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?
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.
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.