Stories of mothers who kill their children, whether news reports, fiction, or myths and legends, awaken our primordial fear of all mothers’ power over their children. The unquestioning and unavoidable trust of an infant for the mother can be terrifying to a grown-up child who realizes that his own mother should not have been trusted with a helpless infant. According to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their own children every year in the United States. La Llorona embodies the mythos of that fear. Stories of La Llorona have passed from generation to generation, starting long before anyone wrote them down. There are slightly different versions throughout Latin America and in regions of the United States that were once part of New Spain. The details vary, but the heart of the story remains the same: a loving mother has killed her children and cries out for them in the night. This is one Mexican version.
Along the streets where canals once carried water from Lake Texcoco into ancient Tenochtitlan, a soul-chilling sound can sometimes be heard, the voice of a woman shrieking and wailing, Ay! Mis hijos! ¿ Donde están mis hijos? (My children! Where are my children?) Some say they have seen a woman in white floating along those streets. She is La Llorona, the Wailing Woman. Some say she is the soul of indigenous Mexico, lamenting the loss of her descendants to European assimilation. Others tell a horrifying story of a woman whose spirit cannot rest because, in a moment of rage, she did the unthinkable.
A beautiful Aztec woman and a handsome aristocrat, a conquistador, loved each other. The Spaniard was not bold enough to make her his wife, but they had three children together. She waited eagerly for his visits, but one day he stopped coming. The young mother learned her beloved conquistador had returned from Spain with an aristocratic Spanish wife. He loved his Aztec concubine, but he had agreed to an arranged marriage so he could secure his fortunes and his status in the New Spain’s colonial society.
The Aztec woman, devastated by her lover’s marriage, took their three children to one of the canals and drowned them. Realizing too late what she had done, she jumped in and drowned herself.
They say she still walks the streets where the canals used to flow, wailing eternally for her lost children through the dark windy nights.
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