La Llorona

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Statue on the island of La Llorona in Xochimilco, Mexico, 2015

In Mexican folklore, La Llorona (American Spanish: [la ʝoˈɾona]; "The Weeping Woman" or "The Wailer") is a vengeful ghost who roams waterfront areas mourning her children whom she drowned.[1]

Mythology[edit]

The legend has a wide variety of details and versions. In a typical version of the legend, a beautiful woman named María marries a rich ranchero / conquistador[2] to whom she bears two children. One day, María sees her husband with another woman and in a fit of blind rage, she drowns their children in a river, which she immediately regrets. Unable to save them and consumed by guilt,[3] she drowns herself as well but is unable to enter the afterlife, forced to be in purgatory and roam this earth until she finds her children.[4] In another version of the story, her children are illegitimate, and she drowns them so that their father cannot take them away to be raised by his new wife.[5] Recurring themes in variations on the La Llorona myth include a white, wet dress, nocturnal wailing, and an association with water.[6]

The mother archetype of La Llorona has been tied to patriarchal expectations of women in Mexican culture by several authors, historians, and social critics. Social critics often consider Mexican (and Mexican-American) culture to force patriarchal standards onto women, such as being defined by their roles as mothers. La Llorona's falling into the trope of an "evil" or "failed" mother, having either committed infanticide or having failed to save them from drowning, can be considered a reflection of this.[7]

Lore Evolution[edit]

Early colonial texts provide evidence that the lore is pre-Hispanic, originating in the central highlands, however La Llorona is most commonly associated with the colonial era and the dynamic between Spanish conquistadores and indigenous women. The most common lore about La Llorona includes her initially being an Indigenous woman who murdered her own children, which she bore from a wealthy Spaniard, after he abandoned her. The villainous qualities of La Llorona, including infanticide and the murdering of one's own blood is assumed to be connected to the narrative surrounding Doña Marina, also known as La Malinche, or Maltinzin in her original nomenclature. Today, the lore of La Llorona is well known in Mexico and the Southwestern United States.[8]

Origins[edit]

The legend of La Llorona is traditionally told throughout Mexico, Central America and northern South America.[9] La Llorona is sometimes conflated with La Malinche,[10] the Nahua woman who served as Hernán Cortés' interpreter and also bore his son.[11] La Malinche is considered both the mother of the modern Mexican people and a symbol of national treachery for her role in aiding the Spanish.[12]

Stories of weeping female phantoms are common in the folklore of both Iberian and Amerindian cultures. Scholars have pointed out similarities between La Llorona and the Cihuacōātl of Aztec mythology,[9] as well as Eve and Lilith of Hebrew mythology.[13] Author Ben Radford's investigation into the legend of La Llorona, published in Mysterious New Mexico, found common elements of the story in a German folktale dating from 1486.[14] La Llorona also bears a resemblance to the ancient Greek tale of the demigoddess Lamia, in which Hera, Zeus' wife, learned of his affair with Lamia and killed all the children Lamia had with Zeus. Out of jealousy over the loss of her own children, Lamia kills other women's children.[15]

The Florentine Codex is an important text that originated in late Mexico in 1519, a quote from which is, "The sixth omen was that many times a woman would be heard going along weeping and shouting. She cried out loudly at night, saying, "Oh my children, we are about to go forever." Sometimes she said, "Oh my children, where am I to take you?"[16]

While the roots of the La Llorona legend appear to be pre-Hispanic,[10] the earliest published reference to the legend is a 19th-century sonnet by Mexican poet Manuel Carpio.[9] The poem makes no reference to infanticide, rather La Llorona is identified as the ghost of a woman named Rosalia who was murdered by her husband.[17]

Per region[edit]

In Mexico[edit]

The legend of La Llorona is deeply rooted in Mexican popular culture, her story told to children to encourage them not to wander off in the dark, and her spirit often evoked in artwork,[18] such as that of Alejandro Colunga.[19] "La Cihuacoatle, Leyenda de la Llorona" is a yearly waterfront theatrical performance of the legend of La Llorona set in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City,[20] established in 1993 to coincide with the Day of the Dead.[21]

Ancient Mexican Origins[edit]

The earliest documentation of La Llorona is traced back to 1550 in Mexico City. But there are theories about her story being connected to specific Aztec mythological creation stories. "The Hungry Woman" includes a wailing woman constantly crying for food, which has been compared to La Llorona's signature nocturnal wailing for her children.[22] The motherly nature of La Llorona's tragedy has been compared to Chihuacoatl, an Aztec goddess deity of motherhood. Her seeking of children to keep for herself is significantly compared to Coatlicue, known as "Our Lady Mother" or Tonantsi (whose also comparable to the Virgen de Guadalupe, another significant mother figure in Mexican-culture), also a monster that devours filth or sin.

