This is from my Zermeño Crossculturing Column, every Wednesday, in our local newspaper, the Hayward Daily Review, of November 3, 2004.
My good friend, Ramón Parada, community activist, counselor and Puente Project coordinator at Chabot College, told me to tell you about La Llorona (The Wailing/Weeping Woman). Here it is.
What a beautiful, yet sad and tragic legend! It started in México, back in the early Colonial period.
This legend, which has seen some modifications, is about a beautiful woman who falls in love with a rich Spaniard. They wed, they have children, some say two, others say, four, whom he loves dearly, more than their mother. Unfortunately, he grows tired of her, and begins to want to marry within his own class. Anyway, as is the case in love tragedies, eventually he does begin seeing a young Spanish señorita. The future La Llorona, whose name might have been María, but no one knows, vows revenge.
One day, by the river, some say the Río Grande, others say it happened near México City, and others say, even further south, near Oaxaca (such is the liquid life of legends), while she is out walking with their children, he rides by with the señorita at his side.
In a fit of jealous rage, she throws their children, one by one, into the river. They are carried away by the current and drown. She immediately realizes what she had done and attempts to save them, but it is too late.
There are three variations of what happens next. She either jumps into the river after them and drowns, or she simply dies from shock after she realizes her deed, or, the one I prefer, she begins to wander aimlessly, looking for her children, having lost her mind.
This is when the wailing woman begins to scare people, and kids, in particular. She wanders, day and night, without eating, in the same white dress, without any personal care, wailing, 'Where are my children? My children!' (¿dónde están mis hijos? Mis hiiiiiiijos...).
Eventually, this version goes, when she can take it no longer, she either throws herself into the river, or dies at the very bank were she threw her children in. Yes, she does come back, as a spirit, a ghost, a fantasma, to give us shivers, and keep us in line. What a story!
Smart parents, of course, began taking advantage of this. They began circulating stories of La Llorona taking children with her. That became a warning to the young children so that they would not wander too far away from home. My mother would tell my sister and I that same thing, while living near downtown Guadalajara! Yes, we were scared. I believe I did see her once, and that is why I was, and am, such a good kid.
Wanting more of La Llorona, I went over to Discoteca Lluvia, on A St., to look for some Llorona music. Josefina Yassin, who runs the store with her husband, told me that her favorite rendition could be found in the 'Frida' movie soundtrack, which was a hot seller when the movie came out a while back. It is sung by Chavela Vargas, who, playing death in the movie, wails and weeps out..."Yo soy como el chile verde, Llorona, picante pero sabroso (I am like the green pepper, Weeping Woman, spicy but delicious)...Wow!
Like the legend itself, this song is very spiritual, very emotional, straight from heart to heart. It is a treat. Go listen to it and live the legend of La Llorona.
I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org , 510.732.2746 or at www.zermeno.com. Hayward on! Gracias mil.
Estela Arandas, from Hayward, and whose aunt Juanita, who she used to visit, actually lived on Medrano St. in Guadalajara -- were we used to live when we were young, and had a small grocery store in the corner -- sent me this, on December 4, 2004, regarding La Llorona experience.
I enjoy reading your articles in the paper. This last one on piñatas especially. Well as a child visiting my cousins in Guadalajara, who lived on Calle Medrano (I know it's a long street -- I think it was something like, Medrano 1166, I don't remember the store's name, and the year was something like 1966, 67 , 68.) I remember going to the corner store with them. This brought back lots of memories, good and bad.
The good memories are of just playing with all the kids in the neighborhood, the bad one, remembering that in the house on la Calle Medrano I had most terrifying experience as a child. One night I remember just being asleep, but suddenly waking up to a presence at the edge of my bed. I was trembling of fear and kept pinching myself to make sure I was awake. This presence spoke to me telling me "not to tell anyone about his presence being there, or he would come back to get me". As a Mexican child growing up hearing about los espantos, la llorona, and el jinete sin cabeza, I was sure it had to be one of them! The next morning mi Tia Juanita was yelling at the top of her lungs "who had left the front door wide open". I didn't say a thing! All I know, that day I just wanted to go back to my grandmother's house in Tala. I think back and wonder it had to be some guy who broke into the house to steal, although nothing was stolen. I've only told a few people about this. I now live in Hayward, across the street from Lone Tree Cemetary and have never felt anything strange.
Well, Señor Zermeño I look forward to reading your next article. Have a good life.
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