Tag Archives: la llorona

La Llorona

CONTEXT: 

RR is one of my best friends and roommates. She is a sophomore at USC who enjoys crocheting, writing poetry, and making me laugh. 

TEXT: 

Me: “Tell me the story of La Llorona.”

R: “Well, the way my mom learned it is that she’s a witch.”

Me: “Who did your mom hear it from?”

R: “Her aunt told her—her aunt is from Mexico. 

Her name is Evangelina—we call her Vengie 

That’s my grandpa’s sister. 

So my great aunt. 

And when they used to live in this neighborhood, they would run around and if there was like wind blowing, 

or like my grandma said, when cats mate, you know how they kind of sounds like babies crying, 

and so they would say oh, that’s La Llorona. 

She is coming back for her children who were swept away in a river. 

Other versions of the story are that they drowned or she drowned them in the river and then she comes back. 

My mom heard that they were swept away in a river so she didn’t do it. 

She lost them. 

And so she cries 

and she’s coming back and haunting the kids because she’s looking for her own.”

Me: “So did she want to steal kids to replace them?” 

R: “Yeah. 

So her kids were swept away

but she’ll drop other kids in the river to take their souls

My mom and her older sister, Paula used to say.

They would get really scared when they heard wind blowing or like crying.

ANALYSIS:

La Llorona is also known as The Weeping Woman or The Cryer. Her tale originates from Latin America—specifically Mexico. The most common version of the story states that La Llorona drowned her own children, however, it is interesting that R’s’s family grew up telling the story that the children got swept away on their own.

For another version of the story you can check out this link:

La Llorona

Context:

MV is a 2nd generation Mexican-American from New Mexico. Half of her family is of Japanese-Mexican descent and much of her extended family lives in Mexico. I received this story from her in a video conference call from our respective homes. She learned this story from her grandmother, who told it to her as a child. She grew up in near the Rio Grande in Albuquerque New Mexico, a river which also goes through Mexico.

Text:

MV: So the story goes that um.. there was this woman. She doesn’t really have a name, but… she was like a really beautiful woman and she lived in this little town and she fell in love with this man and she loved him so much and they got married, and she was like really obsessed with him, she really wanted to like… marry him… and just have him. So they ended up getting married and they had a few kids, a boy and a girl. She really loved the kids and they were really beautiful too because she was the most beautiful woman in the village.

One day, like, she was noticing that he was, like, was coming home really late, and was really sus, and wasn’t telling her where he was going or if he was at work or what was going on. And so, she found out that he was having an affair, and this, like, shattered her entire world… she went crazy!

So, she goes into the Rio Grande, and she takes her kids, and she’s so sad about what happened and she can’t stop crying (which is why she’s called La Llorona, hehe) So she’s bawling and bawling and she drowns her kids! In the river, cuz she’s just so sad, crazy, and like, I don’t know she was really into this guy… She drown herself in the river too, with her kids, after that. And pretty much, the legend after that is like, when you hear the wind going through the bosque (forest) near the Rio Grande, like that howling is her crying… that’s La Llorona!

JS: What do you think the story means?

MV: I think it’s just, like, a heartbreak. She had her heart broken really badly and she didn’t know how to handle that.

Thoughts:

The legend of La Llorona appears across a wide swath of Mexican and Central American folklore. In her historic-geographic study of the legend, Ana Maria Carbonell finds this destructive motherly figure to date as far back as the early days of colonization in the Americas. La Llorona is often seen as a figure to be feared, a deranged mother bent on murdering her kids, but Carbonell reads her against the patriarchal system which backgrounds her, and which causes her to place her self-worth or ontological justification within the (patriarchal) institution of marriage which, when shattered, has disastrous and deadly effects. This narrative shows the loss of the children not as a result of psychological derangement, but of hierarchical relations which compel la Llorona to destructive acts of love. Water is here a figure for destruction as well as birth. This figure of la Llorona, instead of a passive subject of the patriarchal gaze, has some subjective agency and is able to act out against a patriarchal order which subjugates her and which she fears for her children to enter. Note that the informant explained la Llorona’s actions in terms of the violence that was afflicted upon her and her inability to cope with it, not because of some internal fault, but because of external oppressions.

Carbonell, Ana Maria. “From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlique in Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros.” MELUS, vol. 24, no. 2, Religion, Myth, and Ritual. Summer 1999

La Llorona

The informant is marked IN. The collector is marked JJ.

IN: So the story goes that this woman in like colonial times in Mexico, she had a couple kids. And the story changes, like some stories say the kids drown, some say they got lost, or killed. So the story goes that at night whenever people hear any crying outside it’s like this woman that’s coming back to get kids and like kill them. So part of that is saying that you can hear like moaning and crying and you’re supposed to hide your kids and stuff. So I’m pretty sure they like take the kids and drown them in the river.

JJ: Did you hear it in your family like from older generations more?

IN: In my family they didn’t say it that much, but it was more like between friends when we were telling horror stories. I think it’s more of an older generation, and also in smaller towns where people walk around more in a smaller environment. But it mostly came up in people telling their friends or hearing it from like older grandparents.

