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The Lowdown On The Legend Of La Llorona

Updated December 26, 2019 184.7k views12 items

Every culture in the world has its own unique stories of lore and Mexican culture is no exception. The ghost story of La Llorona [translated to mean "The Weeping (or Wailing) Woman"] is well-known within Mexican and Mexican-American cultures. Believed to have originated hundreds of years ago before the Conquest in Mexico, possibly from the Aztec, the story has been kept alive by parents and grandparents who retell it to their children and grandchildren.

If you didn’t grow up with an abuela (grandmother) who reminded you nightly to be kind to your family lest you incur the wrath of La Llorona, you might not know the story. It's the tale of a beautiful woman who, after suffering heartbreak, drowns her children in a river and then, in a fit of regret, drowns herself. She then wanders about aimlessly as a ghost weeping and wailing in search of the children she has killed. In recent times, the growth of Latinx populations in the United States has helped to introduce the story to mainstream society. Artists and writers have created books, poems, plays and movies based upon the tale. Hollywood adapted the story into the 2019 movie The Curse of La Llorona

As most legends do, the story of La Llorona has taken on many different variations. The following are just a few of the creative versions shared amongst communities today.

  • La Llorona Was Allegedly Caught On Film

    Video: YouTube

    Some claim to have photographed and captured La Llorona on film. In a security video from Mexico City, a strange ghostly figure in white is seen standing in the middle of an intersection. In the footage, recorded at 2:20 AM on September 18, 2016, the woman in white is seen standing still in the intersection while cars drive directly towards her.

    Many believe the ghost was that of La Llorona. 

  • She Can Just Walk Into Your House

    Photo: The National Archives UK / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    According to Teresa Finney, a writer for The Hairpin, her mother had a face-to-face encounter with the most famous ghost in Latinx culture when she was a girl. It was late at night and she was on the phone with her boyfriend when she suddenly felt a chill.

    She said: "All I know is that I tried to turn around to see where the cold was coming from, but I couldn’t move. I was frozen! I was laying in bed on the phone and I’m paralyzed, I can’t move. That’s when I see her. She’s in the doorway of my room just staring at me, dressed in all white. I try to scream but I’m just paralyzed.” When asked how she knew it was La Llorona she said, "I just knew.”

  • She Was Barred From Heaven

    One version of the story relays that after La Llorona's children drown (either she drowns them or someone else drowns them), she drowns herself in the same river where they died to join them in the afterlife.

    Once she makes it to the gates of heaven, she's barred from entering until she finds the children, which starts her journey across eternity, searching in vain for her drowned children. 

  • La Llorona Is Part Of A Popular Children's Game

    In Central America and other parts of the world where La Llorona's story is well-known, kids play a dark version of hide and seek where the the seeker plays La Llorona and calls after the hiders screaming: "Donde estan mis hijos," which means "where are my children?"