Interviewer: Do you know of any cultural legends or tales that someone else told you or passed down to you?
Informant: I know about the Mexican folk tale or story.
Interviewer: Great, how does the story start?
Informant: Well this woman, fell in love with this man and wanted him to marry her. But the man said that he didn’t want to marry her because she had kids, so she had to get rid of them. So she took them to this river and either drowned them or just left them there and eventually they drowned on their own. And then when she went back to the man she loved, he told her that it was too late and that he had found someone else to marry. She was heartbroken and was crying as she went back to the river to look for her kids but they were gone. From then on she cried for the rest of her time. And apparently if a kid cries then La Llorona can hear the crying and thinks it’s the children she lost.
Interviewer: The version I have heard is that you aren’t supposed to wander to far from home or go to bodies of water, like rivers alone, or misbehave in general because then she would find you. Have you heard different versions as well?
Informant: I hadn’t heard the part about wandering off but what I was told was that parents tell their children the story when they want them to stop crying. Because that’s how La Llorona knows where you are, by the crying and her believing that it is her own children crying. I guess it also makes sense if you are misbehaving but it loses the thing that identifies you to La Llorona. It is almost like the crying is a siren call for her so I think it’s an important part of the telling of the story that the child listening also be crying.
Interviewer: Yeah that actually makes a lot of sense. Did you believe the story when you first heard it?
Informant: I thought it was just creepy. I don’t know if I necessarily believed it but it makes an impact. I think logically you know it’s an old wives’ tale but at the same time it’s pretty weird. Like it makes you think about where these stories started and what happened to start them.
Background: The informant is a junior at USC and has lived in Los Angeles her whole life. She also has a large extended family who often get together to spend time catching up. This piece was one that she had often overlooked but was unaware of the various versions of it. For her the story was not used against her as a way to get her to behave, but mostly as a scary story.
Context: This interview took place during a dinner conversation about scary stories and other things we had learned about from our families. The informant learned the legend from her mother who told her and her younger siblings.
Analysis: I had heard versions of this story for other people but never from my family. My grandmother also knew about the story but didn’t tell me or my parents because she didn’t believe in it and didn’t want to spread it. Which is interesting in the sense that even when some performers stop passing on folklore, that people will still learn the pieces whether through other performers or media or through projects. But after hearing the legend in full I think it was better that I learned it from friends because I think if my family or even my grandmother had told me I would have believed it more and been more afraid.