I want to be La Llorona for Halloween, I told my grandmother after watching a Mexican movie.           

      Sacrilege, Abuela said, she is a murderess!

       At eight, I was used to my grandmother's threats when I misbehaved: La Llorona will take you away.

       The myth of La Llorona conjures up strange effects on Latinos.  Most children scream after hearing her name.  Many women cross themselves, saying "Ave Purisima," after mentioning her name.  And yet, some women—like my grandmother—smile after summoning La Llorona. The Weeping Woman did not scare me; instead, she fascinated me.  I suspected that La Llorona had a secret. Perhaps, if I dressed like her I could uncover her mystery.

         Needless to say, Abuela did not let me be La Llorona on Halloween.

        According to legend, La Llorona drowned her children in the river and killed herself after her lover deserted her.  A Mexican Medea, this weeping ghost wanders in eternity looking for her dead children.  In penance, she kidnaps and kills children who misbehave.  Many Latina mamas, abuelas, and tías (aunts) discipline disobedient children by threatening them with La Llorona.

       Looking back, I wonder if missing my mother had something to do with my fascination with La Llorona.  Let me explain.  Like many Puerto Ricans, my parents moved from the island to the continent.  Then, in one of our trips back home, my parents asked me to stay with the extended family: You can go to school with your cousins, they added.   Of course, I was very excited about being with my cousins Elba and Alberto.  As time passed, however, a gap in my heart opened.  I missed my parents and younger brother David.  Maybe La Llorona's myth accentuated my nostalgia.  Did I ache for my mother's return?

          Soon after the non-Llorona Halloween, my nuclear family settled in Puerto Rico.  We were all under the same moon and roof.  However, my curiosity about La Llorona persisted.  I became a Latina Nancy Drew.  My detective work consisted of watching Mexican horror movies.  My mission: finding the truth about La Llorona.

           In one legend, Maria, a beautiful working-class woman, fell in love with a rich man who fathered her two children.  When her lover married a noble -woman, Maria killed her children and committed suicide.  In death, she became La Llorona.  Her weeping spirit roamed around, looking for her children and crying: Ay, mis hijos (Oh, my children).  In another version of the legend, Maria married a man who did not want children. Every time Maria gave birth, her husband drown their infant.  After the fifth murdered baby, Maria killed herself by drowning; in death becoming La Llorona, she tortured her husband until he killed himself.

          Was The Weeping Woman a victim?  A victimizer? Both?

          I forgot La Llorona when I moved back to the United States.  At least, for a while.  On a warm autumn afternoon, I heard a neighbor threatening her eight-year old daughter: La Llorona will take you away. The girl's cries resurrected my old mission. Instead of detective work, I turned to herstory: According to an old tale, La Llorona was Doña Marina, or La Malinche, the Aztec woman who became Hernan Cortes' slave, translator, advisor, and lover.  Many believe that Doña Marina-Malinche was instrumental in Cortes' conquest of the Aztec empire.  Out of her liaison with Cortes, she gave birth to twin boys.   Doña Marina-Malinche heard that the conquistador wanted to take their sons to Spain and leave her behind.  Her reaction?  La Llorona-Malinche killed her sons.

        There are many other stories about La Llorona-Malinche.  She is a controversial figure. Like many brilliant women throughout history, La Malinche is vilified as a puta, traitor, and demon.   She IS La Llorona. Many feminist Latinas consider La Malinche to be a heroine. They embrace her duality as the creator of the Mexican nation as well as the destroyer of her ancestry.  This analysis resonates with me.

          Myths take a long time to fade from memory.  I know this from experience.  Recently, I visited my brother David and his family. I bit my tongue when Isabel, my youngest niece, misbehaved.  An ancient impulse took over me: I wanted to invoke La Llorona--

            I took a deep breath.  Then, I asked Isabel: Do you want to dress as La Llorona for Halloween?

            In response, Isabel gave me a puzzled look. 

            I took another deep breath.  Next, I said:  Maybe I will dress as La Llorona this Halloween.

            Who is La Llorona?

            Let me tell you a story.