The story of La Llorona is a tale with many variations. The version my father told me when I was about eight years old had me sleeping with my mother for several years afterward. In Our Sacred Maíz is Our Mother: Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas, Roberto Cintli Rodríguez shares a version of La Llorona that is a “way to explain or describe the angst of de-Indigenized peoples” (Loc. 3775). In the version that Rodríguez shares, La Llorona is a beautiful native woman “who bore the children of a conquistador turned aristocrat, who purportedly loved her” (Loc. 3771). However, at some point, this conquistador’s bride-to-be arrives from Europe and he banishes his lover and their children from Tenochtitlan. Following this, the native woman is distraught and drowns their children in a nearby river. Ever since then, she wanders the streets, crying, and searching for her children.
Rodríguez comments that while there are other variations of this story, some of which are older than the one above, this is the most widely known version. Rodríguez says, however, that according to many people in the pueblos that predate the European presence in what is now Mexico, the children of La Llorona were swept from her by the current of the river as she bathed them and that she wails, searching for them, because they may still be alive. These people also claim La Llorona was a good woman, that she alone took care of her children before and after they had been banished by the conquistador. Rodríguez reports that some people say the story are lies began by the Europeans in “an effort to dishonor and cast a stain upon La Llorona, an effort to blame an Indian woman for the death of her children…[and] to portray her children as illegitimate children, as fatherless children (Loc. 3726).
Less widely known are the legends about La Llorona’s children which say that they survived the river and traveled from village to village searching for their mother. It is thought that the Legends surrounding La Llorona and her children began in a time when the conquistadors were exterminating the native peoples of Mexico, “during the years of war and famine” (Loc. 3726). And it is during these times that the children of La Llorona, rejected and shunned by all else, were sheltered and raised by indigenous women, mothers and grandmothers, the only ones who would love and accept La Llorona’s brown children, not as children of European or Indigenous descent but as “children of the Creator” (Loc. 3755). When these children grow up, they’re confused and conflicted by the many stories surrounding their parents and themselves and they reject their caretakers and their teachings, they “rejected themselves” (Loc. 3755). This rejection, however, is met with the unconditional love of a mother. “It is said that nowadays, it is not La Llorona who is looking for her children, but her children who are looking for her…braving mountains and deserts and even crossing rivers, still looking for their mother and a place to call home. Many never quite make it, their bodies often claimed by the hostile desert, mountains, and treacherous rivers. It is said that if they ever find their mother…[if they] come to her in a good way, she will always embrace them and they will always have a home” (Loc. 3755).
Rodríguez points out the resiliency described in this tale, the resiliency of the children of La Llorona who found a home in the indigenous “maíz culture” and create their own story. There’s a lot of relevancy in this tale, even today with themes of rejecting and then returning to roots–to grandmothers. There’s also the parallel found between the children of La Llorona searching for her, their mother, some of them “not quite making,” dying in deserts and rivers in the search for a home and immigrants.