In the United States[edit]

In the Southwestern United States, the story of La Llorona is told to scare children into good behavior,[23] sometimes specifically to deter children from playing near dangerous water.[24] Also told to them is that her cries are heard as she walks around the street or near bodies of water to scare children from wandering around, resembling the stories of El Cucuy. In Chumash mythology indigenous to Southern California, La Llorona is linked to the nunašɨš, a mythological creature with a cry similar to that of a newborn baby.[25]

In Venezuela[edit]

The tale of La Llorona is set in the Venezuelan Llanos during the colonial period. La Llorona is said to be the spirit of a woman that died of sorrow after her children were killed, either by herself or by her family.[26][27] Families traditionally place wooden crosses above their doors to ward off such spirits.[27]

In popular culture[edit]

Film[edit]

Actress representing La Llorona in The Mexican Dream, 2003

The story of La Llorona first appeared on film in 1933's La Llorona, filmed in Mexico.[28] René Cardona's 1960 film La Llorona was also shot in Mexico,[29] as was the 1963 horror film, The Curse of the Crying Woman directed by Rafael Baledón.[30]

The 2008 Mexican horror film Kilometer 31[31] is inspired by the legend of La Llorona.[32] Additionally the early 2000s saw a spate of low-budget movies based on La Llorona, including:

  • The River: The Legend of La Llorona[33]
  • Revenge of La Llorona[34]
  • The Wailer: La Llorona[35]
  • The Curse of La Llorona[36]

La Llorona is the primary antagonist in the 2007 movie J-ok'el.[37] In the 2011 Mexican animated film La Leyenda de la Llorona, she is portrayed as a more sympathetic character, whose children die in an accident rather than at their mother's hands.[38]

In the 2017 Pixar film Coco, "La Llorona", the Mexican folk song popularized by Andres Henestrosa in 1941[39] is sung by Alanna Ubach in her role as Mamá Imelda, joined by Antonio Sol as the singing voice of Ernesto de la Cruz.[40]

In July 2019, James Wan, Gary Dauberman and Emilie Gladstone produced a film titled The Curse of La Llorona for Warner Bros. Pictures. The film was directed by Michael Chaves and stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez and Marisol Ramirez as La Llorona.[41]

Also in 2019, Jayro Bustamante directed the Guatemalan film La Llorona, starring María Mercedes Coroy, which screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.[42]

The Legend of La Llorona was a film released in January 2022 and stars Danny Trejo, Autumn Reeser, and Antonio Cupo.[43]

Theater[edit]

Mexican playwright Josefina López wrote "Unconquered Spirits",[44] which uses the myth of La Llorona as a plot device. The play premiered at California State University, Northridge's Little Theatre in 1995.[45]

Literature[edit]

Nancy Farmer's 2002 science fiction novel, The House of the Scorpion includes references to La Llorona.[46]

The legend of La Llorona is discussed in Jaquira Díaz's 2019 memoir, Ordinary Girls:

"The scariest part was not that La Llorona was a monster, or that she came when you called her name three times in the dark, or that she could come into your room at night and take you from your bed like she'd done with her own babies. It was that once she'd been a person, a woman, a mother. And then a moment, an instant, a split second later, she was a monster."[47]

The novel Paola Santiago and the River of Tears, the first part of a young adult trilogy by Tehlor Kay Mejia, is based on the legend of La Llorona.[48]Also la llarona was portrayed by a story, by the TV show called the Grimm.

Music[edit]

"La Llorona" is a Mexican folk song popularized by Andres Henestrosa in 1941.[49] It has since been covered by various musicians, including Chavela Vargas,[50] Joan Baez,[51] and Lila Downs.[52]

North American singer-songwriter Lhasa de Sela's debut album La Llorona (1997) explored the dark mysteries of Latin folklore. She combined a variety of musical genres including klezmer, gypsy jazz and Mexican folk music, all in the Spanish language.[53] The album was certified Platinum in Canada,[54] and it earned her a Canadian Juno Award for Best Global Artist in 1998.[55]

Manic Hispanic, a rock band from Los Angeles, California, have a song titled "She Turned Into Llorona" on their 2003 album Mijo Goes To Jr. College. [56]

Television[edit]

La Llorona is an antagonist in the TV series Supernatural, portrayed by Sarah Shahi in the pilot episode and by Shanae Tomasevich in "Moriah" and season 15.[57]

La Llorona is an antagonist in a 2012 second-season episode of the TV series Grimm.[58]

La Llorona appears in the Victor and Valentino episode "The Lonely Haunts 3: La Llorona" voiced by Vanessa Marshall. Contrary to the usual depictions, this version of La Llorona is good and simply lonely and claims to have had twenty kids who had all grown up and left her; implying that she suffers from Empty nest syndrome.

