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The Tale of ‘La Llorona’ Posted by on Oct 10, 2019 in Mexican culture

One of the most famous tale or leyenda in Mexico is that of the Llorona or the weeping woman. No childhood in Mexico is complete without your mother having used the Llorona to scare you into doing something. ¡Si no te portas bien, vendrá la Llorona a llevarte muy lejos! ¡Si sigues llorando, vendrá la llorona por ti!

Photo taken by Ryan Vaarsi found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0

La Leyenda

Like all folktales, La Llorona has many variations. I have narrated below the version I learned.

Erase una vez (once upon a time) una mujer hermosa que era muy feliz. Estaba casada con el amor de su vida el cual también estaba muy enamorado de ella. Poco después de que se casaron, esta pareja de enamorados tuvo a su primer hijo. La pareja se sentía muy afortunada de su suerte. Poco tiempo después, llegó otro hijo a llenarles el corazón y luego otro mas. La mujer pasaba sus días cuidando a sus bebes y a su marido agradecida de su gran fortuna.

Pero un día, sin previo aviso, el esposo abandono a esta mujer. Ella estaba deshecha. No entendía porque la había abandonado. Un día, la señora juntó a sus hijos y los llevó al rio. Lentamente sumergió a sus hijos hasta que los ahogo. Al darse cuenta de lo que había hecho, la señora empezó a llorar. Era tanto su dolor por lo que había hecho que no podía contener las lagrimas y empezó a gritar ‘¡Ay, mis hijos!’ Pocos minutos después, se ahogo.

Fue tan fuerte el llanto que la gente del pueblo corrió al rio para ver que pasaba. Al llegar, encontraron los cuerpos de los niños y de la señora. Muy de madrugada todavía se pueden escuchar llantos y una voz llena de tristeza que grita ‘¡Ay, mis hijos!’

There are many variations to this story. Some say that the woman was indigenous and the man was Spanish. Their love was forbidden and he never married her. When he did marry another woman, the indigenous woman took revenge by drowning their children.

Below is a recreation of this story.

Like all good folktales, it is not known exactly how this story took place. Some say that the story dates back to the Aztec empire and the Llorona was one of the goddesses that would walk among the living yelling. Others say that the story was made popular  by the church in an attempt to scare people and bring them closer to the church.

Songs of La Llorona 

La Llorona is also popular in songs. The songs began during the Mexican Revolution around 1910. There are several versions of the song. Some versions are sung by a man that has fallen in love with the Llorona. The most popular version of this song is by the singer Chavela Vargas who recorded her version in the 1990s. Chavela’s interpretation of the song is quite beautiful because her singing captivates the melodramatic mood of this song. Below is the video.

This song has also been covered and featured in movies numerous times. More recently, it was featured in the movie Coco, and in this year’s Grammy Awards, the audience was serenaded with the voices of Angela Aguilar, Aida Cuevas and Natalia Lafourcade. What I find beautiful about this version is the versatility of this song to different voices and styles of music. The song doesn’t loose its sadness.

La Llorona has become an icon in Mexican culture, so much so that we have romanticised her suffering in songs and terrified our children to behave well. Does the legend of La Llorona also exist in your country?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


Comments:

  1. Mark:

    Thank you for covering this sad and beautiful legend. I teach ESOL to seven Central Americans that are beginning English learners, and I will translate this to English as a learning exercise for them. I suspect they all know the story. It will be interesting to hear their take on the legend.


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