La Llorona

Date of Discovery

The first publication that came out about La Llorona was in 1883 when Manuel Carpio wrote about her tale in the form of a sonnet.

Name

La Llorona is Spanish for “the Weeping Woman,” which she is also commonly referred to–along with this, she is also called the Wailing Woman, the Cryer, as well as La Malinche.

She bears a likeness to the White Lady, although she is not directly associated with that legend.

Physical Description

In her oldest origins, she has been linked to a pre-Conquest Aztec goddess–Ciuacoatl, or snake-woman, who appeared in white, but other versions describe her as, “the ugliest and dirtiest that one could possibly imagine. Her face was so black and covered with filth that she looked like something straight out of Hell.”

The modern version of La Llorona is that she is the spirit of a Mexican woman who appears to be wearing a white dress.

Origin

Folklore about La Llorona is common knowledge in Mexico, where the claim is that she wanders the banks of rivers crying for her lost children.

Weeping women wearing white is an international phenomenon–the details of the lives of these weeping women, or White Ladies are unique for every different culture or individual haunting, it is safe to say that they are related.

Mythology and Lore

The poem that was written by Manuel Carpio was the first written account of this wailing spirit.

La Llorona

Sonnet – Manuel Carpio (1883)

Pálido de terror contar oía
cuando era niño yo, niño inocente,
que dio la muerte un hombre delincuente
en mi pueblo a su esposa Rosalía.

desde entonces en la noche umbría
oye temblando la asustada gente
tristes quejidos de mujer doliente,
quejidos como daba en su agonía.

Por algún rato su lamento cesa;
mas luego se desata en largo llanto,
y sola por las calles atraviesa.

A todos llena de mortal espanto,
y junto al río en la tiniebla espesa
se va llorando, envuelta en su manto.

The Weeping Woman

Sonnet – by Manuel Carpio (1883)

Pale of terror count heard
When I was a child, an innocent child,
That gave death a criminal man
In my village to his wife Rosalia.

And since then in the night Umbria
Hey shaking the scared people
Sad whining of a grieving woman,
Whining as she gave in her agony.

For some time her regret ends;
More then she unleashes in long cry,
And alone in the streets go through.

To all full of deadly horror,
And by the river in the thick darkness
He goes crying, wrapped in her mantle.

The oral legend usually tells of a young woman named Maria, living in a rural Mexican village. She marries into a wealthy family after she’s swept off her feet by a nobleman; after a few years of marriage, Maria and her husband have two children, but her husband was rarely home preferring to travel on his own. When he did come home, he ignored his wife, only spending time with their two boys and eventually, Maria realized that her husband no longer loved her.

After living in a neglectful and lonely marriage for so long, Maria was horrified when her husband returned with a new, younger bride to tell Maria that he was leaving her for good. In the depths of her despair, she took their sons down to the river and drowned them. When horror finally found her in remorse, she tried in vain to recover their bodies so she took her own life. Her body was found several days later on the riverbank, but the bodies of her sons were never recovered.

To this day, she wanders the world of the living, haunting rivers and lakes, doomed to search for her dead children forever. Be wary, if you hear her near to you, she is far away, attempting to lure you in, but the closer you get to La Llorona, the farther away she will sound. If you hear her crying out, “ay, mis hijos!” it’s best to just run in the opposite direction–to this day, when a child goes missing by a river in Mexico, you can be sure that the name La Llorona will be uttered.

Modern Pop-Culture References

Books & Literature

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Television Series



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Why Does the Weeping Woman Weep?

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore NA
La Llorona walking away
Photography by Caroline Hernandez

The Tale of the Weeping Woman is an ultimately tragic one, but because of this grim tale, her story has been told as a bedtime story and over a campfire as a means of entertainment for over a hundred years—this legend is known most often as La Llorona, the weeping woman, and the wailing woman.

