorona from folklore to popular culture

Perez, Domino Renee. There was a woman: La Llorona from folklore to popular culture. University of Texas Press, 2008.

Santo Toribio Romo and Protection

Background

Informant: A.G.  22 years old current senior in undergrad at USC, third generation from Honduras/Mexico

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Context

A.G. learned this story from his mother who had friends that had crossed the border into the United States from Mexico. Given that Catholicism is a popular religion in that region, many people look to the patron saints for guidance in times of confusion or fear. The saint, Toribio Romo, has become one that immigrants pray to for assistance while crossing the boarder, and has become a widely known figure in the Mexican domination of religion as a result. I have transcribed A.G.’s telling of the story below:

Main Piece

“Before my mom’s friend crossed the border from Mexico to the United States, he did a lot of preparation and praying for the trip. He also talked to a lot of my friends about people they knew that had gone and arrived safely and one of them told him a story about the Santo Toribio Romo. His friend’s  family had traveled across the boarder with another group of their friends. They traveled throughout the day and the night and only stopped when it was necessary but one day, they got lost and then ran out of food and water for a couple of days. They kept walking but had no idea which way to go. As they were walking tough, one of the people in the group said that he saw an oasis and a man who looked like a priest standing next to it telling them to go where he was. Everyone figured that the man was hallucinating from the desert, but they all followed him and hoped it was the way to go. When they went towards the oasis direction, they found out it was the right way to go and eventually made it to the United States. When they all arrived and settled down, the man who claimed to have seen the oasis called his wife and told her what he saw. She told him that it was because she prayed for Santo Toribio Romo to guide them and he was the one who appeared to them near the oasis.”

Thoughts

This story impacted A.G. in its general message of family and the strength of family ties, even in times of separation and turbulence. The initial fear that is experienced when a family must separate in order to immigrate is captured in the story itself, but also the strength and love that is expressed, especially by those that are not making the initial journey with their family. A.G. remarked that the story gave him hope, because to him it illustrated the importance of having family and people who care about you to pray for you and be there for you when you need them, even if they can’t be physically present. It also meant a lot to him, given that his family had experienced something similar and he felt a particular cultural tie to the experience.

There are many stories and variations of stories in which a saint or a guardian angel comes down and intervenes of behalf of the believer and to their benefit. I find that these stories, and belief in them serve the purpose of both inspiring hope, and in validating the religion and the existence of supernatural or other-wordy occurrences that are related to Christianity. Stories like this are important for the morale of people in difficult times, as they can offer a glimmer in an otherwise incredibly difficult situation, yet they still benefit the religion overall if people experience or hear of experiences related to saints.

La Llorona Legend

KF: Ok so, um, there’s this tale, or folklore, or urban legend- I’m not quite really sure what it is…um, where- I think they recently made a movie on it too. Uh, La Llorona is a woman who was married and she had children, but her husband ended up cheating on her or leaving her, and so she decided to get back at her husband she was gonna kill her kids, and um, she drowned them in like a nearby river or something and she ended up- I think she ended up committing suicide herself. And so then at night, she comes back uh crying, um, “my kids, my kids!” And So practically, it’s well known throughout like Mexico that like if you live near a river, and she like- you hear her say like “my kids, my kids,” you wanna hide your children cause she’ll like she’ll take them…um, and they’ll disappear forever or something like that.

 

Background:

Location of story – predominantly Mexico, according to informant

Location of Performance – Interviewer’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. KF approached me two days prior to this interview, but schedules did not allow for a recording until she came to ask a homework and remembered. I am good friend’s with KF.

 

Analysis: La Llorona has extensive foundations in the conquistador era, and the lack of knowledge about the historical context demonstrates to me how extensively the legend has spread and varied amongst different communties. I have studied La Llorona before but never had I heard about the warning cry “my kids, my kids!” Therefore, this is one of the more impactful versions of La Llorona I have heard because it actually has a physical effect on the people who might believe they have heard the cry because they remove their kids from a physical space.

Annotation: Another recent version of this legend is the The Curse of La Llorona movie that was recently released.

Citation: Chaves, Michael, director. The Curse of La Llorona. New Line Cinema, Atomic Monster Productions, 2019.

Doll Bride (Mexican Legend)

Context/Background: The informant is Mexican and grew up with Mexican folk narratives and beliefs such as that of La Pascualita, a mannequin in a shop that people believe to be the “embalmed young pride of a former dressmaker.” She is believed to be ‘mummified’ in a way because of the strikingly detailed features she possesses and lifelike quality that almost seems to interact with customers in the shop, today.

Informant:

“So basically, store owner’s name was Pascuala Esparza and she was embalmed of her daughter who died on her wedding date after being bitten by a black widow spider. So everyone’s saying that her eyes are actually very glass-like. They say her eyes follow people around the store… like her hands are very lifelike… so yeah!”

[Informant is showing photographs online to support her statements].

Onlooker #1: Wow… I think there’s literal fingerprints (referring to close-ups of her hands in photographs).

Onlooker #2: I’m pretty sure that’s real.

KA: And where did you first hear that from? Or like… find out about that?

“I don’t even know… I think it honestly was my mom, actually. I don’t know how we’d even come to that, but I was told in high school … that she brought up this whole thing about La Pascualita and she told the story and it was very interesting actually.”

Introduction: The Informant was Introduced to La Pascualita (the Doll Bride) from her mother.

Analysis/Interpretation: I found this story particularly intriguing because I’m always fascinated with folklore surrounding dolls. What differs from others though, is the notion that the “doll” in a shop, is in fact, an actual person who has been preserved. I’ve heard of certain stories involving preserved people in certain forms that somehow still live to see today, but  I found this interesting in the fact that it’s so accessible by people. Given that it’s in a store and customers have regularly interacted with the La Pascualita mannequin, there’s still a large uncertainty in the air regarding the legitimacy of Esparza’s presence.

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.