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.
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”