Longtime followers of my blog know that I grew up in New Mexico. The area is rich in culture, including a number of legends that are passed on from generation to generation. One of those legends I grew up hearing about was La Llorona, which in Spanish loosely means "the crying woman." Stories about her would scare the hell out of me as a kid, which had its intended effect.
Stories of La Llorona aren't unique to New Mexico, so details in other areas vary. The story I always heard was of a beautiful woman who lived up by Santa Fe. She was married to a handsome man and had two beautiful children: a boy and a girl. The father really loved his children. One day the woman found out that her husband was cheating on her. To get back at him, she drug the two children to the nearby arroyo (ditch) and threw them into the water. When the children cried out to her as the current carried them away, she realized what she had done, but it was too late. Wrought with extreme grief, she flung herself into the waters as well.
La Llorona's spirit is restless and still full of agony. She roams the banks of the arroyos of New Mexico, looking for children to snatch. I remember distinctly listening to a scratchy old record in one of my grade school classes, hanging onto every detail of one attempted abduction. The boy's shirt was torn and he had deep scratches in his back because La Llorona tried to grab him and take him down into the water with her.
The reality is that the arroyos in New Mexico are extremely dangerous, and it's likely the story has been leveraged to get kids to stay away from them. The dry riverbeds can look harmless, but in no time fill up with water, killing anyone foolish enough to play in them. In the cities, the arroyos are made of cement, so kids would skateboard on them or ride their bikes in them. But when flash floods would hit, inevitably rescue teams would have to try to pluck kids out of the raging waters. The city even ran a public awareness campaign about the dangers of arroyos.
Even though the legend has been used as a cautionary tale, there are some people who still swear that La Llorona is real.