The story of La Llorona has a lot of different variations. There are some common elements found in each variation though. Each story would have a ghost of a woman crying for her children. The variations rest with how her children died and the name of the woman and her place of origin. Some say she’s from Mexico and some say she’s from New Mexico or even Texas. Her name also varies, from Maria to Hilda. Whatever the case, she always ends up looking for her dead children.
La Llorona: Part 1
Once there was a beautiful woman called Maria Magdalena. She hails from the southern town of Sta. Rosa where tradition runs deep in the veins of all that live within its boundaries, and farther beyond. Maria Magdalena comes from a poor farming family who has worked for generations with the land baron of Sta. Rosa, named Don Manuel Esquivel. Maria Magdalena’s family has been indebted to Don Manuel’s family for generations and her generation was no different. The land that Maria Magdalena tills belonged to Don Manuel’s family for as long as everybody can remember.
Don Manuel has one child by the name of Jeremiah. He is a few years older than Maria but he was more kind hearted than his father. He was a good friend to Maria Magdalena’s older brother Juancho, and played with them when they were growing up. It was no surprise then when one day, Jeremiah and Maria Magdalena found themselves in love with each other. Despite warnings from her parents and her brother Juancho, Maria went on with her secret tryst with Jeremiah, and unknown to Don Manuel, Maria Magdalena soon got pregnant and bore twins – a girl and a boy.
Immediately after giving birth to the twins, Jeremiah had to travel to a far-away city to finish his studies. Maria Magdalena begged for him not to go but Jeremiah promised to be back for her and their children as soon as he gets his diploma, and he could provide them a good income and source of living, even without the help of his father, Don Manuel. Maria Magdalena believed him and all his promises. She faced the anger of her parents and shame of being an unwed mother. Besides her own family, nobody knows who was the father of her children. They were much too afraid that they would be banished from the land, if Don Manuel knows of their secret.
After four long years of waiting, Maria Magdalena heard the news that Jeremiah was coming back to Sta. Rosa, and that a big feast would be held for his homecoming and graduation. The whole town was invited and Maria wore the best dress she could afford, and dressed the twins so they could meet their father.
At long last, the day of the feast came and the whole town of Sta. Rosa was bedecked with bougainvilleas and other decorations much like that of a fiesta. Everybody was there. It was clear though that there is a distinct difference in the rows of table in front of the presidential table and the tables in the back. Rich families and politicos (politicians) were all seated in the tables bedecked with specially adorned table cloths while the ones at the back were made of ordinary bamboo, for the people belonging to poorer side of the town.
A specially set stage was also provided in front of the presidential table facing the crowd for entertainments and announcements from the family of Don Manuel. Finally, the long awaited arrival of Jeremiah’s car came. The Mercedes Benz was given way and Maria Magdalena’s kids were all excited. Even her parents and brother was there to share her excitement. All they want was for Maria Magdalena and Jeremiah to finally get married so the kids could finally be legitimated. To their shock and horror though, Jeremiah got out of the car with a beautiful woman in tow.
Juancho steadied Maria Magdalena who was almost faint with despair. She cautioned her not to make a scene because there might still be a good explanation for what they just saw. However, after Jeremiah hugged his parents, he introduced his lady companion and whispered something to Don Manuel’s ears. Don Manuel was beaming with pride. He went onstage and got everybody’s attention for a special announcement. He went on to say that his son not only brought home a diploma but a fiancée as well.
He announced the betrothal and forthcoming wedding of the engaged couple a month from the day of the homecoming celebration and invited everybody to come again and celebrate his family’s twin blessings. Not long after, while everybody was celebrating and enjoying themselves with the free flowing good food and wine, Maria Magdalena’s family silently went on their way without saying a word to the family of the celebrant.
Maria Magdalena almost went insane with grief. She waited four long years for Jeremiah to fulfill his promises and bore the insults that came her and her family’s way when she bore the twins. For three weeks, Maria Magdalena could hardly get up or eat. Then one day, she just stopped crying. There was something different in her demeanor. She looks so calm and there was a kind of peace and resolve as she went to meet with the town’s witch doctor. She didn’t tell her brother or her parents where she went.
This was something she has to do on her own. Her parents were so surprised when she said she and the children will be attending the wedding celebration for Jeremiah and his new bride. She said she had accepted her fate and just wants the children to see their father one last time and they would go on their way to another town far from Sta. Rosa to begin a new life without Jeremiah. Despite their objections, Maria Magdalena was too determined to do what she had planned, so they could do nothing but stay behind. Maria Magdalena also borrowed her brother’s horse and carriage. She wanted to go alone with the children.
On the appointed day of the wedding, Maria Magdalena looked so serene in a long white gown – it almost looked like a wedding gown – only simpler but nevertheless there was something ethereal about her. Her children were also dressed in white as a flower girl and a ring bearer. They were both holding a small woven basket. The wedding celebrant’s table was positioned just so everybody could come round and greet the newlyweds. It was then that Maria Magdalena brought her twin children around and Jeremiah couldn’t look at her straight in the eye. He did say that she was as beautiful and the kids are wonderful.
