Quem Era Llorona?

Quem era Llorona

During the postcolonial era, La Llorona was portrayed as an Indigenous woman who bears two sons to a wealthy Spaniard. He leaves her for a Spanish woman of a different social status. In a state of fury, she drowns her children and then takes her own life. In limbo, she haunts Mexico’s streets and nearby waterfronts, forced into atonement.

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For these reasons, it is no surprise that La Llorona's figure has been reclaimed and vindicated over the last century. This is especially true for the classic song "La Llorona," popularized by Chavela Vargas, and the short story "Woman Hollering Creek" by Sandra Cisneros.

Sometimes she would come to a sleeping watchman, and would waken him by asking: “What time is it?” And he would see a woman clad in white standing beside him with her reboso drawn over her face. And he would answer: “It is twelve hours of the night.” And she would say: “At twelve hours of this day I must be in Guadalajara!”–or it might be in San Luis Potosí, or in some other far-distant city–and, so speaking, she would shriek bitterly: “Where shall I find my children?”–and would vanish instantly and utterly away. And the watchman would feel as though all his senses had gone from him, and would become as a dead man. This happened many times to many watchmen, who made report of it to their officers; but their officers would not believe what they told. But it happened, on a night, that an officer of the watch was passing by the lonely street beside the church of Santa Anita. And there he met with a woman wearing a white reboso and a white petticoat; and to her he began to make love. He urged her, saying: “Throw off your reboso that I may see your pretty face!” And suddenly she uncovered her face–and what he beheld was a bare grinning skull set fast to the bare bones of a skeleton! And while he looked at her, being in horror, there came from her fleshless jaws an icy breath; and the iciness of it froze the very heart’s blood in him, and he fell to the earth heavily in a deathly swoon. When his senses came back to him he was greatly troubled. In fear he returned to the Diputacion, and there told what had befallen him. And in a little while his life forsook him and he died.

Now that we have an understanding of La Llorona and her origins, we can now examine some of the modern variations of her story. Specifically, we will deal with Mexican interpretations from the last century.



Another goddess is that of Chalchiuhtlicue or “the Jade-skirted one” who oversaw the waters and was greatly feared because she allegedly would drown people. In order to honor her, the Aztecs sacrificed children.

“For years, BIPOC have felt monstrous for being themselves, otherized for speaking a different language or having different cultural traditions,” Acosta said. “My [wish] for the future is to reclaim this narrative of monstrosity right in the face of colonization and say, ‘I’m proud to be a monstrous being. I’m terrifying. I’m strong. I’m different but beautiful.’”

In this post, I’ll show some of the story’s long history, especially in Mexico. I’ll give links to primary sources from the 1570s showing the story was already present among Indigenous Mexicans at that time and earlier. I’ll also present what I believe is new evidence of a strong link for some La Llorona stories with Spain.

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This series is absolutely fascinating– outstanding material! I first heard of La Llorona from a close relative by marriage whose family has lived in northern New Mexico for many generations, and who has vivid memories of being told about La Llorona as a child. (Evidently if you have a house full of children who don’t want to go to bed, a warning that they risk encountering La Llorona can be quite useful!) I am sharing these entries with him and other family members, and look forward keenly to the next installment. Thank you so much!

In this widely accepted lore, La Llorona possesses several villainous qualities such as infanticide and killing her blood, characteristic of older Mexican villains like Doña Marina, famously known as Maltinzin.

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Years pass by, and Luisa gives birth to two children. Unfortunately, Don Nuño does not fulfill his promise of marriage and instead abandons Luisa in order to marry a Spanish woman of high social status. Luisa is terribly hurt by this, and the rest is history.

In Angela Aguilar's version of this song, La Llorona is believed to represent the singer herself. This suggests the pair are essentially the same and have a shared history.

This is the second blog post in a series about La Llorona, the weeping woman who haunts Mexican and other Latinx cultures. The series will be published in time for Día de Muertos (aka Día de los Muertos) 2021. [Find the whole series at this link!]

Legend of La Llorona – How and Why the Story is Told 

As punishment for the crime of infanticide, La Llorona was not permitted to enter heaven or hell. Instead, she was condemned to a purgatory-like state and was forced to continuously roam the Earth in search of her children.

As stated before, the legend of La Llorona is essentially the story of a mother who killed her children. As with most legends, though, the story has undergone significant revisions over the centuries. This was especially true in the years following the Colonial period.

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What makes this version of La Llorona interesting is that it alludes to some of the biggest problems generated by the colonial and patriarchal systems. These issues have dominated Mexican society for centuries.

So we now know that a story containing significant elements of the La Llorona literary legend, including the name “La Llorona,” did indeed exist in Spain, and was used to get children to behave. It seems likely, therefore, that an oral version of this weeping ghost story, something like “El Pozo de La Llorona,” traveled from Spain to Mexico, perhaps reinforced by other versions from Spain, Germany, or elsewhere, sometime before 1850. It’s easy to see how Mexican and other New World audiences would connect this ghostly weeping woman, associated with water and with infanticide, to the deep Indigenous traditions pointed out by Paredes, Janvier, Perez, and others. Once that connection was made, all the ingredients were in place for the modern stories of La Llorona that began to emerge in the mid-nineteenth century.

La Llorona is sometimes deemed an apparition. The mythological creature mourns her kids, who, in some variations, take their own lives. Sometimes, she consumes new souls with a dagger in her eye and sharp nails.

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