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By The Californian
By Steve Flores
Each culture has its own scary stories that seem to live on through generations. Full moons, Halloween and the upcoming "Day of the Dead Celebrations" seem to increase retelling of those fabled horror stories.
With Halloween just 17 days away, I thought I would share my favorite with you. I can't remember when I first heard the story of "La Llorona." Translated it means the "Weeping Woman." It rhymes with Corona. Replace the "C" with a "Y."
I researched the "La Llorona" legend and have come to find out there are many versions of this old tale, which is widespread in North and South America. "La Llorona" has been the subject of several movies, television shows, articles and even books. Although there are different versions, the core "La Llorona" story stays surprisingly consistent and scary. Some say "La Llorona" can be traced as far back as the Spanish conquistadores.
I can trace it back more than 55 years ago to our front porch on Watts Drive in southeast Bakersfield.
My grandmother would hold evening court on our small front porch. After dinner, she would sit back on her worn lawn chair with her apron still on, her graying hair pulled back in a bun, and wait for all the neighborhood children and my brothers and sisters to gather around. This was better than going to the movies. We couldn't wait to be scared for the hundredth time.
When the front porch light was turned off, she would lean back, light her Salem's cigarette, take a deep draw, slowly exhale the smoke and begin her story.
Reader discretion is advised. This story has stayed with me all these years and still scares me:
Maria was the self-proclaimed most beautiful woman in the village. Her narcissism began as a young girl and grew greater as she blossomed into a young woman. Her egotism alienated her from neighbors in this quiet river community. Then one day, the handsome son of a wealthy rancher rode into the village and won Maria's heart.
They eventually married and had two beautiful children. Everything had worked out as Maria had planned. But over time, Maria noticed that her handsome husband was paying more attention to their children than to her.
When he would return from home from long trips, his attention was devoted to his children while he ignored Maria.
Her conceit would have none of this. On a beautiful full moon night, she casually strolled out to the river banks with her two children neatly tucked in their carriage and threw them both into the river.
As she heard their gurgled cries and watched them disappear under the river's murky and rapid waters, Maria knew she had committed an unspeakable sin against all that is holy. She dived into the river to try and save the children that moments ago she wished dead.
Villagers walking along the river's bank the following morning found Maria. Her once-beautiful face was almost unrecognizable. Now swollen, battered from the river's rocks and covered with debris, she was now grotesque in death and in deed.
The children were never found. They buried Maria in a long, beautiful white gown.
Long after her burial, villagers reported seeing Maria late at night walking the river bank crying out "Where are my children?" Maria became "La Llorona."
Legend has it "La Llorona" will take any child who resembles her own and who stays out too late at night, disobey their parents or are disrespectful to elders.
My grandmother said "La Llorona" is trapped between the living and spirit world and is cursed to search and cry out to her children for all of eternity. And yes ... she has seen "La Llorona"... in our neighborhood.
The next full moon is five days away. I bet on a front porch, back yard or around a crackling fireplace somewhere, someone is retelling the "La Llorona" story.
And if late at night you see a woman in a white gown crying out, tell her all the children in Kern County have been good and are neatly tucked away in their homes.
Have her try Fresno County.
-- Steve Flores is a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.