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The legend of La Llorona. Source: Denise Rowlands / CC BY-SA 2.0

La Llorona: The Terrible Truth About Mexico's Weeping Woman

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Of all the Latin American folktales and legends, none are more prolific and well-known as that of La Llorona. Long before its latest movie incarnation, “The Curse of La Llorona” was released the haunting tale had reverberated throughout the Latino cultures for generations, along with chilling stories of eyewitness accounts. And while variations of La Llorona or “the weeping woman” can be found in cultures around the world, there is no question that the origins of the Latin American version, lies in the Mexican culture.

Mexican Origins of La Llorona

Three of the most popular Mexican versions of La Llorona are;

1. A woman of indigenous origin is so grief-stricken and enraged by her husband’s infidelity, she commits murder/suicide; vengefully killing their offspring by n them, and is immediately so grief-stricken, commits suicide alongside her children in the water.

2. The grieving woman is the spirit of one or more Aztec Goddesses, like Chihuacoatl, who first appeared weeping, perhaps as one of the omens foretelling the arrival of the Spaniards and their subsequent slaughter and continues to weep to this day.

3. The grieving woman is actually Doña Marina, better known as La Malinche, Hernan Cortés’ lover and interpreter, considered a traitor to the Mexica (and the origin of the Spanish term  malinchismo). Speculation suggests that she drowned her children born from Cortes in revenge for his betrayal with a Spanish woman.

But do these origin stories truly convey what is behind the actual supernatural experiences?

While these and other theories are attempts at explaining what is behind the very similar ghostly encounters spanning hundreds of years, they are also the product of centuries of re-telling stories that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Therefore, it’s difficult to determine where actual experiences leave off and errors in perception and tales of the imagination begin.

With the story of La Llorona, tales of the imagination begin. (Fergregory / Adobe)

With the story of La Llorona, tales of the imagination begin. ( Fergregory / Adobe)

However, with actual encounters and eyewitness accounts having occurred throughout history, right-up to present-day, La Llorona takes-on a more tangible form than mere folktale and legend and therefore should really be regarded more as a phenomenon, similar to that of UFOs and miracles of divine intervention.

Enrolling the Experts

In seeking the ultimate authority on La Llorona, I found that cultural and academic experts in both Mexico and the U.S. all conveyed the same old anecdotal information, offering no new insights, especially in regard to actual experiences. However, what they did do was point me in the direction of one professional who is regarded as the world’s foremost expert on La Llorona, that being preeminent supernatural and paranormal investigator/researcher Christopher Chacon.

In addition to being a world renowned Parapsychologist and Anomalist, Chacon is one of the world’s top authorities on all paranormal and supernatural phenomena, as well as supernatural occult practices; from arcane ancient sorcery and magick to present-day witchcraft in every corner of the world, including all brujeria practices and supernatural traditions throughout Mesoamerica.

Chacon has additionally participated on innumerous international expeditions dealing with revelatory new supernatural and occult discoveries that redefine our previous understandings of these practices and beliefs.

Chacon’s research and investigatory background spans nearly forty years and thousands of cases, dealing with the most extraordinary supernatural and paranormal incidents from around the world, including; possessions, hauntings and poltergeists, UFOs and alien abductions and creature attacks, just to name a few.

Specializing in some of the most volatile phenomena and situations imaginable, he is frequently utilized to confidentially deal with circumstances that are beyond the scope of any traditional phenomena, from religious and academic institutions to law enforcement, from private corporations to government agencies.

I soon discovered that I was referred to Chacon not just because of his unparalleled expertise on supernatural and paranormal phenomena, but as it turns out, Chacon is the only scientific researcher to have conducted an in-depth investigation of the La Llorona legend and phenomenon.

One of the first things that Chacon pointed out to me was the fact that actual encounters with La Llorona are few and far between, especially compared to the number of Latinos who have heard of and/or shared the story with others. “The percentage difference is massive, when considering the vast number of Latinos over hundreds of generations that are familiar with the legend and folktale of La Llorona, in comparison to the minuscule number that have actually encountered her”, stated Chacon. Chacon adds that La Llorona doesn’t have exclusivity on its modus operandi:

“I have dealt with countless phenomena that may have all the earmarks and key elements of a La Llorona encounter, (a female apparition/spirit, seemingly grieving/crying, malevolent actions toward children, etc.), but turned out to be an entirely different supernatural manifestation. So, it is crucial not to jump to conclusions when assessing phenomena, no matter how certain we are, and be mindful of the potential unlimited possibilities that always exists.”

