La Llorona – the crying woman – is a Mexican legend that is at least 500 years old. It no doubt arrived in Texas with the earliest Mexican settlers. And La Llorona has haunted our rivers, lakes and streams ever since, particularly in the border regions. There are dozens of versions. Here is one.
La Llorona was a poor girl in a small village. She was extraordinarily beautiful with raven black hair and large almond eyes. One day when she was getting water from the town well, a handsome man on a fine horse rode up and asked her for a drink. She had never seen such a perfect man or felt so wonderfully nervous in the presence of one before. He felt the same way about her. They fell in love on the spot. He could not marry her, though, because she was a poor village girl and he was from a the richest, most prominent family in the region. But he could not live without her so he bought her a big home and showered her with jewelry and gifts and gave her two children. He came to visit often and adored playing with their children. It was not perfect, but she was happy because she loved him so much.
After a few years, a period of time came when he did not visit at all. She was worried about him and did something she had never done. She went to the big city to visit his mansion to see what was wrong. When she arrived she quietly asked a servant if he was there and she said, “Oh, no, today he is getting married to a famous princess from Spain.”
La Llorona was so angry that she wanted to do something to hurt him. In that jealous rage, she went straight home and took their two children to the river and drowned them. When she regained her sanity, she was plunged into such despair over what she had done that she died of grief right there on the river bank. As she attempted to enter the afterlife, an angel asked her where her children were. She said she didn’t know. She was told she must find them before she could rest. So she was forced back to Earth and condemned to wander rivers and lakes and streams looking for her children forever.
If you go out near water at night you will sometimes hear her crying, “Mis hijos, mis hijos.” My children. They say if she sounds near she is really far away, but if she sounds far away, she is very near you. Those who’ve seen her say that she wears a moldy shroud and has jet black hair, but no nose and no mouth, only luminous violet eyes that are horrifyingly red-streaked from her eternal crying. If you see her thrashing around the middle of a creek or river, don’t go in to try to save her because she will drown you.
You should also never let your children stay out late near a river or creek or lake – or even a backyard swimming pool, because La Llorona may think they are her children and steal them away from you forever.
So La Llorona is a legend, a cautionary tale and the boogie man – coo-cooey – all in one. Hispanic moms particularly have used her to enforce good behavior for centuries.
“Come inside now or La Llorona will get you.” “You come straight home from David’s house. Don’t wander. La Llorona is always looking for lost children.” And some even say that La Llorona makes children respect their mothers. She has appeared to children who have left their homes angrily, saying bad things to their mothers as they’ve left. La Llorona finds them walking in the dark and says, “I’ll let you go this time, but go back to your mother and be good to her.”
Excellent advice for Halloween and all the other days of the year.