La Llorona and the Ghosts of Pre-Anglo America

La Llorona

La Llorona


Pre-Christian folklore with no clear origin can inspire a range of feelings.

Wonder, fear, awe…

The Green Man” of Britain is one such character – is he the spirit of nature itself?

Is he benevolent, malevolent, or terrifyingly indifferent?

Is he in, or of, the woodlands and trees, or just their protector?

Is he even part of ancient British folklore and tradition, or did he arrive with artisans from the Middle East during the Roman Empire’s time in Britain?


La Llorona“, or “The Weeping Woman” of indigenous and Spanish America is another such mystery.

No one is certain why she weeps, or whether her restless presence resides in or outside our own world.  Is she a wraith, spirit, or revenant?

Some say she is the ghost of an indigenous woman weeping for her own children, who she drowned in a fit of jealous rage and despair after discovering her Spanish lover was already married to another, more “respectable” Spanish woman, and was coldly unwilling to claim or support his “illegitimate” offspring.

La Llorona‘s instant remorse for this horrifying act caused her to cast herself into the same river as her dead children.

Others say she is in fact an Hispanic manifestation of an older Aztec goddess.

Whatever the true origins of this folklore, La Llorona has haunted generations of children in Latin America, who are warned away from rivers (and bad behaviour) with threats of being carried away by The Wailing Woman in the soaking wet white dress…


It is always strange to remember that during the presidency of George Washington, much of the present area now comprising Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas was part of New Spain rather than Anglo-America.

My own direct patrilineal ancestry comes from men who settled the Sequatchie Valley in Eastern Tennessee directly after the American Revolution, yet they are also found in historical records lurking around Spanish holdings along the Gulf Coast during the 1780s.  Were they Tories escaping “Patriot” reprisals?  Were they just ruthless speculators seeking-out cheap slaves along a largely lawless smugglers’ coast – slaves they could bring into Southern Appalachia to clear woodlands?

How many of these slaves were actually indigenous women from the Gulf Coast region?  Coushatta and Alabama women?

How many of these women identified with “La Llorona” in their hearts as they were forced to become cooks, consorts and concubines, washerwomen and weavers, shuckers of corn and carriers of water in dark hills and hollers far from home?

I always think of La Llorona when I listen to the singer Rebekah del Rio performing her haunting Spanish version of the Roy Orbison song “Crying“.

The performance in the link below is from 1995, before her song was used in the David Lynch film “Mulholland Drive“, and before Ms. del Rio had been chewed-up and spat out by the American music industry.


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