Where does the legend of La Llorona come from?

D Moreno

We have all heard the story as children to never be alone at night by a river or the weeping lady will come get you, the La Llorona. The legend of La Llorona is Spanish for the weeping woman, has been part of Hispanic culture in the Southwest since the days of the Conquistadors. The tall thin spirit is said to be blessed with natural beauty, with long flowing black hair, wailing into the night and searching for children to drag screaming to a watery grave. Not long after her death her restless spirit began to appear walking the banks the river when darkness fell. Weeping and wailing became a curse at night and people became afraid to go out after dark. She was said to be drifting along the shoreline or floating on the water current with her long white gown. Crying out weeping for her children. And so, they didn’t speak of her as Maria, but as La Llorona.

Maria fell in love with a handsome ranchero. Because of him she drowned her children in a river. Some say she killed them and then herself after her ranchero abandoned her. Others say these children were from an earlier marriage and she killed them so she could be free and marry again. Another version is they drowned accidently after she left them alone to go to a dance with her new boyfriend. All versions agree that her spirit cannot rest, and she is to spend eternity wandering and weeping, searching for her lost children along the banks of rivers and canals.

People claim to see the beautiful woman walking along rivers- her eyes red from crying and she is weeping. “ay mis hijos”- “oh my children.” Some of the versions have a dark tale, some say there is bad luck for the one who see the weeping woman, or she will steal or even drown the children she finds during her wanderings.

The origin of La Llorona may predate colonization and the arrival of the Spaniards. She may be tied to the Aztec Goddess Ciuacoatl (Snake-Woman) the Aztec god of war, and to one of the 10 omens foretelling the eventual conquest of Mexico. The description of the appearance is similar. The Omen number 6 describes a woman crying for her children as she roams the street, except she is crying for the future generations of the Aztecs who will be eventually destroyed.

There is a Mexican folklore regarding La Malinche- who may also be confused with La Llorona. She was an actual historical figure, but much of what is told about her is tied to folklore and oral history passed down as “cuentos”.

La Malinche was one of 20 women given to Hernan Cortes by the people of Tabasco in 1519. She was a translator, an advisor, and eventually becoming Cortez’s mistress and bearing him his first son whom he named Martin. He would be known to be the first mestizo, (having both Spanish and indigenous decent.) She spoke Mayan and the Aztec language, helping Cortez form local alliances and lead potential rebellions. La Malinche was known to the Spanish as Doña Marina- Cortez would eventually abandon her to marry a good Spanish woman.

The story is often told to scare children into good behavior, and to keep them away from dangerous waterways. But many Hispanics, however, claim to have seen this wandering spirit. Many fear the dark as they pass the legend down through generation to generation of the weeping woman who follows the many rivers looking for her children.

Have you seen her???

Malinche and Hernan Cortes Throughout the Spanish Conquest. (2016, Dec 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/malinche-and-hernan-cortes-throughout-the-spanish-conquest/

legends of America (2022). https://www.legendsofamerica.com/gh-lallorona/

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I write a variety of local, unique and historical articles. Military wife, Mother of two.

Roswell, NM

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