The “Wicked” Women Of Mexico
By Samantha Ray
Everywhere in Mexico one hears stories of the “wicked woman.” She has several names. One frequently used is La Llorona, the wailing woman. The second is La Malinche, the native maiden who became Cortez’ mistress and interpreter. The Mexicans consider her a traitor and her name is a symbol for all that is bad in women, especially if she falls in love with a foreigner or keeps talking about the marvels of other countries.
In Yucatan, the wicked woman is the Xtabai, a demon of the woods. Sometimes she is young, beautiful, finely clad, with loose flowing hair, and lures men into the woods. If a man cannot escape after she has revealed her true self, she chokes him to death. She can take the form of a tree, so one must be cautious in passing them in the night, even on horseback, as the horse may see her and throw its rider to escape. Often she disguises herself as a green and yellow snake with markings on its back, and full of hatred, stops up a man’s nostrils with the tip of her tail. There is no use trying to shoot the snake because it cannot be killed.
In many cities, the legend of La Llorona is still related. She was a pretty but humble maiden named Luisa, with whom a rich young man of high society fell in love. He did not marry her, but according to custom, furnished a casita where they were happy for many years and had three children. Finally his family prevailed upon him to marry a girl of his own class. He told Luisa about his forthcoming marriage and she, stricken with grief, went to see the ceremony in the cathedral. Then, maddened with pain, she returned home and sent a dagger into the sweet bodies of each of her children. Horror- stricken at her actions, she ran wildly through the streets, calling her little ones. Everyone who heard her felt terror and sadness in the middle of their hearts.
This happened in the early days of the Colonial period and ever since La Llorona roams the streets of Mexico, wailing for her children and revenging herself on men. When she speaks to a man and he looks at her, he faints and nothing can rouse him till next day at noon. When she covers her face with a veil and a man lifts it, instead of the beautiful face expected he sees a horrible fleshless one and may die of fright. When the winds blow down from the mountains in the dead of the night, mothers hear La Llorona wailing for her children. They clasp their own to their hearts to protect them from the evil apparition.
Experts state that the legend of La Llorona had its origin in the myths of pre-Conquest days, in which the goddess Cihuapipitlin, who died when her first child was born, returned to Earth to harm children and adults. Crossroads were considered especially dangerous places for the attack of La Llorona and offerings were made at those points. It is also related that the Aztec goddess Cihuacohuatl went about at night dressed in white with a cradle on her shoulders wailing for her lost child. The sight of her was a bad omen.
The famous song called La Llorona is interpreted by every band, trio or singer in Mexico. (It was also featured in the movie Frida.) The verses vary from region to region according to the inspiration of the musicians. It is also a favorite of singers who can do a good falsetto. lf you haven’t heard the song, buy a recording of it. You’ll love it . . . or else!