The legend of La Llorona, which literally means in Spanish language “Weeping Woman”, has been a part of Hispanic culture in the Southwest America and Mexico since the days of the conquistadores. It is one of Mexico’s most famous oral legends and the tall, thin spirit is said to be blessed with natural beauty and long flowing black hair. Wearing a white gown, she roams the rivers and creeks, wailing into the night and searching for children to drag, screaming to a watery grave.
No one really knows the origins of the legend of La Llorona began and, even if the stories vary from source to source, the one common thread is that she is the spirit is of a doomed mother who drowned her children and now spends eternity searching for them in rivers and lakes.
According to popular stories La Llorona, baptized “Maria”, was born to a peasant family in a humble village. Her startling beauty captured the attention of all men of the area. It seems that, although she have spent her days in her humble peasant surroundings, in the evenings she would don her best white gown to entertain the men who admired her in the local fandangos.
Every men anxiously waited for her arrival and she enjoyed the attention that she received.
However, the young woman had two small sons and often she left them alone while she having fun with the gentlemen during the evenings. One day the two small boys were found drowned in the river. Some say they drowned through her neglect, but others say that they may have died by her own hand.
The story varies a little depending on who tells it, but the gist is simple. The most popular legend is said that in a rural village there lived a young woman named Maria. She came from a poor family but was known around her village for her beauty. One day, an extremely wealthy nobleman traveled through her village, and he stopped when he saw Maria who, of course, was charmed by him. The man, who lavished her with gifts and attention, was taken by her beauty, so when he proposed to her, she immediately accepted.
However, after the birth of their two sons, he began to change, returning to a life of womanizing and alcohol, often leaving her alone. He seemingly no longer cared for the beautiful Maria, and he also told her that he wanted to leave her her to marry a woman of his own wealthy class. He was always traveling, If he did return home, it was only to visit his children and the devastated Maria began to feel a terrible resentment toward the boys.
One evening, while she was strolling with her two children on a shady pathway near the river, her husband came by in a carriage with an elegant lady beside him. He stopped only to greet his children, ignoring Maria, and then drove the carriage down the road without looking back.
Maria, angry and hurt, took her children to a river and drowned them in a blind rage. As they disappeared down stream, she realized what she had done and ran down the bank to save them but, of course, it was too late because the river had already carried them away.
Maria broke down into inconsolable grief, running down the streets screaming and wailing, desperate.
The woman mourned them day and night and during this time she would not eat, only walked along the river in her white gown searching for her boys, hoping they would come back to her. She cried endlessly and as she roamed the riverbanks her gown became soiled and torn, while she continued to refuse to eat, grewing thinner until she looked like a walking skeleton. At the end she died on the banks of the same river in which she herself had killed her children.
Not long after her death, her restless spirit began to visit the area, walking the banks of the Santa Fe River when darkness fell. Her weeping and wailing became a real curse and people began to be afraid to go out after dark.
The constants of the legend are always the dead children and a wailing woman, either as a human or ghost. She was said to have been seen drifting between the trees along the shoreline or floating on the current with her long white gown spread out upon the waters, and on many a dark night people would see her walking along the riverbank crying for her children. And so, people no longer spoke of her as Maria, but rather, La Llorona, the weeping woman. It is said that if you hear her crying, you are to run the opposite way because If you hear her cries, they could bring misfortune or even death. Many parents use this story to scare their children from staying out too late and children are warned not to go out in the dark, for La Llorona might kill them, throwing them in the flowing waters. Among her wails, she is noted as crying “¡Ay, mis hijos!” which translates to “Oh, my children!” or “Oh, my sons!” and it seems she scrapes the bottom of the rivers and lakes, searching for her sons.
Though the legends vary, it is said she to act without hesitation or mercy, and 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, whoever is foolish enough to get close enough to her. Others say that she kills only children, dragging them screaming to a watery grave.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the spirit has been seen repeatedly in the PERA Building (Public Employees Retirement Association), which is built on land that was once an old Spanish-Indian graveyard, and is near the Santa Fe River itself. Many people who have been employed there, tell of hearing cries resounding through the halls and feeling unseen hands pushing them while on the stairways.
La Llorona has been heard at night wailing next to rivers by many and her wanderings have grown wider, following Hispanic people wherever they go. Her movements have been traced throughout the Southwest and as far north as Montana on the banks of the Yellowstone River.
The Hispanic people believe that she will always be with them, following the many rivers looking for her children, and for this reason, many of them fear the dark and pass the legend from generation to generation.
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