La Llorona


This is the most well-known and well-feared in all of Mexico. It’s been passed down from one generation to another and there’s even some people who claim they’ve caught her on film. The origin date of this particular legend is unknown, but what is certain is that it’ll make the hairs on the back of your head stand on end. This is the story of La Llorona (The Wailer), a wandering soul that roams the streets at night weeping and wailing in sorrow. Her heartrending wails shake the windows of every house, her moaning so full of sorrow that it makes dogs howl and the chill of her pain freezes the streets and the souls of all who hear them.

La Llorona is the ghost of a woman condemned to walk the earth for all eternity as a punishment for murdering her children. There are many versions of this story, but all of them share the same tragic end. In some states it’s the story of a woman from a modest family that fell madly in love with a handsome and wealthy Spaniard who, after finding out she’s so obsessed with him, seduces her so he can take her to bed but as soon as he found out she’s pregnant he vanished without a trace. Others say that it’s the Malinche, the woman who served as an interpreter for Hernán Cortés. Said woman fell in love with him but was cast aside when she became pregnant. Such was her love for Cortés that she killed her new-born child just so he would stay with her. Yet another version says a young woman from a wealthy family got pregnant from a man from a poor family. Her parents found out and hid her so nobody could talk behind her back for having relationships out of wedlock. As soon as her child was born, the young mother was forced to drown the baby in the river and, even worse, she had to let the current drag the body away so she wouldn’t have to bury him and raise suspicion.

Losing a son is an experience no mother wants to go through, but killing them yourself is a whole other can of worms. The Weeping Woman wanders at night weeping and wailing her eternal suffering. Legend says she always cries “Ay, mis hijos!” (Oh, my children!), and many say it’s true. Others say it’s just a cry so cold and creepy it freezes you completely, rendering you immobile. Some others have seen her and describe her as a pale woman with long, straight black hair dressed in white with a face distorted into a perpetual expression of sorrow.

You might not believe me, but maybe you’ll believe the video in this link:


The Catrina

la Catrina

If there’s something you can be sure of about us Mexicans is that we’re not afraid of death, but that doesn’t mean we’re all reckless and pulling stunts that endanger our lives all the time. No, we just see her and embrace her like an old friend that’s been waiting for us.

Death for us is not a “goodbye” but a “farewell, see you later”. We get sad when someone close to us dies and we often say “the thin one took them” but nevertheless we know that someday we’ll see them again, we even know that once a year those who are gone come to visit us.

You’ve probably seen her more than once: the Calavera Catrina (The Elegant Skull), the skeleton wearing elegant dresses and a big hat adorned with feathers. She’s our most famous representation of death, but she wasn’t born that way. While this is not exactly a legend, its existence dates several decades back and is linked to so many things it could very well pass for one.

The creator of the Catrina is José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican political caricaturist (or a “monero (doodler)” as we call them colloquially) famous for always including skeletons in his socio-political critical caricatures. He drew them to allude to the critical social situation in times of Porfirio Díaz’s government. Back in those times, though, she wasn’t called Catrina, but “La Calavera Garbancera”.

In times of Díaz’s government those that denied their indigenous origins, claiming to have European ascent, were called “garbanceros” (Chickpea carriers). These claims were ridiculous since given their physical features and skin tone it was fairly obvious they were not even remotely European. Years later, the famous muralist Diego Rivera painted the Calavera Garbancera in his mural painting “Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central”. It was the first time the famous skeleton made its appearance dressed up as a high society woman and it was Rivera himself who dubbed her the “Catrina”.

Since then, the famous caricature’s been present in our lives and has been included in every celebration of Día de Muertos turning her (almost) into the main protagonist of the famous date.

There’s no legend as such about the Catrina, but it’s always nice knowing where she comes from and more now than ever, considering her now worldwide fame, as well as the latest fashion of wearing face paint depicting one of our most famous Día de Muertos sweet treat: decorated sugar skulls.