La Llorona

La Llorona

La Llorona (IPA2|la ʝoˈɾona, or approximately "lah yoh-ROH-nah", Spanish for "the crying woman"), sometimes called the Woman in White or the Weeping Woman is a figure in Mexican folklore, the ghost of a woman crying for her dead children that she drowned. Her appearances are sometimes held to presage death, and frequently are claimed to occur near bodies of water, particularly streams and rivers. There is much variation in tales of La Llorona, which are popular in Mexico and the United States (especially in Mexican-American communities), and to an extent, the rest of the Americas.


Many versions of La Llorona's origin exist. Here is a comparatively common version: Maria (La Llorona) thought she was very beautiful, and she wanted the handsomest man to marry. So she got what she wanted. Once they were married, they had three children, first a son, then a daughter, lastly another son. Maria's husband started to work out of town for a month or so. He went home to visit his children, but not his wife. He didn't pay attention to her at all. One time, when Maria's husband went to visit the children, he had a woman with him. He talked to his children and told them he was going to marry the other woman. Maria was so angry that she took it out on her own children for no reason. That's when she took them to the river and drowned them. When she realized what she had done, she started to cry for her children and killed herself. The next morning, a man from the village told everyone the story that he had found Maria dead by the riverbank, so the villagers went there and buried her. In the very middle of the night, they heard a woman crying for her children and they discovered it was Maria's ghost. People then started calling her "La Llorona".

This is another version of the story:

Maria married a very rich man, which was not a proper thing to do in that time and in her country. After he had the 2 boys and the girl with Maria, he left her and ended up marrying another woman. In her depression, Maria drowned her kids and then herself. When she reached the gates of heaven, the Lord asked her "Where are your children?" Maria answered "I don't know, my Lord." The Lord then said "You shall not enter these gates without your children." From that point on, Maria began to roam the earth in search for her children in the rivers and streams of the Americas.

United States

In Kansas City, however, the story of La Llorona is that of a beautiful young woman who attracts the attention of a wealthy man's son even though she is very poor. The lovers secretly marry and set up a household; they have several children. Unfortunately, a day comes when the young man's father announces that he has arranged a marriage for his son to a young woman within their social class. The young man tells his secret wife that he must leave her and that he will never see her again. She is driven mad by anger and a broken heart, and takes their children to a river, where she drowns them to spite her husband. When her husband finds out, he and several townspeople go to find her, but she kills herself before they can apprehend her. She goes to Heaven and faces the judgement of God. God asks her, "Where are your children?" to which she replies, "I do not know." God asks her three times and she replies with the same answer. God then damns her to walk the earth in search of her children. According to this tale, it is wise to avoid La Llorona, as she is known for drowning passers-by in an attempt to replace her dead children.Alternatively, right after she drowns her children, La Llorona realizes what she has done and, consumed by grief, she wanders in the Kansas City Westside area dressed in black rags, taking children who disobey their parents or stay out to late to be her own.

Another popular version of the legend takes place sometime in 19th century. A beautiful young woman with two small children was living in the poorest section of Kansas City, the town across the border from Kansas. She was madly in love with a very rich man. He felt the same way about her, but he, having no interest in children, refused to marry her. So, late one night, the woman took her children to a bridge over the Missouri/Kansas river. In the dead of the night, she heartlessly stabbed her children and threw them in the river to drown. Still wearing her bloody nightgown, she went to her lover's home to show him the great lengths she had gone to be with him. The man, seeing her blood-streaked nightgown, was horrified and rejected her. Then, finally realizing the horrible mistake she had made, she ran back to the river screaming, crying, and tearing at her hair, desperately trying to save her children. But it was too late. The woman stabbed and drowned herself in the same river. The legend has it that as punishment for her unspeakable sins she was given the head of a horse, and was to wander the banks of the river for all of eternity looking for her lost children.

In yet another version of the story, La Llorona had several children from her first marriage. Her husband died and she was left lonely. Soon she met a suitor who swept her off her feet. He promised her a wonderful life together, but only if she agreed to get rid of her children. After much soul-searching, the woman decided to follow the man in a new life together and drowns her children in the Missouri River. After a few months, the suitor grows tired of La Llorona and leaves her for another woman. Realizing that her selfish actions brought about the end of those who truly loved her, she dies in grief with her soul eternally looking for her long-lost children.

In another variant, La Llorona is a naive but innocent woman forced into a shotgun wedding with the father of her child; in this case, it is La Llorona's father or her husband who kills the children. La Llorona attempts to stop the murders, and dies in the attempt.

In another variation from New Mexico, the La Llorona is a middle-class woman. After having several children, she is widowed. She slowly loses her mind and one night takes a walk but leaves the stove on. The house catches on fire and all her children die. She tries to save them but can't and is severely burned. Consumed by grief, she wanders New Mexico dressed in black rags, taking children who disobey their parents or stay out too late to be her own.


