La Llorona (legend) : One Woman, Many Stories – Video

Updated: October 31, 2014
La Llorona (legend) : One Woman, Many Stories

The eve of the conquest of Mexico -Tenochtitlan by Hernan Cortes and his Spanish army was plagued by omens that Miguel Leon–Portilla enumerates in his book, “Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico”. Based on codices as well as from memories of the period, Portilla describes a woman who the natives called Cihuacoatl (the serpent woman), who wandered among the temples of the great ‘Mexica’ capital announcing a tragedy: “O-h-h, my children, the time for our departure draws near. O-h-h-h, my children! Where shall I take you?”

However, it was during the colonial days when the legend of the weeping woman gained the necessary strength to filter into Mexican folklore, and although there are innumerable versions as to the origin of this macabre and heartrending cry, the most popular one is told in detail herein:

Every night at eleven, when the curfew sounded in the capital of New Spain, the inhabitants would shut themselves in their houses of mud and stone. The streets were left deserted. It was then that the darkness and the silence were torn by the long and distressing wails of a woman. “Oh, my children”, she repeated monotonously, causing even the bravest hearts to shudder.

Those who dared to look out from their windows managed to see the silhouette of a woman dressed in white, floating above the street’s stone pavement; she would stop at the city’s Main Square. Later, the ghostly figure would head in the direction of Texcoco Lake, where she’d disappear with the first rays of the dawn.

But, just who was this woman whose face could not be discerned? Why did she cry so pitifully? According to the story, there was once a beautiful native woman who fell deeply in love with a Spanish gentleman. The gentleman felt a great passion for her, but relations between a nobleman and an Indian woman was positively regarded with disapproval, so he maintained his romance with her in secret. Three children were born to the mother, who adored and tirelessly cared for them.

Over time, the woman sought to formalize her relationship with the gentleman, who began to evade her. She soon found out that he had agreed upon a convenient marriage to a wealthy Spanish lady. Humiliated by the man she loved so much, the woman was driven totally mad and drowned her three children in a river. She committed suicide afterwards. At the gates of Heaven, the woman was asked about her little ones. “My Lord, I don’t know where they are”, she replied. Thus, she was condemned to search for them for all eternity.

There are those who assure that, in her zeal to be accepted into Heaven, the murderess Weeping Woman carries away the firstborn children between the ages of 1 and 5 years-old to present them before God as her children. That’s why the proximity of her cries is so feared by all.

Other versions affirm that the woman who wanders about crying nightly among the labyrinth of building in Mexico City is none other than ‘Malinche’; Hernan Cortes’ mistress, who’s accused of having betrayed her race because of her love for the conqueror.