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La Llorona / The Crying Woman

Region: Latin America, Mexico

Author: Rudolfo Anaya 

Original Language: Bilingual: Spanish-English

Translator: Enríque Lamadrid 

Illustrator: Amy Córdova 

Genre: Legends; Folktales

Descriptors: Aztec gods; immortality; La Llorona; respect.

Age: 9-12 years old


New Mexican legend Rudolfo Anaya has brought an ancient Mexican tale to life with his adaptation of La Llorona. Many cultures in Latin America have a version of La Llorona that they tell their children as a way to teach respect and deference. However, Anaya’s version is rooted in Aztec legend and deviates from original stories with magical elements. The story opens with the birth of Maya, a child of the sun who will live forever. Her existence threatens the god, Señor Tiempo (father time), as everyone must age and die. A local chief priest warns Maya’s family, and they hide her away in the jungle near a volcano. Maya spends her time weaving baskets from corn husks and making friends with the animals. Señora Owl notices how lonely Maya is and tells her how she can create children from clay pots, fertile soil, and seeds. Maya creates her children Corn Maiden, Jaguar boy, and several others. Señor Tiempo eventually finds Maya and discovers that her children are also immortal. He disguises himself as a wise teacher and convinces Maya that the only way to save her children is by breaking the pots and throwing them in the river. When Maya does this, she unknowingly sacrifices her children to Señor Tiempo. Heartbroken, Maya wanders the riverside calling for her children for all eternity. Therefore, when children misbehave, or are out past curfew, parents remind their children of La Llorona lurking, ready to snatch them up. It needs to be said that this story is dark in nature. Anaya does not explicitly say it, but he alludes to the death of Maya’s children. The illustrations towards the end of the book are haunting and may be disturbing to younger children. Furthermore, this book would be best suited for children between the ages of nine and twelve. Not only is the content mature, but the language used can be complex, and the story is long for a picture book. However, any time Amy Córdova illustrates a book, it’s a treat. Her color palette and unique illustrations are artistically done. The original story can be found written in Spanish and in many New Mexico libraries’ special collections. The 2011 bilingual version, equipped with Córdova’s illustrations, can be found in print or eBook.  

More About This Book

Reviewed: print book by University of New Mexico Press (2011). 39 p.

Reviewed by: Raquel Martinez 

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