“La Llorona”

Description (From Transcript): “Basically what I know is there was this woman, she was like someone important in her town. Either that or the man that she was gonna marry was like someone that had some sort of credibility. And so they got married, and they had children but then the guy cheated on her and I think he had children with another woman. And she was so sad that she drowned her children and I guess she had a meltdown. She went into a downward spiral and apparently, according to the legend, you can still hear her calling out for her children that she drowned. I think [she was] crying in agony because she drowned them. I always thought that she was looking for them but she drowned them and immediately regretted it and started mourning for their loss. Also, I’m not sure about this, but I think she was half Indigenous or something. I’m not sure if I’m making this up… It takes place in a rancho (Ranch) because there has to be a lot of open space because she drowns them in a lake, or river, or some sort of body of water. ”

Context: CL is a Mexican American student at USC. Her parents are from Michoacan, Mexico and her family currently resides near Bakersfield, California. Her parents were the first ones to tell her this story but she also later came across a book of myths and legends across different cultures and read a more “formal” story there. She explains how there is a lot of misogyny in Mexican culture, which is where the story might have come from. She says:

“What a coincidence that one of the scary stories that people tell is about a woman that murdered her children because her husband cheated on her”. 

She also says that she always imagined the story took place outside of her house because there was a creek. She was always scared of hearing her (La llorona) in the middle of the night. She says that people tell this story to scare their children. It’s an obedience tactic. She explains how it’s not meant for adults. It’s not told to men as a warning to not cheat on their wives. 

My interpretation: While most of the informant’s version of this story matched other popular versions, what stood out to me about her analysis was the way she categorized it as an obedience tactic used on children, even though the children in the story did nothing wrong. As someone who also grew up hearing this story I had never wondered why it was never used as a way to ensure men didn’t cheat on their wives. It’s very telling of the ways in which women and children in this culture suffer the consequences of men’s actions the most.