Monday, April 15, 2019

The Legend of La Llorona

Old Spanish song about La Llorona

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

She weeps when the sun is murky red
She wails when the moon is old
She cries for her babies, still and dead,
Who drowned in the water cold

She seeks her children day and night,
Wandering, lost, and cold
She weeps and moans in dark and light,
A tortured, restless soul

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

In another post, I talked about how children in New Mexico are very familiar with the La Llorona story. La Llorona is New Mexico’s most famous ghost. 

If you visit anywhere along the Rio Grande river in my state, you will encounter New Mexicans who will gladly relate their version of La Llorona. This story is told in other parts of the country, but the following story is one often told in New Mexico.

In the early 1700s, there was a young woman named Maria who lived in a small village along the Rio Grande. 

As Maria matured, she began to attract much attention in the village because she was lovely. Her family was impoverished, so her mother encouraged Maria to marry one of the local men. 

Maria with the firm self-belief that her beauty would someday attract a wealthy man refused.

One day a handsome young man rode into the village. He was the son of a rancher in Mexico. He wore tailored clothes and rode a well-groomed horse with a fancy saddle—all the signs of a man of wealth.

Maria started to follow him around, she tried to catch his eye, but he only noticed the better dressed young girls in the village. At night he would play his guitar for the locals, many young ladies swooned at his golden voice. Maria was sure her heart would break.

Then one day as Maria shopped the young rancher stopped near her. Maria blushed with embarrassment because she wore an old dirty, tattered dress. 

But her blush caught his eye, and for the first time, he noticed how beautiful she was. He began to court Maria. 

Within a short time, he had paid Maria’s father a large dowry so he could marry her. Knowing his family would not accept his marriage to a woman from a lower class—the couple settled along the Rio Grande.

Over the next several years Maria’s husband worked as a merchant along the El Camino Real, and Maria bore him three children. But as the years passed Maria and her wealthy husband grew apart. 

He spent less and less time at home, and he showed no interest in their children. Maria began to suspect that he was seeing another woman while he was away.

Maria’s suspicions were confirmed when she spotted her husband riding in a buggy with a beautiful young woman by his side. Her heart was broken. 

She exploded in a jealous rage. Distraught she thought that if only she did not have the children, her husband would love her once more. 

Rio Grand River
In a rage, she dragged her children one by one to the river and held their heads under the water until they drowned.

Her senses lost to reality; she approached her husband and told him what she had done for him. Horrified he ordered her out of his life. 

Numb she wandered the streets of the village for several days crying for her children. The villagers started to call her La Llorona—meaning the wailing woman.

Maria realized she had lost everything dear to her, so she went down to the river and cried for her children. 

She then flung herself into the river. Her body was never found. 

Another view of Rio Grande
People in New Mexico still see a woman dressed all in white walking along paths near water. They hear Maria’s desperate cries for her children and then she slowly fades away.

Many believe she is condemned to wander, weeping and searching for her children. Others believe that she is a harbinger of death—if you see her someone will die.

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