Legend of La Llorona

Beware the woman in white…

Sarah Grover and Claire Liberman

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The legend of La Llorona has haunted Mexico for a long time. Her story is one of violence, much like the country whose suffering she is often taken to represent. There are different stories that are told about her, although no one knows the truth but the woman herself. The tall, thin spirit is said to be blessed with natural beauty and long flowing black hair. Wearing a white gown, she roams the rivers and creeks, wailing into the night and searching for children to drag, screaming to a watery grave. 


There are different versions of this legend as no one really knows when this began or where the story originates from. Even though the tales vary from source to source, there is one common thread that her spirit is of a doomed mother who drowned her children. Now she spends eternity searching for them in rivers and lakes.


“La llorona,” also known as Maria, was born into a peasant family although her startling beauty captured the attention of both the rich and the poor men of the area. She was said to have spent her days in her humble peasant surroundings, but in the evenings, she would dress into her best white gown and thrill the men who admired her in the local fandangos.

The young men anxiously waited for her arrival and she reveled in the attention that she received. However, she had two sons that made it harder for her to spend her evenings out, though she usually left them alone while she cavorted with the gentlemen during the evenings.

One day, she found her children drowned in a river beside her house. It is said that she blamed herself for the death of her children, because she was never there for them. She finally decided to end her life so she jumped in the river, committing suicide. 

At this point, she might seem like a good mother, but she was far from that. She was a psychopath… 

After her death, Maria looked everywhere, but couldn’t find her children. She looked at others’ lives and saw how good those people lived, how happy the mothers were with their children. She decided this was unfair. And so everything starts.

Halloween night is the night the world of the simple town the legend takes place in turns upside down. During this time of the year, Maria, now known as “La Llorona,” goes out to the town she used to live near, trying to destroy it especially the lives of innocent children. Her jealousy took over and she kills every child in her sight, takes their soul, trying to revive her children in one of their bodies. She thought maybe her children had become another mother’s child. So she not only let them die at first, but she killed them once again. While doing this, she screamed “mis hijos!” which meant “my children!” That is why they call her La Llorona. La Llorona means “the weeping woman.” This is what she did in the search of her children— walking around neighborhoods, taking the lives of every child trick or treating at her sight, crying for her children.


Another legend says that La Llorona was a very caring woman— full of life and love, who married a wealthy man who lavished her with gifts and attention. However, after she had two sons after their marriage, when he began to change, returning to a life of womanizing and alcohol. He often left her for months at a time. He seemingly no longer cared for the beautiful Maria, even talking about leaving her to marry a woman of his own wealthy class. When he did return home, it was only to visit his children. The devastated Maria began to feel resentment toward the boys.

It was an evening like any other when surprisingly, while Maria was strolling with her two children on a shady pathway near the river, her husband came by in a carriage. He was with an elegant lady beside him. He stopped and spoke to his children, but ignored Maria, and then drove the carriage down the road without looking back.

This caused Maria to go into a terrible rage, and turning against her children. Right there and then, she seized them and threw them into the river. As they disappeared down stream, she realized what she had done and ran down the bank to save them, but it was too late. Maria broke down into inconsolable grief, running down the streets screaming and wailing.

Maria mourned her kids day and night. During this time, she would not eat. Instead, she walked along the river in her white gown searching for her boys— hoping they would come back to her. She cried endlessly roaming at the riverbanks and her gown became soiled and torn. When she continued to refuse to eat, she grew thinner and appeared taller until she looked like a walking skeleton. She was still a young woman when she finally died on the banks of the river.

Not long after her death, her restless spirit began to appear, walking the banks of the river when darkness fell. Her weeping and wailing became a curse of the night, and people began to be afraid to go out after dark. She was said to have been seen drifting between the trees along the shoreline or floating on the current with her long white gown spread out upon the waters. On many dark nights people would see her walking along the riverbank and crying for her children. And so, they no longer spoke of her as Maria, but rather, La Llorona— the weeping woman. Children are warned not to go out in the dark, for La Llorona might snatch them, throwing them to their deaths in the flowing waters.


Though the legends vary, the spirit is said to act without hesitation or mercy. The tales of her cruelty depends on the version of the legend you hear. Some say that she kills indiscriminately, taking men, women, and children — whoever is foolish enough to get close enough to her. Others say that she is very barbaric and kills only children, dragging them screaming to a watery grave either way.