by Jaye Sudar
Don′t go down to the river, child,
Don′t go there alone;
For the sobbing woman, wet and wild,
Might claim you for her own.
From the shores of Lake Texcoco to the banks of the Rio Cucharas, the tale of La Llorona has terrified people of the southwest for over five hundred years. Parents use the story to keep their children close to home at night and away from the hazards of rivers, streams and lakes. The tale reminds lovers of the moral perils of obsession, jealousy, and abandonment. It echoes the fate of mothers driven by postpartum depression or mental illness to murder their children.
The first stories of Llorona, the weeping woman, come from Tenochtitlan, where La Malinche, the lover of Cortez, gives birth to twin sons. Abandoned by Cortez for a Spanish noblewoman, La Malinche drowns her sons to keep Cortez from taking them. Her cry as she kills them is “Oh hijos mios!” She died of grief and her ghost haunts the banks of the lake where her children died. The mournful cry is heard by those who see the woman dressed in white.
Another version has the beautiful woman catching the man of her dreams only to be abandoned by him after she has given birth to two beautiful boys. In her anguish at being rejected, she drowns her children. In realization of her actions, she drowns herself and is doomed to haunt the banks of the river looking for her children. Her cry is a warning to good folk not to share her fate.
Last is the beautiful wife with two small sons. She becomes obsessed by a rich and powerful man. However, the only way he will accept her is if she will abandon her children. In an attempt to gain his affections, she drowns her sons. This act not only makes her a pariah in the village, but drives her mad. She haunts the river bank until she dies. She is buried in her white wedding dress, and the night after the funeral, she is seen by the river, crying for her drowned children. In her madness, this ghost will take the lives of anyone she finds by the river.
La Llorona searches the riverbanks for her children, which in turn could be any children. It is said that if you walk alone by the river or next to a lake, she will appear and try to drag you to your death in the cold waters. Her cries for her children, “Oh hijos mios!” freeze you while her icy hands clamp around your wrists. Since she can′t find her own children, she will take anyone to fill that ghostly need in her tormented soul.
Next time you walk next to the Cucharas, keep your senses alert for the shadowy figure in white crying out for her lost sons. Was that an owl or something more sinister crying in the dark? Don′t become the next person to be dragged to a watery grave by La Llorona.