La Llorona appears in the Craig of the Creek episode "The Legend of the Library" voiced by Carla Tassara. Craig and the Stump Kids visit their friend Stacks at the local library to get out of the rain. When the power goes out and their fellow Creek Kids begin disappearing, Stacks believes that La Llorona is to blame. In the end, it is revealed that the "ghost" was actually Lorraine, the substitute librarian who is very serious about her job. She makes the kids promise to take good care of the library along with a warning, showing a ghostly face at the same time. Whether or not Lorraine was in fact La Llorona or the face was imagined is left ambiguous.

La Llorona appears in the Riverdale (2017 TV series) episode "Chapter 97: Ghost Stories". The characters tell ghost stories about people related to them or the town that passed away in the past. La Llorona is one. She haunts Sweetwater River and she also manages to possess Toni and take Betty's unborn child away.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Delsol, Christine (9 October 2012). "Mexico's legend of La Llorona continues to terrify". sfgate.com. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  2. ^ "The Wailing Woman | History Today". www.historytoday.com. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  3. ^ Delsol, Christine (9 October 2012). "Mexico's legend of La Llorona continues to terrify". sfgate.com. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  4. ^ Dimuro, Gina (2019-01-22). "The Legend Of La Llorona: The Wailing Woman Who Murdered Her Children". All That's Interesting. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  5. ^ Simerka, Barbara (2000). "Women Hollering: Contemporary Chicana Reinscriptions of La Llorona Mythography" (PDF). Confluencia. 16 (1): 49–58.[dead link]
  6. ^ Carbonell, Ana María (1999). "From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlicue in Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros" (PDF). MELUS. 24 (2): 53–74. doi:10.2307/467699. JSTOR 467699.
  7. ^ Kearny, Michael (1969). "La Llorona as a Social Symbol". Western Folklore. 28: 199–206. doi:10.2307/1499265. JSTOR 1499265.
  8. ^ Leddy, Betty (1948). "La LLorona in Southern Arizona". Western Folklore. 7: 272–277. doi:10.2307/1497551. hdl:10150/624782. JSTOR 1497551.
  9. ^ a b c Werner 1997, p. 753.
  10. ^ a b Leal, Luis (2005). "The Malinche-Llorona Dichotomy: The Origin of a Myth". Feminism, Nation and Myth: La Malinche. Arte Publico Press. p. 134. OCLC 607766319.
  11. ^ Hanson, Victor Davis (2007-12-18). Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-42518-8.
  12. ^ Cypess, Sandra Messinger (1991). La Malinche in Mexican Literature: From History to Myth. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292751347.
  13. ^ Norget 2006, p. 146.
  14. ^ 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 Cihuacōātl, 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.
  15. ^ Folklore: In All of Us, In All We Do. University of North Texas Press. 2006. p. 110. ISBN 9781574412239.
  16. ^ "Florentine Codex, Book 12, Ch 01 | Early Nahuatl Library". enl.uoregon.edu. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  17. ^ Carpio, Manuel (1879). Poesias del Sr. Dr. Don Manuel Carpio con su biografia escrita por el Sr. Dr. D. José Bernardo Couto. Mexico: La Enseñanza. p. 299.
  18. ^ Ibarra, Enrique Ajuria (2014). "Ghosting the Nation: La Llorona, Popular Culture, and the Spectral Anxiety of Mexican Identity". The Gothic and the Everyday. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 131–151. doi:10.1057/9781137406644_8. ISBN 978-1-349-48800-1.
  19. ^ Coerver, Don M. (2004). Mexico: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Culture and History. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576071328.
  20. ^ Marquez, RJ (2019). "Mysterious tales behind La Llorona, Island of the Dolls in Mexico City". ksat.com. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  21. ^ Lee, Winnie (30 October 2019). "How Mexico's Most Sorrowful Spirit Became a Cultural Phenomenon". atlasobscura.com. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  22. ^ Padilla, Juan Raez (2014). "Crying for Food: The Mexican Myths of 'La Llorona' and 'The Hungry Woman' in Cherríe L. Moraga". Comparative American Studies. 12 (3): 205–2017. doi:10.1179/1477570014Z.00000000084. S2CID 162305702 – via JSTOR.
