La Llorona, The Weeping Woman
Stories of La Llorona, the weeping woman are told all over the Hispanic world, with versions coming from Venezuela to Spain and from California to Puerto Rico, but the legend is perhaps most associated with Mexico. The tales differ slightly from place to place but the basic elements are always the same.
La Llorona was said to be a beautiful Nahuatl woman with a dark complexion and captivating large, brown eyes, like to pools of midnight. She was noticed by Don Felipe de Merida, a high ranking Spanish nobleman who served as governor of Mexico City. The woman was as entranced with Don Felipe’s wealth, sophistication and charm as he was with her grace and beauty, and she soon became his lover.
The two loved like a whirlwind, and she was deeply smitten with her handsome Spaniard and over the next few years she bore him two children, a son and a daughter. The couple continued happily until Don Felipe’s attitude towards her began to cool. She gradually found herself out of his favour. His visits became less and less frequent and eventually stopped altogether. Despairing, the woman ventured to Don Felipe’s mansion to ask what she had done wrong. There she found her lover at his wedding feast. Earlier that day he had wed a Spanish noblewoman and told his native lover in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want her any more.
Driven mad with rage, jealousy and a broken heart, the woman took revenge on the Spaniard the only way she knew how. She took their two children to one of the many lakes in the city and drowned them. As soon as she had done this she regretted her actions and began to weep bitterly, praying to God to bring her children back to her, but it was in vain. In despair she walked slowly into the lake herself and allowed the chilly waters to envelope her.
Soon after, people in the city began to see the pitiful figure of a beautiful woman dressed completely in white flitting about the city, her once enticing eyes now red with tears, weeping “Ay, mis hijos! Ay, mis hijos!” (“Oh, my children, oh my children!”). She is also said to attempt to take away any children she finds, saying “Aqui estan mis hijos!” (“Here are my children!”).
The legend was possibly inspired by an earlier Aztec legend which said that shortly before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico the goddess Coatlicue appeared, weeping for her lost children (i.e the Aztecs), in an omen of what was soon to come.
The appearance of La Llorona is said to be a portent of death or misfortune in some versions of the legend. In others she is said to appear to those who live an immoral life, frightening them into changing their ways. In all of the stories, she can never find peace until she is reunited with her poor children.
By Adriana Aguirre-Santos