She just looked at him and she kissed the bride on the cheek. Before she turned to go, she told Jeremiah to look at the twins closely for this is the last time he would be seeing them. Jeremiah followed Maria Magdalena and begged for her to meet with him later. Maria Magdalena relented and they agreed to meet on their secret trysting place 30 minutes later. Maria Magdalena then proceeded to go with a mysterious smile on her face.
At the appointed time, Jeremiah sneaked out of the celebration and went on to their secret place by the hill. Maria Magdalena was there and the kids were in the carriage seemingly asleep. Jeremiah approached and he tried holding Maria Magdalena but she stopped him and said, “I was truthful when I said to look closely at your children, for it will be the last time you will see them”.
Jeremiah replied “Can’t we talk this out? I know I have wronged you, but they are my kids too. I can provide support to them and still be a good father.” Maria shook her head slowly, tears falling in her cheeks. She boarded the carriage and said, “It’s too late Jeremiah. When you failed to fulfill your promise, I vowed I will always make true what I tell you. And I was truthful when I said that it would be the last time you will see your kids. Do you see them? They lay down so peacefully.
They will never come to know you or the other half of the blood that runs through their veins come from you and your deceitful race! You see Jeremiah, that small basket they were holding on to contained the most potent potion one could ever have. I gave it to them after they met their father for the first and last time. They shouldn’t suffer anymore waiting for you to come and get us. They are at last at peace! And you, you shall not come to know our twin angels. You do not deserve to know them.
Goodbye Jeremiah! May you come to know the grief I had suffered through while waiting for you!” Maria Magdalena then struck the horse and went on with her two dead children. Jeremiah stood there, shaken by what had just transpired and went down on his knees upon realizing that his children died by the hands of their own mother. He cried and shook violently. As the sun sets and darkness surrounded the hill that was once a witness to their promise of an undying love.
La Llorona Part 2: A Brief Analysis of the La Llorona version
In re-writing the version of La Llorona, I closely followed the character of an almost similar story of love and betrayal in the character of Medea (Bates, p 192). I have encountered the story of Medea a lot earlier than Llorona but as I was going through the various versions accredited to the southern legend La Llorona, the similarities struck me. Hence, I applied some similar character traits of Medea by Euripedes (Coleridge) by also naming the character of the legend La Llorona (Hayes), to a name common to all the legend’s version, Maria, and adding a namesake after Medea, Magdalena.
One of the similarities of Maria Magdalena and Medea is that of their passionate and almost obsessive devotion to their lovers, no matter what the cost. Medea betrayed her own father and caused Pelias’ death by his own daughter’s hands (Bates and Coleridge). Meanwhile, Maria Magdalena has shamed herself and her own family by being an unwed mother in a conservative and religious town (Sta. Rosa).
Another similarity in the thematic flow of both stories is that Maria Magdalena was promised by Jeremiah that they will get married when he got back, so did Jason pledged his love to Medea. Both Medea. and Maria Magdalena bore their lovers two children; both have done so without the benefit or blessing of a solemnified marriage. Similarly, both Jason and Jeremiah betrayed their promises of marriage. Like Medea, Maria Magdalena killed her children in retribution to her lovers’ betrayal. They also both carried their dead children away in a horse carriage without giving their lover the benefit of burying their own children.
The emphasis I stated in their similarities was done so to evoke not just for thematic purposes or display but more so to point out some possibilities that these actions are not limited to legends alone. Both women were betrayed and deeply hurt by their lovers despite all sacrifices for the man of the life. Both have shunned tradition just so they could prove their love for their man. This is a universal theme common in most tragic love stories, and not limited to Medea by Euripedes or to La Llorona.
What was uncommon though, that adds an almost perverted dignity to their characters is the murder of their children by their own hands. It is a well known fact that mothers would give their lives for their children, and Medea and Maria Magdalena murdering their children has a two-pronged purpose. One is to cause extreme grief to their lovers in an act of revenge and the other is extreme sacrifice of their own love for their children just so they would be safe from further external harm. Both the mother in Medea and Maria Magdalena would rather that their children die by their own hands than have strangers touch their babies.
The impact of the actions of both Medea and Maria Magdalena reaches the core of one’s being. It is painful to think or to even fathom of such possibilities. Then again, sometimes, truth and its possibilities can be a lot more bizarre and stranger than fiction.
Archer, Carol. Living with Strangers in the U.S.A.: Communicating Beyond Culture. Englewoods Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1991.
Bates, Alfred. “Medea: An Analysis of the play by Euripedes”. The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 1. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. 192-196.
Coleridge, E.P. (trans.). Euripedes. Medea. [email protected], 2004.
Cordeiro, Paula, Timothy Reagan, and Linda Martinez. Multiculturalism and TQE. Thousand Oaks: Corwin, 1994.
Hayes, Joe. The Weeping Woman (La Llorona). Teaching from a Hispanic Perspective. A Handbook for non-Hispanic Adult Educators. June 4, 2007. <http://www.literacynet.org/lp/hperspectives/llorona.html>