  23. ^ Leddy, Betty (1988). "La Llorona in Southern Arizona" (PDF). Perspectives in Mexican American Studies. q: 9–16.
  24. ^ Raheem, N.; Archambault, S.; Arellano, E.; Gonzales, M.; Kopp, D.; Rivera, J.; Guldan, S.; Boykin, K.; Oldham, C.; Valdez, A.; Colt, S.; Lamadrid, E.; Wang, J.; Price, J.; Goldstein, J.; Arnold, P.; Martin, S.; Dingwell, E. (2015-06-08). "Aframework for assessing ecosystem services in acequia irrigation communities of the Upper Río Grande watershed". Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water. Wiley. 2 (5): 559–575. doi:10.1002/wat2.1091. ISSN 2049-1948.
  25. ^ Blackburn, Thomas C. (1975). December's Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520029309.
  26. ^ Franco, Mercedes (2007). Diccionario de fantasmas, misterios y leyendas de Venezuela (in Spanish). El Nacional. ISBN 978-980-388-390-4.
  27. ^ a b Dinneen, Mark (2001). Culture and Customs of Venezuela. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-30639-6.
  28. ^ "The Crying Woman (1933)". IMDB.
  29. ^ "La Llorona (1960)". IMDB.
  30. ^ "The Curse of the Crying Woman (1963)". IMDB.
  31. ^ "KM 31". Rotten Tomatoes.
  32. ^ Sánchez Dávila, Carmen (2007-02-15). ""No hay peor miedo que al fracaso", asegura Rigoberto Castañeda director de "Kilómetro 31"". Archived from the original on 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2020-06-03. February 15, 2007. Filmweb.
  33. ^ "The River: Legend of La Llorona". IMDB.
  34. ^ "Revenge Of La Llorona Director's Cut". Amazon.
  35. ^ "The Wailer (2005)". IMDB.
  36. ^ "The Curse of La Llorona (2007)". IMDB.
  37. ^ "J-ok'el (2008)". IMDB.
  38. ^ "La Leyenda de la Llorona". iTunes.
  39. ^ "Andrés Henestrosa: el hombre que dispersó sus sombras". La Jornada.
  40. ^ "Coco (2017)". IMDB.
  41. ^ "The Curse of La Llorona (2019)". IMDB.
  42. ^ "Toronto Adds The Aeronauts, Mosul, Seberg, & More To Festival Slate". Deadline. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  43. ^ "The Legend of La Llorona review – holiday horror down Mexico way". the Guardian. 2022-01-11. Retrieved 2022-01-17.
  44. ^ Lopez, Josephina. "Unconquered Spirits" (PDF). Dramatic Publishing.
  45. ^ T.H. McColluch (5 May 1995). "The Tears of Oppression: Josefina Lopez bases her play, 'Unconquered Spirits,' on the 'Crying Woman' legend. But in the end, her characters' fighting spirit prevails". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  46. ^ Farmer, Nancy (February 2002). The House of the Scorpion (PDF). New York, New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
  47. ^ Diaz, Jaquira (2019). Ordinary Girls: A Memoir. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. p. 100. ISBN 9781616209131. OCLC 1090696817.
  48. ^ "Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  49. ^ "Andrés Henestrosa: el hombre que dispersó sus sombras". La Jornada.
  50. ^ "Defiant singer was a cultural force in Mexico". Los Angeles Times.
  51. ^ "Joan Baez – Discography, Gracias a la Vida". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  52. ^ "Wise Latina". Guernica Magazine.
  53. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Vol. 10 (4 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 220. ISBN 0-19-531373-9.
  54. ^ "Gold & Platinum Certification: May 2004". The Canadian Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on 19 October 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
  55. ^ Fulmer, Dave. "Lhasa – La Llorona". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  56. ^ Manic Hispanic - Mijo Goes To Jr. College, retrieved 2022-05-13
  57. ^ "Supernatural (2005–2020) Pilot". IMDB.
  58. ^ "Grimm (2011–2017) La Llorona". IMDB.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Perez, Domino Renee. (2008). There Was a Woman: La Llorona from Folklore to Popular Culture. Austin: U of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0292718128.
  • 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.
  • Norget, Kristin (2006). Days of Death, Days of Life: Ritual in the Popular Culture of Oaxaca. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-13688-9.
  • 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
  • Werner, Michael S. (1997). Encyclopedia of Mexico: History, Society & Culture - Vol. 1. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 1-884964-31-1.martin