Interviewer: You said you had a ghost story?
Informant: Yeah… so La Llorona is supposed to be this woman somewhere in Mexico who was married and had two kids. Her husband either cheated on her or did something similar to anger her. She was super angry at her husband, and, trying to figure out a way to get back at him, she started to think. One night she took her two children to the river, thinking she would play with them. When she got there, though, she thought of a way to get revenge on her husband – by taking their children. Since she had nowhere to go, she decided she would take the kids, to try to harm her husband in return. But, since she had nowhere to go, she instead took her kids and drowned them in the water. At first, she felt good about this, you know, her rage justified it, but after cooling off, she realized that she had killed her beloved children. Obviously, she was distraught, so she went back to the same river and drowns herself in it.
When she reaches the gates of Heaven, she’s stopped and asked by St.Peter about the location of her children. She doesn’t want to say she killed them, so she says she doesn’t know, and so St.Peter sends her back to Earth to look for her children. Until then, she’s trapped between reality and the afterlife, she’s a ghost.
Now, she patrols the streets of towns late at night looking for her kids, the ones she killed, crying out “Mis hijos, mis hijos” while weeping, which is how she got her name “La Llorona”, which translates to something like “the weeping woman”. If she finds kids out late at night, she’ll mistake them for her own kids at first. But, if they’re not her own children, she kills them to try to take the place of her own.
Context: My informant is a nineteen year old college student. Though he was raised in the United States, he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and his first language is Spanish. This legend was told in a college dorm room, with the informant sitting across from me.
Background: My informant can’t remember where he heard La Llorona from – maybe his parents, maybe his friends, it’s a very common story in Latin America. He thinks La Llorona is used to keep kids and people in general from going out late at night. This is not, however, just to keep people from staying out late. According to him, la Llorona is used to keep people from staying out past 3 AM. This is because, in Latin America, three is a number associated with God. In the afternoon, 3 PM is considered lucky, but 3 AM, at night, is considered odd and unnatural. Even he doesn’t feel comfortable going out that late, and told me a brief story of a friend of his who noticed a weird fog and distant cries when she was out at 3 AM.
Analysis: This account of La Llorona demonstrates not only how the legend helps keep people inside and orderly at night, but also a connection to the deep Catholic roots many communities within Mexico maintain. Though not part of the story, many people choose to mark 3 AM as the time when La Llorona begins to stalk the streets, a number commonly associated with God and the Holy Trinity. Interestingly, the use of the number three also reflects a common trend in many other pieces of folklore – namely, a propensity for things to crop up in threes or occur at times with threes in them. Personally, I’ve noticed weird things happening really late at night, whether they’re odd weather or sounds. I’m not sure whether or not I myself believe in la Llorona or similar ghostly apparitions, but I’m still inclined to spend my late nights inside rather than out.