Once, in a small village atop a steep gorge, nestled in the deep woods of Guatemala, lived a woman so beautiful that she was thought to be the direct descendant of a goddess.
Her hair, thick and dark as night, reached her heels and seemed to shine with the moonlight. Her eyes radiated all the joy of the world, and her smile was as luminous and warm as the sun on a lazy day. Her character was a reflection of her beautify. Good natured and kind, she seemed to find humor in all of life’s wonders. She was beloved by the village and coveted by many who wished to marry.
Her heart, however, belonged to a young farmer who had a tendency to rescue and heal all of the gods’ creatures. Her heart and his, both good and full of love for all, were indeed a match. Eventually, the two married and had a daughter whose spirit was as delightful as her parents. She had her mother’s beauty and her father’s talent with animals. They were a happy family and the pride of the village. Until the day the storm hit.
In hindsight, the villagers would say they should’ve known that they were in the wake of danger. Thick, ominous clouds had loomed on the horizon for weeks, each day growing thicker and darker. The low rumbling of thunder shook the earth, and the winds bent the trees as if in warning. But the villagers, who had always been protected by the forest from the windstorms and the river by the high cliffs, stayed in their homes, not knowing to fear nature’s wrath. By the time the rain began to fall, it was too late.
The asperity of the storm uprooted the trees, which seemed to scream when torn from the earth. The deluge of the river crept into the fields endangering the livestock.
The women’s husband, always the caretaker, swept into action–determined to rescue all the village animals. But his actions would prevail at the greatest cost. Just as he’d brought the smallest foal to safety, the river surged enveloping the man so quickly that even the strongest men couldn’t pull him from current’s vehement grip. By the time the water quieted, it was too late.
Days later, the woman found his lifeless body dropped over a log. Pale. Cold. Empty. It’s said her shrill scream was heard for miles and was so deafening and full of sorrow that even the trees wept with grief. She returned home, broken hearted.
Her hair turned white and wispy like heaven’s clouds. The joy that once shone from her eyes dissipated into a dark and soulless gloom and the warmth that once radiated from her smile became a rare flicker reserved for her daughter, who quickly became her life’s devotion.
From that day forward, the woman lived solely for her daughter–determined to protect her from her husband’s fate. But as life would have it, her efforts would be in vain.
The two became an inseparable pair and soon settled into a comfortable routine. Each day, rain or shine, the woman would walk her daughter to and from school. They would stop by a food stand for coffee and a tortilla in the morning and a tamale after school. It was during these walks that the woman almost appeared as her old self. Occasionally her hair would glisten, and her eyes would briefly radiate joy as her daughter gleefully recounted her daily adventures and spun around in circles, and chased after forest creatures, hands spread wide like children at play often do.
One day, during their walk home, a heavy rain began to fall. The darkness of night had already settled in and her daughter, fascinated by the moon’s reflection in the growing puddles, let go of her mother’s hand and ran jumping into a puddle after puddle, splashing water with felicity. Her mother, filled with unease, struggled to keep up. As the night grew darker, the rain became stronger and morphed into a sheet of water so thick that the woman could barely see her daughter. Anxious, she called to her daughter to stop. In that very moment, as the daughter looked back at the woman, she slipped and slid down the embankment and over the cliff. Horrified, the woman reached out desperately trying to clasp her daughter’s outreached hand, but it was too wet, and the squalling wind chose that moment to rise and pull the daughter down with it.
The roaring storm drowned the woman’s scream and her sanity. When the storm was over, the village set out in search of the daughter. From the beginning, there was little hope of finding her. The cliff from which she’d fallen was too high for anyone to have survived. The river beneath it roared with so much fury that even the deer stayed clear of it. There was no way she could’ve survived the fall. The villagers knew it. Most thought that the river had carried her to the ocean or that she was buried somewhere in the forest.
After months of searching, the villagers settled back into life and tried desperately to console the woman. But without a body, the woman would not accept her daughter’s death. When the villagers called off the search, the woman became engulfed in so much rage and despair that it erased her beauty. Some say her face became that of a horses head. Others that it became that of a skinless skull, but the truth will never be known. Since that day no one has survived a glimpse of the woman’s face. It had become so frightful, that the woman draped her long thick locks over her face to cover it’s horror. Those who have dared to part her hair from her face have fallen dead in their tracks–their faces frozen in fear.
From that grief-stricken day, the woman, now know as La Llorrona or the Crying Lady, has roamed the earth weeping and in search of her daughter. To this day, in the deep woods of Guatemala, you can hear her cries. Like the howling of wolves breaking the stillness of the night, her cries are heard through the rustling of the leaves and carried by the slightest breeze into the darkest crevice of every parent’s heart.
A shuddering fear runs through their bodies when they hear her cry, for only those that hear her howling pain know the true depth of her sorrow and despair. Only they know the true risk to their children’s lives, the length to which she’ll go to to find or replace her daughter, and the fatal consequences the can arise from a child’s disobedience.