The Folklore Behind La Llorona

By Katherina Deiter

La Llorona, “The Weeping Woman,” is a  widespread legend  in Mexico and the American West.

Although several variations exist, the basic story tells of a  beautiful woman named Maria  who drowns her children in order to be with the man that she loved. The man would not have her, which devastated her. She would not take no for an answer, so  she drowned herself in a river  in Mexico City.

THE LEGEND

Challenged at the gates of Heaven  as to the whereabouts of her  children,  she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is  forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, constantly weeping, giving her the name “La Llorona.” She is  trapped between the living world and the spirit world.

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Often it is said that if you lock the doors to a room with a mirror, light red candles and say her name a couple of times in front of the mirror,  you may see her.

In some versions of this tale and legend,  La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who resemble her missing children, or children who disobey their parents. People who claim to have seen her say she appears at night or in the late evenings from rivers or lakes in Mexico.    Some believe that those who hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death, similar to the Gaelic banshee legend; she is said to cry, “ ¡Ay, mis hijos!” (“Oh, my children!”).

AZTEC VARIATIONS

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Local Aztec folklore    possibly influenced the legend; the goddess Cihuacoatl or Coatlicue  was said to have appeared shortly before  the arrival of Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés,  weeping for her lost children,  an omen of the fall of the Aztec empire. La Llorona is also sometimes identified with La Malinche, the Nahua woman  who served as Cortés’s interpreter and who some say was betrayed by the Spanish conquistadors.  In one folk story of La Malinche, she became Cortés’s mistress and bore him a child, only to be abandoned so that he could marry a Spanish lady (although no evidence exists that La Malinche killed her children). Aztec pride drove La Malinche to acts of vengeance. In this context, the tale compares the Spanish discovery of the New World and the demise of indigenous culture after the conquest with La Llorona’s loss.

Just a  little Santa Fe folklore for you!

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