The tale of La Llorona includes malevolent actions toward children. (Petro / Adobe)

The tale of La Llorona includes malevolent actions toward children. (Petro / Adobe)

But this would not by any means be the first legend or myth that Chacon has chased-down to research and investigate. He has spoken to multiple professionals from around the world that are familiar with several of Chacon’s past research/investigations and countless expeditions exploring some of the most well-known legendary beings, places and phenomena in supernatural mythology. So, he would be more than familiar with navigating through the morass of baseless stories, hoaxes and unverifiable accounts.

Analyzing Experience of the La Llorona Phenomenon

Chacon’s research/investigation into La Llorona entailed two primary phases:

  • Investigation/Analysis of Actual Experiences and their Locations/Circumstances
  • Wide-Array Historical Research (Historiography Assessment, Anthropological, etc.)

Chacon’s investigation of actual experiences required him to confidentially track-down and sort through thousands of alleged encounters of La Llorona and select only the most credible that also met the criteria for further scientific assessment.

Over 2,500 subjects (eyewitnesses) were selected, from children to the elderly, from all walks of Mexican life. Once a mutual agreement of confidentially was established, each eyewitness was thoroughly interviewed and then underwent a battery of physiological and psychological tests. Chacon utilizes a specialized technique of interviewing that allows for a much more detailed recounting of experienced events.

Over 2,500 eyewitnesses of La Llorona were interviewed, to recount what they encountered. (captblack76 / Adobe)

Over 2,500 eyewitnesses of La Llorona were interviewed, to recount what they encountered. (captblack76 / Adobe)

Additionally, the location where each encounter took place was also analyzed, assessing the environmental conditions and circumstances surrounding each experience. Chacon pointed out,

“The ideal situation (and phenomenon) to investigate and assess are those that are ongoing. The majority of these experiences took place in the recent past, which makes an assessment of each situation far more challenging, placing a much greater emphasis on the interviewing process. This also placed a greater importance on the reconstruction process of past events which not only assisted in ruling-out rational explanations, but also helped in collecting any additional information that might shed further light on the true nature of the experience/phenomenon.”

Chacon described how a significant number of eyewitnesses were still deeply affected, struggling emotionally when attempting to revisit the experience, and how most of the eyewitnesses also felt some degree of shame, noting how an unspoken stigma is attached to those that have these type of supernatural experiences.

Chacon determined that some 1,750 of the experiences were explainable and not in any way paranormal, including those experiences that reportedly involved a terrifying La Llorona, turning out to be nothing of the sort. However, another 750 or so of the experiences were in-fact the result of real phenomena, though 643 of those were determined by Chacon to be an entirely different phenomena altogether and were being misinterpreted as La Llorona. In the last remaining 107 experiences, Chacon noted some truly curious findings:

“While the 107 experiences were consistent with the visual/sensory experience of La Llorona, there were no indications of any malevolence, animosity or malice toward the children at the center of each encounter, but rather only benevolence, warmth, compassion and even protective, nurturing characteristics.”

This is obviously baffling as these findings are in complete contrast to what has been passed-down about the legend/folktale through the ages. To reiterate, the vicious, terrifyingly evil La Llorona that supposedly hunts children, appears to be a fallacy.

La Llorona Case Studies

While all of the subjects that participated in Chacon’s investigation/research did so confidentially, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to speak with three of the eyewitnesses (families) that participated:

Mexico City
Over the course of a few weeks, an extended family of nine that began experiencing La Llorona at first with glimpses of her shadow always around the toddler’s bedroom, soon accompanied by the distant sound of weeping. A priest was brought in to bless the home, but that didn’t stop the manifestations from getting more prevalent. When La Llorona began taking on a physical form as an apparition and moving chairs and doors, a small baby-camera captured the child’s blanket moving late one night as if being tucked-in.

In Mexico City La Llorona began haunting a toddler’s bedroom. (Chainat / Adobe)

In Mexico City La Llorona began haunting a toddler’s bedroom. ( Chainat / Adobe)

The events brought the parents to take their child to a doctor to ensure their child was fine, only to discover that the child was suffering from a medical condition that if gone untreated could have been fatal. The manifestations stopped once the child had been taken to the doctor.

