The Legend Behind ‘The Curse of La Llorona’

The infamous legend of La Llorona, a tale that has terrified many generations of children, has made it to the silver screen once again in The Curse of La Llorona. Directed by Michael Chaves, the film is actually the sixth addition to The Conjuring series. The movie revolves around a young mother who must fight to save her children from an evil entity that is trying to take them away. 

The story of the wailing woman is all too familiar among most horror junkies. If by some chance you’re interested in seeing The Curse of La Llorona and aren’t familiar with the Mexican folklore surrounding it, learning more about the disturbing legend is more than worth the nightmares that might come out of it. So, read at your own risk.

Kevin Dauberman, James Wan, Emile Gladstone and Richard Brener
Kevin Dauberman, James Wan, Emile Gladstone, and Richard Brener | Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

The tale of La Llorona 

There are many renditions of the La Llorona story, but the story described here is a general summary of all the legends put together. 

In a rural Mexican village, there lived a young woman named Maria. She was swept off her feet by a wealthy nobleman and married into his wealthy family. As time went on, Maria gave birth to two boys. Meanwhile, her husband was always traveling and rarely came home to be with her. On the rare occasion that he did come home, he only spent time with the children. It became evident to Maria that her husband had fallen out of love with her. 

One day, Maria’s husband returned to the village with a new, younger woman and bid farewell to his old family. In a blind fury, Maria took her two sons to a nearby river and drowned them. When she realized the horror of what she had done and couldn’t recover the bodies of her children, she took her own life. Her body was found days later on the riverbank. 

Maria was denied entrance into heaven until she recovers her dead children. Trapped in between the realm of the living and the afterlife, Maria is doomed to wander the Earth in search of her sons. She can be heard crying out, “Ay, mis hijos!” which translates to “Oh, my children!” Her sobs can be heard at a distance when she is close and they can be heard nearby when she is far away. When one hears the cries of La Llorona, the wailing woman, they are supposed to run in the opposite direction to avoid death and misfortune. 

Mexican folklore claims that she wanders the riverbanks wearing a white or black gown with a veil, crying out for her sons. La Llorona kidnaps children late at night, having mistaken them for her own children, and drowns them in the same river. Those who hear the cries of La Llorona are marked for death. 

Tristan May, James Wan and Patricia Velasquez
Tristan May, James Wan, and Patricia Velasquez | Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

A nightmare for parents and children alike 

The tale of La Llorona is often told to children to discourage them from wandering around late at night. The legend is well-known throughout Latin America although there are a few different versions. In one rendition, La Llorona is referred to as La Malinche, a mistress of conquistador Hernan Cortes. When Cortes abandons her, she takes vengeance on the indigenous people of Latin America. 

In another rendition, a sonnet by Manuel Carpio, La Llorona is the ghost of a woman who was murdered by her husband. There have been several film adaptations of the legend, including Guillermo del Toro’s film Mama. The most recent adaptation, The Curse of La Llorona premiered in the late spring of 2019. 

La Llorona in Hollywood

Produced by James Wan, The Curse of La Llorona received mixed reviews from critics and audiences. The real experience seemed to come from production as director Michael Chaves recounts supernatural occurrences taking place on set. 

“I think she was there just making sure we were doing right by her,” said actress Patricia Velasquez in an interview with the Los Angeles Times

The film stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, and Patricia Velásquez.