Tag Archives: la llorona

La Llorona

  1. Details
    1. Collected on 03/23/2024 
    2. Genre: Legend
    3. Language: English 
    4. Nationality: Mexican
    5. Relationship to Informant: Friend’s Father 
  2. Text
    1. Summary
      1. The informant’s mother told him a version of the La Llorona legend where there was a woman who lived her life in torment after her children fell into the river and died. 
    2. Direct transcription of folklore:
      1. “You are going into my memory banks here, but my mother used to tell us about this woman who was very afflicted because her children had drowned in the river. And you could hear her wailing ‘ah mis hijos’ – oh, my children. So, it was almost a tale my mom would tell us so not to do dangerous things because she would be forever depressed. It wasn’t so much that this was an evil person that did something bad because I think La Llorona – the original one – drowned her children. In the version my mom would tell us, the children fell into the river and drowned. So, she would wail forever for her children.”
  3. Context 
      1. The informant is the father of my friend. He grew up in a small town in Mexico. This story was told to the informant by his mother when he was a child. 
  4. Analysis 
      1. This oikotype of the La Llorona legend portrays the woman as a grieving mother who lost her children. This legend was told by a mother to her children to prevent them from risking their lives by doing dangerous things. This legend tells the children that if they aren’t careful, they can cause their mother to mourn for the rest of her life. 

“The Water Fountain Ghost”

Genre: Folk Narrative – Ghost Story


“At the summer camp I went to as a child, we were told a ghost story about a woman who roamed the grounds at night. The director of the camp sat down all the campers on the evening of the first day and told us that long ago, back in the earliest days of the camp, there was a camper who decided to leave their cabin in the middle of the night to explore. They decided to go to the water fountain by the pool, but because it was so dark outside, the camper couldn’t see where they were going and they tripped and fell into the water and drowned. The ghost of this camper, now a grown woman, is seen haunting the camp grounds at night, particularly in the area near the old water fountain. If she sees any campers wandering around outside where they are not allowed after dark, she will drag them into the pool so they can join her as a ghost.”


“I first heard this story when I was six or seven years old, and I was terrified! I totally believed it, and every night, I would look out my cabin window and look for the ghost lady. It took a few years for me to stop believing it, and it was really only when I had to go to the nurse’s office during the night and I was too scared to go because of the ghost, and the counselor told me that it wasn’t a true story and just something they told to scare the campers into staying inside the cabins. Later on, when the directors of the camp changed, they stopped telling the story which made me kind of sad, because I felt like it was part of the camp lore and kind of another rite of passage in growing up there as a camper.”


I agree with the informant’s realization that the story was something made up in order to scare the campers into staying inside their cabins during the night. In such a rural location, it would be likely that campers leaving their cabins during the night would get them hurt, either by their own actions or by a wild animal. It also discourages campers from engaging in misbehavior that wouldn’t be appropriate in a children’s camp setting, like meeting up with other campers during the night. I think, as the informant experienced, that this is probably a fairly successful method for the younger campers who believe the story, as scaring them into obedience probably has a higher success rate than telling them a seemingly arbitrary rule.

This ghost story reminded me of the story of La Llorona, who is a character from Mexican folklore who also takes the form of a wandering woman. La Llorona is found near bodies of water (just as this ghost is found near the water fountain/pool area) and is said to drown unfaithful men (while this ghost drowns disobedient children).

The Witch’s Grave

Text: “As a kid, my parents and elders would tell us not to misbehave or they would take us to the cemetery in the town of Old Mesilla. The town was colonized by the Spanish in the late 1500s, and the indigenous peoples of the land faced heavy persecution from the settlers. There was a woman who was native to the land, and as a form of revenge, she sought to poison one of the men who was settling in her home. The man soon caught on to the woman’s plot, and he accused her of witchcraft and poisoned her himself. The woman died soon after, and the colonizers buried her in an unmarked grave that was covered with an extremely heavy rock. That rock began to crack, and it is believed the woman is trying to escape her grave and seek vengeance against the men who stole her home and killed her. To this day, locals have repaired the tomb with many layers of concrete, but the concrete continues to crack and become more brittle. There is a story from a couple years ago of a teenage girl being dared to lay on top of the large grave, and when she did, she began having a seizure. It is believed that the woman’s spirit possessed the girl, filling her with the same rage the woman had.”

Context: My informant – a 29-year-old man from Las Cruces, New Mexico – told me this story, drawing on the legend he and his siblings and cousins would hear from their parents and elders as children. He explained to me that if he was misbehaving among his family, someone would reprimand him by telling him to act right or else he would be taken to “the witch’s grave.” He had heard the legend as a child from his mother, and it was common knowledge that the area was the burial site of a bruja (witch), so it wasn’t to be neared. My informant explained to me that the last part of the story is the part that scared him and other children the most – the story of a young girl laying on top of the grave and being possessed. If anyone were to get too close to the grave, they would be filled with the spirit of the woman who seeks revenge on anyone who settles on her land, a spirit that is malicious and bound to cause harm to anyone in her path. Playing on the children’s fear of their bodies being inhabited by a witch’s spirit, parents would warn their children to behave or else they would be taken to the grave to be possessed. 