Another version of the story of La Llorona is told in Mexico. She lived in Tequila, Jalisco. She went to get her fortune told, and was told that she was going to die, and so were her children. That same night, while they were sleeping, a big storm hit their village, causing the river to overflow its banks. The house was swept away by the flood, and find her two children that died. La Llorona went on a journey to find her children, following the river, but died without ever seeing them again.


In Guatemala, La Llorona's legend doesn't change much. It adds the scary trait that her wail, when heard as if from far off, announces the proximity of the ghost, when heard as if it's nearby, then the ghost is far away. This bears superficial resemblance to the sounds made by the kikik from Filipino folklore.

Some stories say that la Llorona was a criolla (one of unmixed Spanish descent) that was the wife of a wealthy Spaniard. In one of his trips, she falls in love with a poor mix-raced man and she becomes pregnant. She drowned her baby to hide the affair, and was damned for it.

Among the other attributes in these traditions are that she only materializes near a source of water, which may be any such as a pond, lake, or even pila (laundry tank). It is mostly men who witness or encounter her ghostly figure; some have said that a man who encounters her goes insane or develops a critical mental trauma. Entire towns have supposedly heard her horrendous cry.

"La Llorona appears mostly in the mountains or in una poza (a place where people go wash their clothes)(or a well). They say that you hear her cry at night. One day my friend told me that she was sitting with her family in the kitchen eating supper and all of a sudden she heard a lady cry. Her family thought it was the neighbor Juan that had beaten his wife again and she was crying. But all of a sudden they heard it closer and it didn't sound like Juan's wife. The weeping was so horrible they covered their ears they started to pray, and moments, later it stopped. Then they figured out that it was La Llorona," says Marcella Rodriguez.

Another legend is that she will take the form of your wife, girlfriend, daughter or friend. You may only tell its her because of her long nails. If you find out she isn't your wife and scream she may scratch your eyes out.


The Weeping Woman has also been said to roam around rivers in Honduras. Although usually it's the same story of a woman crying for her drowned children, her reasons and intentions tend to vary. The alternate Honduran version is the story of a beautiful married woman who was abandoned by her husband. Now she roams near rivers, seducing men walking by. When the man gets too close, La Llorona changes into a horrible old lady, who drives them insane.

One of her popular cries is: "Toma mi teta, que soy tu nana" (Drink of my breast, for I am your mother).

In Honduras, she is known as La Sucia (The dirty woman) or Ciguanabana. This name is made up of Xihuatl (woman) and Nahuatl (Spirit): Spirit of a woman.

El Salvador

Stories of La Llorona from El Salvador are quite similar to those of Mexico, except that she was a young Indian who fell in love with a nobleman. He also loved her, but unfortunately, he did not love her children and refused to marry her unless she got rid of them. Driven mad by her lust for the nobleman, she took her children to a river and drowned them in a fit of hysteria. Upon realizing what she had done, she fled and stumbled, bashing her head against a rock. Hours passed, darkness fell and she regained consciousness. She attempted to make her way back to the town, but she became lost and died in the woods. Some say that she haunts nearby rivers wailing "Donde estan mis hijos?" (Where are my children?).


In Panama, La Llorona is the most popular folktale of the country. The Panamanian version is called "La Tulivieja". According to the Panamanian legend, La Tulivieja was a beautiful young woman married to an important businessman. The couple had one small child. The husband prohibited his wife to go to parties and ordered her to stay home to care for their son. One weekend in a neighboring village, there was to be a big party. The woman took advantage of the fact that her husband was away on business and decided to go to the party. She took the baby with her, but left him under a tree near a river. She thought that it was a safe place to leave the baby while she was dancing. That night, a terrible storm hit the village. When she returned for her child, the baby was not under the tree. She began crying and looking for him, following the river. God was angry with the woman for her irresponsibility and turned her into an ugly woman with holes in her face, chicken feet and a long hair that covered the front of her body. According to the legend, she appears in the towns or cities that are near rivers. In the Panamanian countryside, many people who live near rivers insist they have heard the cry of "La Tulivieja". Also, in the capital there are also stories of people who claim to have seen the horrible woman, especially in the west.


Her legend is also important in Chile, where the tale is as significant as those of the La Calchona, La Vuida and La Condena. The legend is well-known throughout Chile.

The different legends about La Llorona vary from being very similar to the Mexican versions to being very particular to Chilean folklore. The Chilean versions define the ghost as the spirit of a woman looking for her son, characterised as being a spirit with a special relation with the dead. In the most Chilean version, La Llorona is called La Pucullén and is said to cry constantly for the son who died in her arms at an early age. She dresses in white and can only be seen by people about to die, those with special abilities (like the Machis or the kalkus), and animals with sharp senses, such as dogs, who howl pitifully in her presence.