IN: The main thing is there are people that say that they heard her and it’s actually popular enough that they made a movie recently. But if you hear her you’re supposedly supposed to die, so not many people really claim to hear her.

Context: The informant is my sister in law. I asked if there was any Folklore from Mexico that she remembered.

Background: The informant is from Mexico and has lived in California for about ten years. She heard this tale growing up from friends who would tell the story as being something they heard from their grandparents mostly. For her it was more of a horror/entertainment tale than a cautionary one, particularly because she lived in a bigger city so there wasn’t relevance for la Llorona.

Analysis: I found the informants explanation interesting because from class I always imagined it being a cautionary tale to make sure your kids don’t wander away. I also understand why older generations and people in more rural areas might hear it more often or spread it for caution there to make sure that their kids don’t wander into forests at night.

La Llorona

The following is a Hispanic/Latin legend.  The informant is represented by L and I am represented by K.

Piece:

K: Tell me about La Llorona.

L: Okay, so… I feel like it’s the first myth that EVERY little kid lear- every little Mexican hears about is La Llorona, and it’s usually, well, she’s active during the night, and near water, is what I’ve heard.  And that what happened is that she drowned her children…. it like evolves over time because it’s from.. drowning her children to like a river and to her bathtub, but I’m… pretty sure originally, it’s that she drowns her children in a lake… no! she doesn’t drown her children, she… doesn’t watch over them and they drown by themselves, and so.. she started… so… she kills herself, and so she’s just wandering around and looking for children to take as her own.  And so, she’s like dressed in white, really long black hair, that just covers her face… and, she’s just wailing, wailing during the night… and… she won’t.. come, near like large groups of children, is what I’ve learned.  It’s like one or two.. and that’s when she’ll strike and snatch you up, but I guess what it means to me is just… I don’t like being alone at night, it scares me ’cause…. and, I think it’s something that parents tell their kids to keep them in check.

Context:

The informant was sitting at a dining room table.  There was a group of 5 of us and we had all just celebrated Easter together.  We were sitting at the dining room table sharing folklore and she had a lot of Mexican folklore that she wanted to share with us.

My Thoughts:

La Llorona seems to be a legend meant to scare kids into not wandering alone at night.  This story is very popular in a lot of Latin American cultures, as my dad heard a version of it himself growing up in Nicaragua, and I have many Mexican friends who heard this story growing up.  I think the story is meant to remind kids that they should listen to their children and be cautious with whether they decide to wander alone at night or not.  I think it’s a super interesting story because there are a lot of different variations of La Llorona and slight details that change every time I hear it.  There’s a clear progression of the way the folklore has been passed down from different years.

 

For another version of this legend, please see “La Llorona” in Colo Arvada’s 1997 La Llorona: 43 Lloronas de Abelardo (Barrio Publications).

La Llorona

Main Piece (direct transcription):

Mom: When I was 10 and 11, we rented a house in Luis Lopez, which is right outside of Socorro (New Mexico).  It was rural, and we lived right on a ditch.  We had some neighbors that were a quarter of a mile down the dirt road we lived on, and they were a Catholic, Hispanic family that were very superstitious.  They had crosses everywhere in their house, and I slept over there one night, and there were six or seven kids and the oldest was nineteen.  There were a couple younger than me, too, and one my age.  I spent the night, and all four or five of us were in one double bed, and at night they were telling me about La Llorona, and how she was real, and how she was wandering around the ditch near our house.  They told me that they heard her over at the ditch at night, walking, and it scared me to death.

Me: Can you tell me the story of La Llorona that they would tell you?

Mom: Yeah… From what I can remember, they told me that La Llorona tried to drown her children when her husband left her, and she went mad.  After she had already thrown them into the river, and they had drowned, she came to her senses and regretted what she had done.  She ran along the ditch, trying to follow the quickly flowing water to grab her children, but tripped and fell.  She hit her head on a rock and died before she could get to her children.  Now, she wanders around ditches calling for her kids, trying to find them.

 

Context: The informant, my mother, is a pharmacy administrator living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  She was originally born in New York but moved to New Mexico with her family at a young age.  Her father, a playwright and artist, was invested in his Native American heritage.  From her travels around New Mexico, moving from place to place when she was young, and also hearing stories from her father and my father, who is from Iran, she has gathered a variety of folktales.  My mom and I were talking about ghost stories, and she remembered the time when she was neighbors with a Catholic, Hispanic family.  The family was superstitious and believed in ghosts.

 

 

My Thoughts: I thought that this story was interesting because I also heard the story of La Llorona first from my peers in New Mexico, since a lot of the population is Hispanic there.  It’s one of the most popular ghost stories that I had heard throughout my childhood, and I thought that my mom’s story was especially interesting because she actually lived near a ditch.  The kids claimed that they had actually heard La Llorona walking around at night.  The story that the kids had told my mom when she was young is incredibly similar to the one that I had heard while I was in elementary school from my classmates.  Of course, there are some differences, and the way that my mom told the story would be different than how the children in Luis Lopez would’ve told her, because that is the nature of folklore, for it has form and variation from individual to individual.

For another version of this story, please see Kathy Weiser’s La Llorona-Weeping Woman of the Southwest (2017), which can be found here