Analysis: When my informant was telling me of this legend, I began to draw parallels between this story and the wider-known legend of La Llorona due to the history of colonization. In “The Politics of Taking: La Llorona in the Cultural Mainstream” by Domino Renee Perez, the author examines the legend of La Llorona, honing in on a specific interpretation of the legend where La Llorona is an indigenous Mexican woman that ends up bearing the children of a Spanish colonizer. After her children are born, he abandons her and her children, and the ensuing grief and rage that comes over her motivates her to kill her children and wander for eternity. Perez stresses that the traditional legend views La Llorona as a figure of resistance to imperialism, and she serves as a reminder of the violence and pain that were inflicted on the indigenous peoples who fell victim to colonization. Yet, in the majority of Western media, La Llorona is portrayed as a mere woman who solely seeks to exact vengeance upon unfaithful men.

After my informant told me of the legend regarding the witch’s grave, I wanted to see if that history of imperialism provides some insight into understanding the witch’s motives in other tellings of the story. While there wasn’t much published on the legend, I came across a blog post that described the same witch’s grave in Mesilla, yet instead of describing her actions as resistance against colonization, it states that she was merely trying to poison a man who instead poisoned her, resulting in her death. I am unsure of who the author of that blog post is, but I found it very interesting to hear the legend from my informant as he provided historical context that doesn’t enshroud the woman with petty vengeance, but instead details her fighting back against the men who stole her home. My informant is an indigenous Mexican, and I believe that the version of the legend that he heard was told to him by members of his culture that share in feeling the collective pain caused by colonization. His version of the legend grants greater insight into the history of his people, and while it may differ from other interpretations, it showcases the unique forms legends can take in order to tell a story that others may not know.


“A Witch’s Grave.” The Scarlet Order, 8 Feb. 2016, https://dlsummers.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/a-witchs-grave/. 

Perez, Domino Renee. “The Politics of Taking: La Llorona in the Cultural Mainstream.” The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 45, No. 1, 153-172. Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 2012. 

La Llorona

Category: Legend/Tale (Depends on if the person believes in spirits, but more of a Legend)


Summary: If a child cries too much they would be taken by la Llorona. La Llorona is a crying woman who does something bad to bad children. “[I]t’s always a woman and … she’s [always] weeping and generally 9 times out of 10, it was always involving children.”

*for more details read script below


L is my mom who was born in Mexicali, Mexico and then moved to the US with her family when she was young. She heard about la Llorona from her parents and interprets the story of la Llorona having to do with females crying and children misbehaving.


This oikotype of la Llorona doesn’t have to do with water like Carbonell says is included in many Llorona stories. Instead this Llorona focuses on females crying and children misbehaving, which are themes in other oikotypes as well. In a sense, this version seems similar to the Boogeyman but with a crying aspect. It does go with what Carbonell says is the more common role of la Llorona since she plays a role as the bad guy.

L implies that la Llorona kidnaps children with the part about the Olympics. This is more common with other oikotypes of la Llorona and the name itself shows hispanic identity since it’s in Spanish. On the other hand, there is the more unique interpretation L takes of la Llorona with her siblings when one of them cries a lot. Instead of calling someone a cry-baby, her siblings use la Llorona instead, which may also be a coincidence since “a female who cries” is literally the same name for la Llorona, the figure in legends. Since L’s family uses it to keep children from crying after a certain time it means that L’s family values one’s toughness and ability to adapt quickly rather than sympathise.

Interesting Side Note:

  • L also implies that la Llorona can be an aspect of God’s punishment on bad children in the latter part of the conversation.
  • As a Mexican American, I know parts of Mexican and Hispanic culture from my mom but definitely not all. I didn’t even know about la Llorona until I learned it off the internet and then asked my mom about her. Having this conversation let me know why my mom didn’t bring up these stories: they’re replaced by other, “American” folklore like “Stranger Danger!”, the Boogeyman, etc. Said replacement is an interesting side note.


Me: Ok, so what was this about la Llorona, like what-what’s the kind of story and then I guess how did you have it in your childhood and life?

L: So la Llorona, I grew up with it. My parents introduced it to us and I am the youngest of four and generally when the topic of la Llorona came up, it was not a good thing. Ok? You try avoiding having la Llorona brought up and the way it was brought up in my childhood was if… and I am the youngest of four siblings and if you got hurt, there was what parents would deemed an appropriate amount of time for you to sit there and ball your head out and cry and, you know, appropriately, you know, let people know that you’re hurt and you’re crying. But then if you went on beyond that reasonable amount of time and you were just doing a drama and you were just playing it up and you reached the excess point, they would politely say, ‘look enough is enough and if you don’t stop you’re crying at this point you’re going to be visited by la Llorona.

