"Mis hijooooos, mis hijoooooos!" the ghostly voice travels through the night sky under the full moon, bringing terror into the hearts of children across Mexico. The cry of "my children, my children" is the lament of "La Llorona" or "The Crying Woman", an ancient tale famous in Mexico and Latin America, told for centuries in a myriad of variations. As we approach the end of October and the "Day of the Dead" and Halloween, it seems an appropriately scary story to share.
Habia una vez...ahem...Once upon a time, there was a very beautiful woman named Maria living in a small town in Mexico. She was beautiful, but she was also arrogant, and was determined not to marry a man from the pueblo, but a man of stature, good looks and wealth. One day a handsome wanderer arrived in the town and Maria set her mind to making him her husband. She used her feminine wiles, knowing that in ignoring the man she would make him hers. The man fell for Maria and asked her to be his, they married and she bore him two children. The man eventually returned to his wandering ways, rejecting Maria and leaving town. Maria became distraught and blaming the children for the loss of her husband, she tossed them into the river to their death. Upon seeing what she had done and realizing her mistake, Maria threw herself in the river after them. After that day, the villagers would hear her cries on the nights of the full moon, "my childreeeeen, my childreeeeeen" as the ghost of Maria searched for the souls of her lost niños.
The story has been told to children for centuries, as a warning for them to behave or "La Llorona will come to take you". Movies have been made of the story, plays are performed every year for the "Day of the Dead" and there is a famous song by Chavela Vargas, "La Llorona", about a heart-broken person begging the Crying Woman to take them to the river. This month a new animated movie, "La Leyenda de La Llorona" was released in Mexico, an adventure story set in Xochimilco following the adventures of children seeking the Crying Woman. I was delighted to take my son to the theater and see it full of families, a thrill to see support for a Mexican-made movie (and a testament to the popularity of the story). This is a vital piece of Mexican culture.