“La Llorona” 500 years of Mexico history

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Archaeologist assures that the legend is of pre-Hispanic origin and is related to the omens of the Spanish conquest

MEXICO. How many times have you been scared when you heard “Oh, my children!” Well, that lament is attributed to La Llorona, a female being who would have murdered her children, but the story is not new, because according to historical sources, it has been present since Mesoamerican times and would have been part of the omens they saw. the Mexica prior to the fall of Tenochtitlán.

The archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma posed the question: “Is the legend of La Llorona of pre-Hispanic origin?”, To which he responded bluntly:

cihuacoatl leyenda de la llorona

“The well-known story of La Llorona has its origin, in effect, in the pre-Hispanic world” and “is associated with the famous dire omens that are supposed to have occurred before the Spanish conquest and that predicted the end of the Mexica empire of Tenochtitlán.”

Among the omens are events such as a flame that appeared in the night, “ten years before the conquest, and that caused uneasiness in the people; the temple of Huitzilopochtli burned without a hand in between and the more water they poured into it to put it out, the more the fire grew hot; lightning struck the Xiuhtecutli temple, without any thunder being heard; a fire came out of the west and divided into three parts, which caused much commotion; the water of the lake boiled and flooded the houses ».

They were also made as “the capture of a species of crane with a mirror on its head, in which you could see a series of events and the appearance of deformed people with a single body and two heads who then disappeared.” However, there was one more: “A woman who walked the streets shouting pitifully.”

History of the Indies

This information was consigned by the archaeologist in an article he published in the magazine “Mexican Archeology”, and was the result of an analysis of the book “History of the Indies of New Spain and islands of the mainland”, by Fray Diego Durán. 

la Llorona prehispánica

«Fray Diego Durán relates that in the last days of his reign, Moctezuma II was saddened by a series of predictions that referred to the end of his mandate. He asked to be told about dreams and apparitions, and: ‘He commanded the same to all those who have a habit of walking at night, and that if they came across that woman who they say walks at night crying and moaning, they should ask her what it is what cries and moans … ‘”, wrote Matos Moctezuma.

Durán was not the only one, the phenomenon of La Llorona was also described in “General History of Things in New Spain”, by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, who related: 

«… Many times it was heard: a woman was crying; he was screaming at night; He was shouting loudly: “My children, we have to go far!” And sometimes he would say: “My children, where will I take you?”

The sixth omen

To these two historical sources, Matos Moctezuma added what was related in “Historia de Tlaxcala”, a book in which Diego de Muñoz Camargo indicated that La Llorona was the sixth omen and that “many times and many nights, a voice of a woman who cried loudly and said, drowning with much crying and great sobs and sighs: –O my children! We are going to lose everything. And other times he would say: –O my children, where can I take you and hide? ».

In this regard, Eduardo Matos Moctezuma said that legends are “one of the relevant expressions of popular thought, which are sometimes forged from important events. Others respond to a collective imagination that is formed over time but that did not happen in reality, as seems to be the case with some of the ‘omens’.

“However, La Llorona transcended the colonial world and still remains today in the mouth of the grandmothers who told us the story of that woman who appears and moans for her children.”

La Jornada - El estante de lo insólito

The significance of La Llorona is remarkable, as it has passed by word of mouth, from generation to generation, but it is also part of books that compile iconic legends of Mexico.

Mexico Daily Post