Over the course of a couple weeks, the mother, father and a teenage son began seeing ghostly glimpses of the La Llorona apparition near the two young children in the family, though the children themselves could not see it. Soon the chilling sounds of the weeping La Llorona were also heard in the middle of the night and at random times, disturbing everyone but the children, who could not hear it.

The appearances and sounds continued to be more frequent and were even heard by extended family that had come to help. Concerned, the parents allowed their children to stay with their extended family for a while and the manifestations immediately stopped. That following weekend, a visiting cousin scheduled to stay with them for a few months had arrived and was told of the La Llorona encounters. A day before their children were to return home, law enforcement arrived to arrest the cousin who was sought for multiple child abuse charges.

A mother and her children were staying with her sister and her family for an extended time and had moved into a rear room of the older house. Various family members began hearing strange sounds at night; footsteps, cabinets and doors opening closing and muffled crying. At random times of the day and night, the muffled crying was accompanied by the faint apparition of La Llorona that would manifest only in brief glimpses. The family asked a priest to come bless the home, but the ghostly occurrences continued.

One night the mother of the children awoke to see one of her children talking with what appeared to be the shadow of La Llorona near her bed. The shocking incident brought the child to tell her mother that the nice lady had asked them to sleep in the front room and not the bedroom they are currently in. Though the mother decided to try and find a new place to stay, having nowhere to go immediately, she moved her children out of the back bedroom and into the house’s front living-room. Two evenings later, a thunderous cracking was heard, and the entire household awoke to find that the back bedroom’s walls and ceiling had collapsed entirely down into a type of sinkhole beneath the rear-end of the house.

The Organic Life of a Legend

Turning his focus on the theoretical origins of La Llorona, Chacon emphasized the importance of understanding how legends, folktales and myths are created and perpetuated in order to put these long established stories and interpretations into perspective.

“Over time, folktales, legends and stories-in-general can seem to take-on a life all their own, changing in a number of ways, and in the process inadvertently influencing future interpretations” states Chacon.

As with his investigations of eyewitness accounts, Chacon conducted the research of the La Llorona legend with an unbiased, objective approach, taking all possibilities into account before reaching any type of conclusion.

Chacon continues, “While the story of La Llorona may at first seem clear and straight-forward, an in-depth exploration of it and its origins reveal a much more ambiguous narrative. Upon assessing the origins and timeline of the folktale, it is a good example of how sociological dynamics and historical and cultural conflation can affect information and first and secondhand accounts.”

Chacon went on to describe how factual events, experiences and stories in history can go through a “metamorphosis” of sorts. He states that the majority of legends and myths start with an experience or incident, whether real or imaginary, that is so moving that all who hear it are compelled to further share it. And with each re-telling over years and years, different versions emerge in order to fill gaps and inconsistencies in the telling.

Chacon describes how the natural revising of the story is a product of psychological and sociological factors that are constantly at work. The changing that occurs, sometimes small, sometimes hugely significant, is a product of the human mind’s natural tendencies. Changes to the story will occur to help remember things or forget things, exaggerate things or minimize things, and even the natural tendency to simplify a story and cutout entire elements even if they might be key to the story.

Historic Context

Chacon’s wide-array research into the origin of La Llorona first focused on the traditional narrative we are most familiar with, analyzing all existing historical data and information, additionally assessing the veracity, integrity and credibility of any sources/origins. He then conducted a wide-sweeping information collection from a variety of conventional and unconventional sources (scouring trading company, religious, colonial, business, mining, manufacturing, military/army, artistic/museum, archives and records, as well as a variety of oral histories from brujeria/curandera practicing families, etc.).

Others have attempted to explain the origin of La Llorona by speculating that she is the product of beliefs stemming from ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures, like the Aztec goddesses Ciuaciatl and Chalchiuhtlicue, however Chacon has found this is not the case:

“I have dealt with multiple clients/cases where the phenomena is directly related to these and other ancient Aztec and Mayan beings/entities and while it is possible for misinterpretations to occur, it is highly unlikely that these beings or phenomena relating to them were mistaken for La Llorona. Additionally, my La Llorona research/investigation found no indication whatsoever to suggest any connection between La Llorona and any Mesoamerican ancient cultural beings/entities or even hints of any ancient civilization.”

