She is mostly known as La Llorona, which is Spanish for the weeping woman. Depending on the source her story can vary, but she is commonly described as being a mother who either drowned her children, or they drowned in an accident and she perpetually searching for them, usually in the vicinity of bodies of water. She is to be feared because she will drag an unsuspecting child and drown them thinking it is one of her own.
The legend of La Llorona has been a part of Hispanic culture in the Southwest since the days of the conquistadores. 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 when the legend of La Llorona began or, from where it originated. Though the tales 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.
La Llorona, christened “Maria”, was born to a peasant family in a humble village. Her startling beauty captured the attention of both the rich and the poor men of the area. She was said to have spent her days in her humble peasant surroundings, but in the evenings, she would don her best white gown and thrill the men who admired her in the local fandangos.
The young men anxiously waited for her arrival and she reveled in the attention that she received. However, La Llorona had two small sons who made it difficult for her to spend her evenings out, and often, she left them alone while she cavorted 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.
Another legend says that La Llorona was a caring woman full of life and love, who married a wealthy man who lavished her with gifts and attention. However, after she bore him two sons, he began to change, returning to a life of womanizing and alcohol, often leaving her for months at a time. He seemingly no longer cared for the beautiful Maria, even talking about leaving her to marry a woman of his own wealthy class. When he did return home, it was only to visit his children and the devastated Maria began to feel resentment toward the boys.
One evening, as Maria 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 and spoke to his children, but ignored Maria, and then drove the carriage down the road without looking back.
After seeing this Maria went into a terrible rage, and turning against her children, she seized them and threw them into the river. As they disappeared downstream, she realized what she had done and ran down the bank to save them, but it was too late. Maria broke down into inconsolable grief, running down the streets screaming and wailing.
The beautiful La Llorona mourned them day and night. During this time, she would not eat and walked along the river in her white gown searching for her boys — hoping they would come back to her. She cried endlessly as she roamed the riverbanks and her gown became soiled and torn. When she continued to refuse to eat, she grew thinner and appeared taller until she looked like a walking skeleton. Still a young woman, she finally died on the banks of the river.
Not long after her death, her restless spirit began to appear, walking the banks of the Santa Fe River when darkness fell. Her weeping and wailing became a curse of the night and people began to be afraid to go out after dark. 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. On many a dark night people would see her walking along the riverbank and crying for her children. And so, they no longer spoke of her as Maria, but rather, La Llorona, the weeping woman. Children are warned not to go out in the dark, for La Llorona might snatch them, throwing them to their deaths in the flowing waters.
Though the legends vary, the apparition is said to act without hesitation or mercy. 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 is very barbaric and kills only children, dragging them screaming to a watery grave.
When Patricio Lugan was a boy, he and his family saw her on a creek between Mora and Guadalupita, New Mexico. As the family was sitting outside talking, they saw a tall, thin woman walking along the creek. She then seemed to float over the water, started up the hill, and vanished. However, just moments later she reappeared much closer to them and then disappeared again. The family looked for footprints and finding none, had no doubt that the woman they had seen was La Llorona.
She has been seen along many rivers across the entire Southwest and the legend has become part of Hispanic culture everywhere. Part of the legend is that those who do not treat their families well will see her and she will teach them a lesson.
Another story involved a man by the name of Epifanio Garcia, who was an outspoken boy who often argued with his mother and his father. After a heated argument, Epifanio, along with his brothers, Carlos and Augustine decided to leave their ranch in Ojo de La Vaca to head toward the Villa Real de Santa Fe. However, when they were along their way, they were visited by a tall woman wearing a black tapelo and a black net over her face. Two of the boys were riding in the front of the wagon when the spirit appeared on the seat between them. She was silent and continued to sit there until Epifanio finally turned the horses around and headed back home, at which time she said “I will visit you again someday when you argue with your mother."
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the tall wailing 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. 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 the Weeping Woman 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.
La Llorona woke me up once when I was camping at Indian Falls rapids on the Yampa River in Colorado when I was fifteen. I walked with her to a cabin and there was a man in the bed. All I saw was his foot but, when she yelled at me to run, I did. If I didn’t smash my toe on a rock, I would have run off the cliff into the Indian Falls rapids. I saw an article in this months Mountain Gazzete about her and looked her up on the internet. My experience was 21 years ago.- Bryan, October, 2008
A Kansas Tale
Recently while working as a copy editor for a newspaper, I came across a wire story about the La Llorona. That brought back memories of what happened to me while I was a student at Kansas State University in the early 1980s in Manhattan, Kansas.
One evening I went to a mobile home that I seem to remember being near a creek or river to visit a couple of my friends who also were attending K-State. As I walked into the door, I found them sitting on the sofa looking somewhat freaked out. They explained that just moments earlier one of the bar stools was spinning and hopping around. As they were Mexican-Americans, they wondered whether the La Llorona had anything to do with that incident. They explained the legend to me as I had never heard about it before.
They would invite me to stay the night in a spare bedroom, which I did. Later in the night a woman appeared to me, laying next to me in bed, and asked if I would know where her children were. It seemed that, while I may have been dreaming, I was half-awake. Then I fully awoke and looked up toward the doorway just in time to see a dark figure seemingly looking at me and then quickly ducking back out the doorway. Right then that left me too scared to go check and see if that was one of my friends checking in on me, perhaps to see why I was talking in my sleep or something. I went back to sleep and waited until the morning to ask them if either one of them looked into my room during the night. Neither one did.
So to this day I do not know whether I really did experience a supernatural visit or if my dream and mind played tricks on me.
Submitted: August, 2006
A Bizarre Coincidence of La Llorona
When I was in the seventh grade, I had a frightening dream. I saw myself standing on a dark road with the only illumination coming from a dim streetlight. The ground was wet and in the distance I could hear the sound of rain falling and the tap, tap, tapping of footsteps coming toward me. Peering into the darkness, I could make out a woman, dressed all in black with a dark lacy veil covering her face, moving toward me. Strangely, as the mysterious woman grew closer, so did the rain.
When the woman was about 15 feet in front of me, she looked over my shoulder. When I turned around to see what she was looking at, I saw a young child dressed in a white night gown playing with a doll in the middle of a puddle of water. When I turned back to her, she was right in front of me. The veil was lifted, her eyes were abnormally wide, and her face was no more than three inches away from mine. Her terrifying eyes stared into mine dead on until I awoke in a panic. I looked toward the window – it was raining. As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night.
The next day, I shook off the dream and thought nothing more about it, until a year later. On that night, I was spending the night with my friend Veronica, who had also invited another friend named Sarah. In the course of the evening, Sarah, who is Hispanic, began to tell us some of the legends and ghost stories of the Mexican culture. When she began to tell the tale of La Llorona, I didn’t think anything of it at first. Then she began to tell of how the legendary spirit travels by water, dressed all in black or white and is most always seen wearing a veil. Sarah continued by telling us that La Llorona lifts her veil only to her “victims,” that in their afterlife, she has chosen to help her find the bones of her lost children.
Now, I constantly wonder if, in my afterlife, I will be forced to help her find the bones of her lost children.
Source - Legends of America
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer