Latin America's La Llorona: The Legend of The Weeping Woman

La Llorona Statue In a Public Scene

No other ghost tale is recounted more frequently, discussed passionately, or understood as broadly as the legend of La Llorona throughout Latin America, Spanish-speaking populations in the United States, and especially in Mexico. Since the name "La Llorona" literally translates to "the weeping woman," it should come as no surprise that the central theme of her stories is that she weeps. The "La Llorona" apparition differs significantly apart from that one characteristic.

The Tragic Story of La Llorona

Typically, La Llorona is an evil ghost that either foretells terrible fate for the living or causes it directly. She occasionally assumes the persona of a "dangerous siren," luring a lonely man out at night by approaching him as a sorrowful, woebegone creature concealed behind a rebozo. She turns a skeleton's face, a wild metallic horse's head, or no face on the solicitous guy when help is given. She is occasionally seen wandering but is often heard wailing and screaming through the night. A casual encounter with her is risky.

The legend's ancestry is unknown. However, pre-Hispanic roots have been suggested. La Llorona has also been associated with Aztec goddesses and is believed to be one of 10 signs predicting the conquest of Mexico. We locate two Aztec deities who could be connected to La Llorona in the Florentine Codex, a comprehensive study on the Nahua peoples of Mexico written in the 16th century by the Franciscan priest Bernardino de Sahagn.

Maria, a lady of natural beauty who is resolved to wed only the most attractive guy she encounters and rejects any man she perceives as being unable to equal her appearance, is the protagonist of La Llorona. The story has several interpretations, but the most widely accepted one claims that Maria courted her potential husband by coming across as distant and challenging to win over. However, after they were married and had two children, the young man's thoughts wandered, daydreaming of his former wild lifestyle on the prairies. Some portray the ranchero as being unfaithful to Maria, while others have her resenting his emotional detachment from her in contrast to the care he still lavishes upon their children.

Many versions of the story claim that she drowned herself before letting her children drown and did it on purpose and with her own hands. Maria is compelled to look for her children's remains in the afterlife after being denied admittance to paradise without them. In the Mexican colonial adaptation, Maria has children with a white Spaniard above her social status and murders the children when he refuses to take her as his wife. 

No matter which version you hear, each one has something in common. Each telling of the La Llorona myth involves a beautiful woman that drowned her children. Many believe La Llorona was the precursor to the Woman in White in American myth. However, no matter what you believe, La Llorona is a tragic tale with an even more harrowing end.

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