This grieving woman’s story has changed from family to family, as well as with each generation of storytellers. In most of the popular versions of her story, she is portrayed in three main ways—the first, La Llorona appears as an indigenous woman whose husband has cheated on her, in an attempt to seek revenge for his infidelity, she drowned her children in a river but was immediately so remorseful as she looked upon her dead children that she committed suicide alongside them. The second version, La Llorona is the spirit of the Aztec Goddess Chihuacoatl, who as an omen that foretold the devastation of the Aztec society by the arrival of the Spaniards. In the third most popular variation, La Llorona is actually the spirit of Doña Marina, or La Malinche—in life she was the lover and interpreter for Hernan Cortés; in the Mexican community she was considered a traitor—it is believed that Cortés betrayed her with a Spanish woman and she subsequently drowned both of her children in her own despair.

No matter the rendition, she is as popular as ever having drifted into mainstream horror culture and broken the barrier between cultural significance and American entertainment when The Curse of La Llorona was released in 2019.

Ghost reaching up from the water
Photography by Ian Espinosa

True Encounters with La Llorona

Like any great legend, there are known encounters with the subject of the legend itself—in this case, La Llorona has been experienced all over Mexico and the adjoining United States. These particular cases seem to underline a different side of La Llorona though, a side which emphasized more of a maternal nature than that of a murderer.

Mexico City, Mexico

In Mexico City, a large family of nine was being haunted by a shadowy figure in the toddler’s bedroom—seeing this figure out of the corner of their eyes was just the first stage of this encounter with La Llorona. Soon whenever they would catch a glimpse of her figure, they began to hear the sound of sobbing in the distance.

The manifestations only got stronger and more rampant after a priest was brought in to cleanse and bless what was thought to be a malevolent entity from the home. Soon, the physical form of the apparition began to appear as a woman in white, who the family recognized as La Llorona; she began moving chairs as well as opening and closing doors. One night they captured movement on the baby monitor, which upon further inspection turned out to be the blanket being moved as if the child were being tucked in by an invisible force. After trying all other avenues, the parents took their toddler to the doctor, at which time they found the child was suffering from medical issues that would have turned fatal if left untreated. Once the child was being treated all manifestations of La Llorona ceased.

Guanajuato, Mexico

Another case of La Llorona appeared to a family of five, where the mother, father, and oldest son would see glimpses of this weeping apparition, who was always standing near the two youngest children. It was strange because the two children she would always hover around would never see her themselves, despite the natural ability of children to be more perceptive to paranormal phenomena that may occur around them. As the manifestations progressed, the sounds of wailing would sweep through their home in the middle of the night and randomly during the day—this would wake everyone in the house except for the children who would never hear her cries.

La Llorona walking in shallow water
Photography by Rafael Alcure

The manifestations of her spirit and her screams of grief frequented this family more and more often, even when the extended family came to help. The parents became thoroughly concerned for the two youngest children and sent them to stay with their extended family for a period of time and as soon as the children left, so did the regular hauntings of La Llorona. While the children were staying with their extended family, they had planned to have their cousin stay with them for several months and they immediately told him about their experiences with La Llorona. The weirdest part is that a day before the children were set to return, the cousin was arrested and charged with multiple counts of child abuse.

Jarácuaro, Mexico

A single mother and her two children took refuge with the mother’s sister, the plan was that they would stay with her for the foreseeable future, so they ended up moving into one of the rooms in the back of the sister’s aging home. As soon as the three moved in, the entire house began to hear bizarre noises at night, which were eerie footsteps along the floorboards, doors, and cabinets opening and closing at random, as well as the sound of stifled crying. Day and night, the crying began to be accompanied by an apparition of what the family believed to be La Llorona, who would only manifest very briefly.

Even after the home was blessed by a priest, the sightings wouldn’t cease. The mother awoke one night to an unnerving scene, one of her children was sitting on the foot of the bed, speaking to what looked like a shadowy figure near the bed where they all slept. The next day, her child told her that the apparition, who the child referred to as the “nice lady,” told them that they needed to stay in the front room instead. Heeding the ghost’s warning, the mother moved herself and her children out of the back bedroom and into the living room—and none too soon, as two nights later the entire room caved into a sinkhole that had formed below the back portion of the house.

So why does the weeping woman weep? What version of La Llorona did you hear as a child? Let us know in the comments below!