In the rich tapestry of Latin American oral tradition, the Colombian legend of The Crying Woman ”La Llorona” holds a significant place. This haunting tale varies across different regions, each version shaped by its unique geographic context.
Origins of the The Crying Woman
The Crying Woman is often depicted as the tormented spirit of a woman with long hair and a white dress. She typically appears at night, often by riverbanks, calling out with sorrowful cries and terrifying wails for her lost children.
The roots of this legend trace back to the colonial era, yet the presence of ghostly beings weeping by rivers has ties to the pre-Hispanic mythology of indigenous peoples. The fusion of these cultural influences gave rise to the chilling legend we know today.
Innocent victim or vengeful spirit?
While similarities exist in various versions of the tale, it’s notable that the Mesoamerican The Crying Woman is punished for murdering her children, whereas in some South American renditions, her children are kidnapped and slain by others, portraying her as an innocent victim of external evil, condemned to eternal weeping.
In the Colombian tradition, The Crying Woman is portrayed as the wandering ghost of a woman carrying a child, crying along the paths. Her face remains unseen, and she weeps out of shame and remorse for her actions against her family. Witnesses describe her as a woman with reddish eyes, wearing a dirty and tattered white dress, cradling what appears to be a newborn. Though she doesn’t harm people, her loud cries and chilling laments strike terror.
She appears in desolate places from 8 PM to 5 AM, favoring creeks, lagoons, and deep puddles, where the splashing and haunting cries echo. The Crying Woman targets unfaithful men, the wicked, the intoxicated, and those with malicious intentions. Legend has it that if someone offers to carry her child, they take on the curse, becoming the new The Crying Woman.
The ghostly journey in war-torn times
The legend recounts a specific event during the Colombian civil war, involving President Jose Ignacio de Marquez and the territorial disputes with Ecuadorian President Juan Jose Flores. In the town of Villa de las Palmas or Purificación, a General Command was established, gathering people from various parts of the country.
One captain, known for his questionable conduct and seeking war as a diversion from his criminal past, settled in the town with his wife. However, his dedication to war led him to leave his wife behind to continue the fight. The abandoned wife, a skilled seamstress, survived by practicing her craft.
Rumors spread of the captain’s death, and the grieving widow mourned rigorously for a year until a soldier, part of a battalion heading south, appeared in the town. Convinced of her husband’s demise, she found solace in this new love and became intimate with him. However, when the soldier departed, she was once again left in solitude, poverty, and tears.
This affair left an indelible mark on the troubled woman, as she soon discovered she was pregnant. As the nine months passed, with no news of her beloved, her longing turned bittersweet.
On the day the seamstress gave birth to a frail and pale child, a battalion returned from the south. The small, silent, and poor dwelling resonated with the cries of the newborn. Yet, that evening, a neighbor rushed to her house, revealing that her husband, the captain, was alive, having been seen among the troops arriving at the camp.