La Llorona

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For other uses, see La Llorona (disambiguation).
"Weeping Woman" redirects here. For the painting by Pablo Picasso, see The Weeping Woman.
Actors representing La Llorona

La Llorona ("The Weeping Woman") is a legendary ghost prominent in folklore of Spanish America. This myth has a tendency to take aspects of an urban legend and is present throughout Hispanic culture, even reaching Spain. According to the tradition, La Llorona is the ghost of a woman who lost her children and now cries while looking for them in the river, often causing misfortune to those who are near or hear her.[1]


Though several variations exist, the most basic story tells of a beautiful woman by the name of Maria who drowns her children in a river as a means of revenge because her husband left her for a younger woman.[1] She drowns herself in the river when she realizes her children are dead.[2]

After she is challenged at the gates of heaven over the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring. She constantly weeps, hence her name "La Llorona."[3] She is caught between the living world and the spirit world.[2]

Parents often use this story to prevent their children from wandering out at night. In some versions of this tale, La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who resemble her missing children. She asks them for forgiveness, then drowns the children to take the place of her own.[4] People who claim to have seen her say she appears at night or in the late evening by rivers or lakes.[5] Some believe those who hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death but those who escape in time are not so marked, similar to the Gaelic banshee legend.[2] She is said to cry, ¡Ay, mis hijos! or Oh, my children!

Other folktales[edit]

La Llorona is also sometimes identified with La Malinche,[1] the Nahua woman who served as Cortés' interpreter [6] and who some say was betrayed by the Spanish conquistadors. In one folk story of La Malinche, she became Hernán Cortés' mistress and bore him a child, only to be abandoned so that he could marry a Spanish lady (although no evidence exists that La Malinche killed her children). Aztec pride drove La Malinche to acts of vengeance. In this context, the tale compares the Spanish discovery of the New World and the demise of indigenous culture after the conquest with La Llorona's loss.

The Chumash of Southern California have their own connection to La Llorona. Chumash mythology mentions La Llorana when explaining nunašɨš (creatures of the other world) called the "maxulaw" or "mamismis." [7] Mythology says the Chumash believe in both the nunašɨš and La Llorana and specifically hear the maxulaw cry up in the trees. The maxulaw cry is considered an omen of death.[7] The Maxulaw is described as looking like a cat with skin of rawhide leather.[7]

Outside the Americas, La Llorona bears a resemblance to the ancient Greek tale of the demonic demigodess Lamia.[8] Hera, Zeus' wife, learned of his affair with Lamia and, out of anger, killed all the children Lamia had with Zeus.[8] Out of jealousy over the loss of her own children, Lamia steals other women's children.[8] In Greek mythology, Medea killed the two children fathered by Jason (one of the Argonauts) after he left her for another woman.

Author Ben Radford's investigation into the legend of La Llorona, published in Mysterious New Mexico, traced elements of the story back to a German folktale dating from 1486.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

La Llorona appeared as the "monster of the week" in the NBC TV series Grimm in the ninth episode of Season 2 which first aired on October 2012.

La Llorona appeared as the first antagonist in the pilot episode of the TV series Supernatural. Sarah Shahi portrayed Constance Welch, The Woman in White who, after discovering her husband's infidelity took the life of her two children by drowning them in a bathtub at home and soon after, took her own by jumping off a bridge into a river. Her ghost was known to haunt the Centennial Highway, hitchhiking unknowing motorists, mostly men, and killing those who she deemed are unfaithful. Sam Winchester destroyed her ghost by smashing his car into the house where she used to live. Finally facing the ghosts of her children, The Woman in White was destroyed by her own guilt from killing them.

La Llorona briefly appears in the 1973 Mexican film Leyendas macabras de la colonia.

La Llorona is mentioned and appears in several episodes of "El Chavo del Ocho" and "Chapulin Colorado", both comic series written by Roberto Gómez Bolaños, the "Chespirito".

