La Llorona is the legend of a woman who drowned her children, and who can be heard, and sometimes seen, weeping in the night for her dead offspring.
La Llorona (meaning “She who weeps” in Spanish) is in most stories said to be Mexican. However stories of her are told also in USA, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama and Chile. It is often stated to be the number one Latin American urban legend. Sometimes La Llorona is also known as the ‘Woman in White’ or the’Weeping Woman’.
As with most urban legends, there are many variations of La Llorona, but the central plot remains intact: The woman has lost her children, usually because she herself has killed them because she wants to marry a man who doesn’t want any children.
She is so guilt-ridden and distressed by these unfortunate circumstances that she kills herself as well, and is therefore doomed to roam her native land forever, weeping and wringing her hands. Often she is seen along rivers and streams.
Although the legends vary, the apparition is said to act without hesitation or mercy. The tales of her cruelty depends on the version of the legend you hear. Some say that she kills indiscriminately, taking men, women, and children. Others say that she is kills only children, dragging them screaming down to a watery grave.
No one really knows when the legend of La Llorona began or from where it originated. There are accounts which suggest that the legend was already in common circulation at the time of the conquistadores.
Here is a typical version of the La Llorona legend:
Maria (La Llorona) thought she was very beautiful, and she wanted the handsomest man to marry. So she got what she wanted. Once they were married, they had three children, first a son, then a daughter, lastly another son.
Maria’s husband started to work out of town for a month or so. He went home to visit his children, but not his wife. He didn’t pay attention to her at all. One time, when Maria’s husband went to visit the children, he had a woman with him. He talked to his children and told them he was going to marry the other woman.
Maria was so angry that she took it out on her own children for no reason. That’s when she took them to the river and drowned them. When she realized what she had done, she started to cry for her children and killed herself. The next morning, a man from the village told everyone the story that he had found Maria dead by the riverbank, so the villagers went there and buried her.
In the very middle of the night, they heard a woman crying for her children and they discovered it was Maria’s ghost.
People then started calling her “La Llorona”.
This is another version of the story:
Maria married a very rich man, which was not a proper thing to do in that time and in her country. After he had the 2 boys and the girl with Maria, he left her and ended up marrying another woman.
In her depression, Maria drowned her kids and then herself. When she reached the gates of heaven, the Lord asked her “Where are your children?”
Maria answered “I don’t know, my Lord.”
The Lord then said “You shall not enter these gates without your children.”
From that point on, Maria began to roam the earth in search for her children in the rivers and streams of the Americas.
Typically, the legend serves as a cautionary tale on several levels.
Parents will warn their children that both bad behavior and being outside after dark will result in a visit from the spirit.
The tale also warns teenage girls not to be enticed by status, wealth, material goods, or by men making declarations of love or any promises too good to be true.
Some also believe that those who hear the screams of La Llorona are marked for death.