I know there is another version of La Llorona on this site, but I would like to give a clearer version of it, and also a true story that happened to my mother and her family when she was about 5 or 6.
First of all, almost every person of Mexican heritage knows this legend or something similar and older people use it to scare children into behaving or ELSE! The version that I and most of my friends know is that a long time ago, there was a woman with a son and daughter whose husband had abandoned her. Desperate, poor, and hungry (and I'm sure a little mentally unstable) the woman decided that her children would be better off with God. So she took them to the edge of the river (if your town has a river, that's probably the river they're talking about in the story) and dropped them in and they drowned. Realizing what she had done, and unable to save her children, she herself jumped in and drowned. Now they say that at night you can hear her sobbing and wailing for her children: "Mis niños...donde están mis niños?" (my children where are my children!).
In my small town where I'm from the Nueces River runs through it and another small stream called Espantosa Lake, Espantosa means ghosts or phantoms. So of course, like in many urban legends, the story took place in my town.
As a child, our older relatives would always make us behave by telling us that La Llorana was going to get us if we didn't behave...very scary as a kid! Now on to my mom's story.
My mom is pretty sensible and besides this, nothing else has ever happened to her (or me either, thank God!). Back in the early sixties when she was young, her paternal grandmother died. It was early in the morning before sunrise and everyone was up because they had just heard that she had died. Suddenly, out of nowhere my mom says that they heard a loud sobbing coming from outside. She has never been able to describe it, she says it sounded like you know, someone who just lost someone, a very loud sobbing. Something between a scream and a wail. This went on not even for a minute. Everyone looked at each other in the living room and my grandmother even thought it could be the neighbors down the street, a brother and his two sisters, but when they asked them later they too had heard it but it was not them. They were also unable to locate where the noise came from. It was eventually dismissed as someone else in the neighborhood. So who knows? Growing up with a legend like that, and then hearing that story from my mom...maybe she is out there trying to replace her children.
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