La Llorona appears as the main antagonist of the Mexican animated film La Leyenda de la Llorona. Here, La Llorona is portrayed as a more sympathetic character, with her children's deaths coming as an accident rather than at her own hands.

La Llorona is mentioned in the 2003 film "Chasing Papi" starring Sofia Vergara, Roselyn Sanchez, Jaci Velasquez, and Eduardo Verástegui. Her screams can be heard when Thomas (Eduardo) is under stress or confronted by the three women in his life. La Llorona's image is shown a few times in the film too.

The song "She Turned Into Llorona" appears on the 2003 Manic Hispanic album Mijo Goes to Jr. College.

La Llorona has also been the theme character of several of Universal Studios's haunted houses during their annual Halloween event, Halloween Horror Nights. (Both Hollywood and Orlando locations)[10]

The story of La Llorona has been turned into a short comic book story by Love and Rockets writer/artist Gilbert Hernandez. La Llorona is also one of the various names used by Hopey and Terry's punk band in Jaime Hernandez's Mechanics series.

La Llorona appears in Josh Walker's 2014 novel, Luke Coles and the Flower of Chiloe where the Llorona is the mark of one of Luke's hunts.[11]

La Llorona also is a short film to be released in early 2015.[12]

La Llorona is the basis for the "monster of the week" in the fifth episode of the second season of Sleepy Hollow entitled "The Weeping Lady".

La Llorona was the name of a sculpture of a sunken ship at Burning Man in 2012.

Fear Farm, a local haunted house attraction located in Arizona,has a themed attraction named "Legends". This attractions description references the tale, and even used to be named "La Llorona" before its name change.

Morgana, a playable character in 'League of Legends', has a skin called "Ghost Bride" (named "La Llorona" in Spanish). She has different voiceover lines in the Latin American regions (North and South) and the skin was released as a way to celebrate the launch of Latin American servers.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Hayes, Joe (2006). La Llorona (The Weeping Woman). El Paso, Texas: Cinco Puntos Press; Bilingual edition. 
  2. ^ a b c De Aragon, Ray John (2006). The Legend of La Llorona. Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press. p. 4. 
  3. ^ "LA LLORONA - A HISPANIC LEGEND". Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  4. ^ "Mexico's legend of La Llorona continues to terrify". SFGate. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  5. ^ "Chilling Legend of La Llorona | Psychic-Mediumship Training". Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  6. ^ "La Malinche - Spanish Conquest of Mexico | don Quijote". donQuijote. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  7. ^ a b c ed. Blackburn, Thomas C. ‘’December's Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives’’ p. 93
  8. ^ a b c Folklore: In All of Us, In All We Do. University of North Texas Press. 
  9. ^ Radford, Ben (2014). Mysterious New Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-8263-5450-1. While the classic image of La Llorona was likely taken from an Aztec goddess named Cihuacoatl, the narrative of her legend has other origins. As Bacil Kirtley (1960) wrote in Western Folklore, "During the same decade that La Llorona was first mentioned in Mexico, a story, seemingly already quite old, of ‘Die Weisse Frau’ (‘The White Lady’)—which reproduces many of the features consistently recurring in the more developed versions of ‘La Llorona,’ was recorded in Germany"; references to "Die Weisse Frau" date back as early as 1486. The story of the White Lady follows a virtually identical plot to the classical La Llorona story. 
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  • Perez, Domino Renee, There Was a Woman: La Llorona from Folklore to Popular Culture
  • Mathews, Holly F. 1992. The directive force of morality tales in a Mexican community. In Human motives and cultural models, edited by R.G.D'Andrade and C. Strauss, 127-62. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Ray John De Aragon, The Legend of La Llorona, Sunstone Press, 2006. ISBN 9781466429796.
  • Belinda Vasquez Garcia, The Witch Narratives Reincarnation, Magic Prose Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-0-86534-505-8

External links[edit]