In an attempt to explain the origin of La Llorona Aztec goddesses Chalchiuhtlicue has been referenced. (Giggette / Public Domain)

In an attempt to explain the origin of La Llorona Aztec goddesses Chalchiuhtlicue has been referenced. (Giggette / Public Domain)

In light of his research/investigation, Chacon points to a clear example of conflation when it is suggested that La Llorona is in anyway associated with these ancient beings/entities. Conflation is when two or more concepts, ideas, traditions, sets of information or descriptions are fused, merged, mixed or combined together into one, often producing errors, fallacies and misunderstandings.

La Llorona as a Scapegoat?

The information Chacon discovered from multiple sources strongly suggests an alternative version of the La Llorona narrative:

In a malicious act of spite and vengeance, an abusive unscrupulous father, NOT the mother, drowns their children. When the mother realizes this, she first attempts to save the drowned children, then in a grief-stricken state, commits suicide alongside them. Conspiring to conceal the event and use it to his benefit, the father fabricated the narrative that the mother committed the horrific multiple-murder/suicide.”

“This narrative makes clearer sense in contrast to the previous more-popular narrative that had no reliable sources. The distorted erroneous story fabricated by the father was embraced without question in that era and quickly propagated throughout Mexico over generations assisted by marianismo and machismo” states Chacon.

Primarily rooted in the Catholicism brought over by the Spanish conquest, “marianismo” is an aspect of the female gender role that inherently expected all females to take-on wholesome, chaste, even virginal characteristics in all aspects of life and can be cause for ostracization and persecution if not complied. “Machismo”, also introduced via the Spanish conquest, often dictates men’s superiority and control over women in every aspect of life, perpetuating a male-dominant culture.

Chacon’s findings from his in-depth investigation/analysis of eyewitness experiences and from his wide-array historical research, each independently support the hypothesis that the traditional La Llorona narrative is incorrect, and together culminate to reveal the true and accurate narrative.

There is support that the traditional La Llorona narrative is incorrect and an abusive unscrupulous father, NOT the mother, drowns their children. (alexey_arz / Adobe)

There is support that the traditional La Llorona narrative is incorrect and an abusive unscrupulous father, NOT the mother, drowns their children. (alexey_arz / Adobe)

“This newly discovered narrative more closely coincides with the eyewitness experiences documented” Chacon confirms. As much of a revelation this is, Chacon reminds us that there is always an unknown factor, “Even if we can continue to scientifically document more first-hand experiences and continue to discover additional historical evidence to further support the origin of La Llorona, there will always be a variable to this phenomenon and story that will elude us.”

The True Curse of Legends

Intriguing as it is to discover these realizations about a legend as enduring as La Llorona, if one does the research, you might be surprised to find out there are countless other folktales and legends, far more substantial, that are misinterpreted and misunderstood, yet continue to thrive.

The idea that Christopher Columbus’ voyage was to prove the world wasn’t flat or that he was the one to discover the Americas; that George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree; that the Salem witch trials burned people at the stake; or even that Jesus Christ was born on December 25 th; all inaccurate in one way or another.

Jesus Christ, for example is estimated by scholars and theologians to be born sometime between the spring and fall. Chacon adds to this, the innumerous misconceptions that surround supernatural and paranormal phenomena, “Occurring on a global scale, the misinterpretation and misidentification of phenomena is the most prevalent inaccuracy, next to the misunderstandings and misconceptions of the mechanics and workings of phenomena itself. In every culture around the world, there are phenomena believed to be something when in-fact it is not, or a phenomenon that reacts and behaves a specific way when it does not. Many of these misconceptions and fallacies are deeply rooted in beliefs, some over many generations, and are extremely difficult to modify or inform otherwise, especially in regard to such elusive topics.”

It goes without saying that these thought-provoking and incredible new perspectives on La Llorona redefine her legend in a monumental way. And now that we now know the truth about La Llorona, I’m not sure what I am more taken aback by; the discovery of her real story and intentions, or the shocking fact that this folktale my grandmother use to tell me as a child to get me to go to bed is actually a real phenomenon.

Thought-provoking and incredible new perspectives on La Llorona redefine her legend in a monumental way. (Lario Tus / Adobe)

Thought-provoking and incredible new perspectives on La Llorona redefine her legend in a monumental way. (Lario Tus / Adobe)

Top image: The legend of La Llorona. Source: Denise Rowlands / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Robert Lopez



I had never heard of this legend. Thank you for an informative and interesting article

Robert Lopez's picture


Robert Lopez is a former teacher, novice art curator and amateur cultural anthropologist, chasing down very select stories as a writer/journalist thanks to his very understanding and patient family.

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