A fresh look at La Llorona - the Weeping Woman
The Legend of La Llorona is one of the oldest in the Americas, and there are countless versions of her legend but HERE is a good place to start. Most Latino kids know her as the witch their Mamas warn them about that lives in the arroyos looking for wayward children to eat. The larger legend is the one that she is the eternally damned murderous woman archetype that females the world over labor under.
The interpretation that resonates with me is the one by Mexican Nobel prize-winner, Octavio Paz. In his 1950 essay, The Labyrinth of Solitude, Paz describes La Llorona as one of the Mexican representations of Maternity and, as such, she is presented as a symbol of Mexican identity. This identity revolves around Mexicans’ view of themselves as "hijos de la Chingada". Paz explains that "the verb chingar denotes violence, an emergence from oneself to penetrate another by force … La Chingada is the Mother forcibly opened, violated or deceived. The Hijo de La Chingada is the offspring of violation, abduction or deceit."
This violation is the Conquest -- the quintessential symbol of which is La Malinche, or Doña Marina-- who, despite having been sold as a slave to Hernan Cortes because of her linguistic skills as a translator, has been painted as a traitor to ‘her people’. This archaic, misogynistic view that lays the blame for the defeat of a civilization at the feet of one disenfranchised woman has remained popular to this day. Indeed, Paz himself states that "the Mexican people have not forgiven La Malinche for her betrayal."
La Malinche and La Llorona become one after the former is chosen, used as chattel, then cast out along with her undesirable children. Honestly: what options do the untold millions of modern-day pariahs like La Malinche/La Llorona and their children have?
She carries it all... for all of us.
My interpretation brings a little redemption to this, just one of the many maligned female archetypes in global mythologies.
I place La Llorona along the Santa Cruz River, somewhere south of Tubac. She is framed by mesquite trees and and has lost most of her hair. Her hand has delicate fingers rather than long, gruesome claws. And she is terribly, terribly weary. She is surrounded by a troop of Monarch butterflies on their way to their winter roost in Mexico. They are spirits of children who visit her every year to comfort her on their journey south. I put tiny eyes on the butterflies and colorful spots on their bodies to make them special. I always incorporate owls into my paintings where the veil between the worlds are thin. It is a guardian keeping watch over the ephemeral scene. Owls are sacred birds in many cultures and I adore them.
I include also my signature petroglyph boulder alluding to the timelessness of the land.
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A blog of inspirations, interpretations-- things that move me in this place where I'm planted.