She is the guide of the dead, who she guides with her footprints and cries along the path that takes the dead from their earthly dwelling to the Beyond. It is said that she cries like a hired mourner for the relatives of the deceased so that they can promptly recover from the loss. By this she prevents the spirit of the dead from appearing to torment them for their lack of tears and for not showing enough sorrow.

With her abundant tears, which form a crystal-clear pool, she indicates the spot in a cemetery where the grave should be dug and the coffin deposited. It is said that if they have put the grave in the right place, they need to completely fill the grave with soil or one of the relatives of the deceased will die.

Other versions say that La Llorona makes the hearts of those who listen to her laments shudder and that she hypnotizes men who wander around before dawn and spends the night with them to comfort her of the loss of her child.

In some tales, if you rub your eyes with the tears of a dog, you can see her, though you must have a firm heart or the image will be a horrific one............

Function of the story in society

Typically, the legend serves as a cautionary tale on several levels. Parents will warn their children that both bad behavior and being outside after dark will result in a visit from the spirit. The tale also warns teenage girls not to be enticed by status, wealth, material goods, or by men making declarations of love or any promises too good to be true. Some also believe that those who hear the screams of La Llorona are marked for death.

Comparisons to figures in other cultures and with historical persons

The most direct analogue with the La Llorona story is that of the Greek Medea, who likewise murdered her children after being abandoned by Jason, although Medea showed little remorse. Local Aztec folklore possibly influenced the legend; goddess Cihuacoatl or Coatlicue was said to have appeared shortly prior to the invasion of Mexico by Hernán Cortés, weeping for her lost children, an omen of the fall of the Aztec empire.

La Llorona is also sometimes identified with La Malinche, the Native American woman who served as Cortés' interpreter and who some say betrayed Mexico to the Spanish conquistadors. In one folk story of La Malinche, she becomes Cortés' mistress and bears him a child, only to be abandoned so that he could marry a Spanish lady (though 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 invasion of Mexico and the demise of indigenous culture after the conquest with La Llorona's loss.

Folklore from wider Europe has also added to the legend. Tales of banshees and other female spirits whose wails presage death have influenced the story, and La Llorona's association with pools and rivers links her with water-nymphs like the Nix, Lorelei, the Sirens and Melusine. European ghost lore is full of hauntings by women clad in white; they may be restless spirits seeking help for some wrong they have suffered or who are damned to a twilight existence reliving the tragedy of their lives. The European lore may have originated from ancient Teutonic myths of white-clad female elves and wise women ancestors (weisse frauen in Germany, witte wieven in Holland, dames blanches in France). There are also similarities with the Biblical Massacre of the Innocents, which the Gospel of Matthew likens to "Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted."

Modern women compared to La Llorona

Recently, convicted murderer Susan Smith, who drowned her two young sons after being rejected by a male suitor, was compared to La Llorona in a cartoon which appeared in "Time" magazine [ [] Susan Smith as La Llorona from TIME Magazine] . In her essay, "The Woman Who Loved Water," Kathleen Alcalá compares murderer Andrea Yates to the La Llorona story and tradition. The essay appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of "Creative Nonfiction". [ [ Creative Nonfiction Issue #23 Mexican Voices: Chrónica de Chrónicas] ]

La Llorona, or the woman in white, has recently been portrayed in THE CRY (2008) and Supernatural (TV, 2006)


ee also

*Crybaby Bridge Bridges where the cries of drowned babies allegedly can be heard.
*Niobe from Greek Mythology

External links

* [ La Llorona: several versions of the legend]
* [ The New Mexican La Llorona]
* [ Myths Over Miami] - La Llorona and related legends among street children in south Florida
* [ From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlicue In Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros]
* [ Handbook of Texas Online] A summary of the tale.
* [ Smith as a modern incarnation of La Llorona]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • cogerla llorona — llorona, cogerla (darle a uno) llorona expr. borrachera que hace llorar y entristecerse. ❙ «...pero nos dio triste, una borrachera llorona...» Almudena Grandes, Las edades de Lulú. ❙ «Cogerla o darle llorona: emborracharse y ponerse triste a… …   Diccionario del Argot "El Sohez"

  • darle a uno llorona — llorona, cogerla (darle a uno) llorona expr. borrachera que hace llorar y entristecerse. ❙ «...pero nos dio triste, una borrachera llorona...» Almudena Grandes, Las edades de Lulú. ❙ «Cogerla o darle llorona: emborracharse y ponerse triste a… …   Diccionario del Argot "El Sohez"

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