Eeeee-jo, La Llorona!
She must be really tired, que no? Five hundred years of weeping and wandering in the middle of the night over dry ditch banks, vacant parking lots and various deserted, wooded areas has got to take a toll.
The legend goes so far back that my late gramita’s great-great-great late gramita still talks about it in heaven. Pretty sure that’s true. And if you are Hispanic and haven’t been scared into being good by the story of La Llorona, then you are either: a) not Hispanic, b) your parents never really loved you or c) both. It’s sad all the way around, really.
Why does she weep and wander? Well, she was a terrible woman who drowned her own children and feels really guilty, so her spirit is trapped in time, searching endlessly for her murdered offspring. Thus the wandering. And I say that's karma, and I hope she never finds them.
There are some who say … well, who cares what they say. Because there are others (and by “others” I mean me) who say that the condemned woman in the flowing, white nightdress—raven hair flowing in the wind as she moans her way through the night—appears to those unlucky few as an ominous warning against doing evil, lest you end up like her.
I know this because, yes, I have seen La Llorona.
I know. Shiver. But I have heard and felt her cries and lamentations crawl up my spine like a black, slimy eel. And I have seen her with my own little brown eyes.
It happened long ago on a hot, late-summer day around dusk at a schoolbus stop in my hometown of Socorro, N.M. I was 12 years old, so that would make me … 25 now. (Oh, shut up!)
My friend, who we’ll call “Cheryl,” and I were walking home after a full day of playing Navy Seal Barbie Kicks Chauvinistic Ken’s Businessman Butt. (Hey, the whole “let’s-
I guess it was the heat—the wind seemed to originate from nowhere to shove tumbleweeds across the wide, dry ditch we were passing—but the subject of the weeping woman reared its legendary head.
“Oooo,” Cheryl said, as she wiped some grit out of her eye and cocked her head to one side in a big show of listening to the howling wind. “Laaaaa Llorooooona.”
As we passed the ditch bank near our schoolbus stop, we both giggled and woo-woo’d back and forth.
The bus stop conjured up talk about the coming school year and out of nowhere came the idea of skipping a class or two. A small thing really. I mean, it wasn’t exactly Strangers on a Train, but we would break some rules and at age 12, that was about as evil as we got.
Suddenly there was a low howl of wind that bit right through our machinations and stopped us dead in our tracks—Barbie and Ken dolls akimbo. We looked at one another and Cheryl asked fearfully, “La Llorona?”
I socked her on the arm and said, “Don’t be stupid.”
As the wind kicked up all the dirt in our vicinity, something in the corner of my eye grabbed my attention. It was hard to see, but there—on the other side of the barren arroyo, arms outstretched, her mouth forming an O—was a woman in a dirty white nightdress.
We couldn’t move, but we held on to each other, squinting into a haze of dust that held what would surely be our deaths. Finally I felt Cheryl’s fingernails digging into my arm.
“Ow, dang it!” I sputtered and turned to look at her.
“Who’s stupid?” she squeaked, as she pushed me and yelled, “Run!”
Hearts and imaginations pounding toward home, we didn’t speak of the incident again until many years later at a high school reunion—during a strange Barbie and Ken conversation.
Cheryl and I looked at each other and intoned in unison, “Eeeeee-jo, La Llorona!” I caught her eye, and we both knew we were now the gramitas with a tale to tell.
Shiver, que no?