Legends of the Southwest: La Llorona

in legends •  last year 

The Southwest is a mystic, colorful land, rife with a variety of legends and tales. Some of these tales, like the legend of La Llorona, are so eerie they have pervaded the minds of all those who grew up with the stories.
Gabriel Perez Salazar. Wikimedia Commons

The story of La Llorona is a horror story tinged with heartache that his been told in Hispanic communities for generations. “La Llorona” translates from Spanish to “The Weeping Woman”. In one version of the story, before she was given this depressing epithet, she was christened Maria. Maria was a beautiful, but poor woman who fell in love with a man of greater wealth and higher class. Returning her affections, they were wed and she bore him two children. As the years passed, while he doted attention and affection on their children, his passion for Maria waned. She was left feeling ignored as she raised the children and he cavorted around town, sometimes in the company of women younger and more beautiful than the aging Maria. She was a loving mother, but she found herself resenting the children for the attention they received.

ll2.JPGUli von Obin. Wikimedia Commons

One twilight as she was walking along the river with her two little ones, they came across her estranged husband in the company of a gorgeous girl from a wealthy family. He greeted the children warmly, while ignoring Maria. After this encounter, she spiraled into a jealous, heartbroken rage, grabbed her beloved children, and threw them in the river. Immediately after she did this, she was awash in regret. Frantically chasing after their drifting bodies in the river, she found herself weighed down by the water that had drenched her gown during her heinous act, and she too drowned. As legend has it, Maria’s spirit wanders the shores of rivers and arroyos, seeking her children and weeping with remorse.

ll3.JPGEmyPheebs. Wikimedia Commons

In another rendition of Maria’s story, she was not a loving, doting mother, instead she was a self-centered woman who spent her time reveling in the attention of the village men who were fixated on her remarkable beauty. While she did have two children, she was resentful for the amount of work they required and loathed that they often prevented her from enjoying her evenings with the town men. One evening the two boys were found drowned in the river that ran through their town. Some guessed that they had wandered into the river through the neglect of their mother, while others presumed they had drowned by her own hands.

ll4.jpgKarla Andrew. Wikimedia Commons

In all versions of the story, La Llorona is an astounding beauty, her lovely face framed with long, black hair. She wears a flowing, white gown on her tall, thin frame. Some say that if you get too near to her, she will drown you under the same waters that took her children, whether you are a man, woman, or child. Others say La Llorona will intentionally lure only children to a watery grave. With many iterations of La Llorona’s story, one aspect stretches through each variation: these stories are told to keep children aware and safe around rivers and keep them out of the arroyos that thread through the Southwest. Along the shores of the Rio Grande, the Gila, the Tonto, and many other rivers flowing through these desert lands, the story of La Llorona is told and children think twice about getting too close to the river's edge.

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