LEGENDS & MYSTERIES
La Llorona -
Weeping Woman of the Southwest
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(pronounced "LAH yoh ROH nah"), Spanish for the Weeping Woman, has been a
part of Hispanic culture in the Southwest since the days of the
conquistadores. 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.
one really knows when the legend of
began or, from where it originated. Though the tales vary from source to
source, the one common thread is that she is the spirit is of a doomed
mother who drowned her children and now spends eternity searching for them
in rivers and lakes.
La Llorona, christened "Maria", was born to a peasant family in a
humble village. 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 don her
best white gown and thrill the men who admired her in the local
Tolby Creek in Cimarron
Canyon, Kathy Weiser, July, 2003
The young men anxiously
waited for her arrival and she reveled in the attention that she
La Llorona had two small sons who made it difficult for her to
spend her evenings out, and often, she left them alone while she
cavorted with the gentlemen during the evenings. One day the two
small boys were found drowned in the river. Some say they
drowned through her neglect, but others say that they may have died by
her own hand.
Another legend says that
La Llorona was a caring woman full of life and love, who married
a wealthy man who lavished her with gifts and attention. However, after she bore him two sons, he began to change, returning to
a life of womanizing and alcohol, often leaving 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 and the
devastated Maria began to feel resentment toward the boys.
One evening, as Maria was strolling
with her two children on a shady pathway near the river, her husband
came by in a carriage 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.
After seeing this Maria went into a
terrible rage, and turning against her children, 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.
La Llorona mourned them day and night. During this time,
she would not eat and walked along the river in her white gown
searching for her boys -- hoping they would come back to her. She cried endlessly as she roamed 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. Still a young woman, she finally died on the banks of the river.
long after her death, her restless spirit began to appear, walking the
banks of the
Santa Fe 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 a dark night 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,
the weeping woman. Children are warned not to go out in the dark,
La Llorona might snatch them, throwing them to their deaths in the
Though the legends vary, the apparition 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.
When Patricio Lugan was a boy, he and his family saw her on a creek
New Mexico. As the family was sitting outside talking, they saw a tall, thin woman
walking along the creek. She then seemed to float over the water,
started up the hill, and vanished. However, just moments later she
reappeared much closer to them and then disappeared again. The
family looked for footprints and finding none, had no doubt that the woman
they had seen was
has been seen along many rivers across the entire Southwest and the legend
has become part of Hispanic culture everywhere. Part of the legend
is that those who do not treat their families well will see her and she
will teach them a lesson.
Another story involved a man by the name of Epifanio Garcia, who was an
outspoken boy who often argued with his mother and his father. After
a heated argument, Epifanio, along with his brothers, Carlos and Augustine
decided to leave their ranch in Ojo de La Vaca to head toward the Villa
Real de Santa Fe. However, when they were along their way, they were visited by a tall woman
wearing a black tapelo and a black net over her face. Two of the
boys were riding in the front of the wagon when the spirit appeared on the
seat between them. She was silent and continued to sit there until Epifanio finally turned the horses around and headed back home, at which
time she said "I will visit you again someday when you argue with your
In Santa Fe,
the tall wailing spirit has been seen repeatedly in the PERA Building
(Public Employees Retirement Association), which is built on land that was
once an old Spanish-Indian graveyard, and is near the Santa Fe
River. Many people who have been employed there tell of hearing cries
resounding through the halls and feeling unseen hands pushing them while
on the stairways.
has been heard at night wailing next to rivers by many and her wanderings
have grown wider, following Hispanic people wherever they go. Her
movements have been traced throughout the Southwest and as far north as
the banks of the Yellowstone River.
The Hispanic people believe that the Weeping Woman will always be with them, following the many rivers looking for
her children, and for this reason, many of them fear the dark and pass the
legend from generation to generation.
of America, updated March, 2017.
See Readers' Stories of La Llorona Next
During my travels to New
Mexico, I visited with a very friendly
Hispanic gentleman, who I asked if he believed in La Llorona. He
whole-heartedly confessed that he did and
was very open about his cultural beliefs. However, when I asked him if he
believed in ghosts, he stated that he did not.
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