Me: And by they you mean your parents?

L: Your-your- no. My parents would say you’re going to be visited by la Llorona. And la Llorona is always a woman, as implied you know, from the verb, you know, weeping and it’s a woman plural, I mean it’s feminine because it’s la LloronA.

Me: Ends with an A.

L: So it’s always a woman and it’s always- she’s weeping and generally 9 times out of 10 it was always involving children. Ok? So that’s how I heard of la Llorona. That’s how it was used, but even amongst our siblings, even among siblings, it was not a good thing to be nicknamed or to be called out being la Llorona. And you would do this to push your siblings’ buttons, to get them irate. And that was the point where yeah- let’s say you pushed them, or you shoved them, or you skinned yourself playing soccer or-or you got a big bruise and you were just endlessly crying for no, you know, I mean ya it hurt, but then you’d go on and on and on. Well then, we would just nickname them like, you know, la Llorona. ‘If you don’t shut up about this, you know, you’re just la Llorona.’ It was a nickname amongst our siblings. More appropriately among us females because it’s a woman who’s weeping.

Me: So you and Tia [P].

L: Yes, me and Tia [P], and so my parents would use it, not a good thing. I would use it among siblings as a nickname, you know, kind of picking on you… to shut up… stop with the crying when it was excess. You would use it amongst siblings and me as an adult with you, my kids I really never had the occasion to use it. I contemplated it at times… but…

Me: Instead, dad would just be like, ‘No phone privileges!’

L: *laughs* Ya, I mean it-it’s- here in the United States you have other methods of controlling kind of, you know, bad behavior or excess, you know, crying or excess, you know, brooding. The only time I really contemplated it was as- as- a sign when we would go to the Olympics and we were among hordes of people and we really, I mean it would have just been a nightmare if any of you had actually gotten lost at one of the Olympic events with the thousands of people there. To hold tie to always, you know, be by a parent but we never really had to. There were other methods to do it. But that was the one time I kept saying, you know, maybe this is the time to bring out la Llorona just to instill the fear of God in them that they really, really have to hold on to a parent or else they’re going to get lost in the thousands of people…

Me: So like stranger danger.

L: Yeah, but I didn’t have to because we had stranger danger and I even saw that parents would put those little long leashes, I call them leashes and that’s probably not the appropriate name…

Me: *snorts*

L: But the little backpacks, right? With these long cords to attach to the parent or attach to the arm of the kid so the child doesn’t get lost. But we never even had to do that. So again, la Llorona, it was useful when I grew up by my parents, and it was not a good thing, and we used it growing up amongst ourselves as nicknames just to… uh…

Me: Mess with each other?

L: Yeah, push each others’ buttons. And again, as an adult I didn’t really have to use it because I had other methods other ways to try and curb that bad behavior or quiet that behavior we wanted.

Me: Gee thanks.

L: *laughs* Alright any other questions on la Llorona?

Me: Um…. Nope… not really. Gracias.

L: Ok, de nada.

Legend – La Llorona


“This is the legend of La Llorona, who is a woman that roams the towns in Mexico searching for her dead children. This story [is set in] old-time Mexico. There lived a family: a husband, a wife, and their two children. The family was happy; the dad worked and the mom stayed home to watch over the children. Somewhere along the way though, there started to be financial difficulties, so when the husband encounters a young and beautiful woman from the next town over and he starts having an affair with her. Unbeknown to his surprise, the mother finds out and rage fills her and ends up clouding her mind. She wants a way to get back at him, but she can’t think of anything. She wants to kill him but she wants to hurt him deeply and that’s when she notices her children. She’s like my children, that’s the one way that will hurt him. She guides them to a river on the pretense that they’re going to go play by the river. While they’re playing in the river, the mother slowly goes into the river and starts telling her children to come with her. The children don’t know that it’s too deep for them and that the current of the river would end up taking the children and drowning them. The children follow their mom since they love her, and they start to realize that they can’t touch the floor. They’re screaming out for their mom like ‘Mom help me.’ She goes over and starts drowning them both. Now that she has drowned them, she starts to realize what she’s done. She realizes she ended up killing both her children and she went crazy, but she still seeks revenge. She goes over to her husband and ends up murdering him. From that moment on, the agony of losing her children has taken over her. It is said that near the rivers in Mexico, there will be a woman who you’ll hear screaming and crying for her children.” 


This story was told by one of my roommates. She heard this story from multiple members of her family. She said that this story is passed down from generation to generation. It is a very well-known legend in Mexico, and she said that not a single Latino would not know who La Llorona is.


This legend is similar to the concept of the boogie man. It’s kind of a way for parents to scare their children into doing something. In America, I think the boogie man is more well-known than La Llorona, but the idea behind the legend is the same. Parents will often say something along the lines of “go to sleep or the boogie man will get you.”  This is similar to La Llorona; parents in Mexico would use this legend as a way to make sure their children would come home before sundown. In a way, this was also a way for parents to keep their children safe from wandering the streets at night.