Monday, October 29, 2007

A Guatemalan Ghost Story

Posted on behalf of Damon Guinn and Javier Cárcamo

They say you can hear her approaching in the dead of night. The wind starts to whirl and the dogs howl. Old ladies in the village cross themselves with trembling hands then clench their white, boney knuckles in urgent prayer.

Try to run. It’s no use. Your footsteps grow heavy and slow. The air around you suddenly becomes cold – your heart is gripped with fear. Then you hear a scream and a desperate wail...“Wherrrrre isssss myyyy sonnnn?! Wherrrrre isssss myyyy sonnnn?!”

The scream grows louder and louder. You have to escape. There’s no time to spare. If the third scream finds you, La Llorona will get you!

So goes the legend of La Llorona, “The Crying Woman,” a ghost story practically every child in rural Guatemala knows by heart.

“Our grandparents say that on a small and humble farm surrounded by mountains and rivers, there lived a young woman who got pregnant by a man who deceived her while her husband was away on a long trip,” Gloria, a 15-year-old sponsored youth, quietly incants. She tells the story to her friends and siblings late at night, in the eerie glow of a flickering fire that casts long, lurking shadows.

As legend has it, the woman goes mad and drowns her baby in the river. Stricken with grief, she repents and begins an endless search for her son. But it’s too late...she’s damned to wander the dark and all the places where water runs until she finds her drowned child. If you cross her path, she’ll try to drown you too.

“People say that when they hear her, their hair stands on end, and it is impossible to run and escape,” Gloria whispers cautiously. “When her crying is far away, it means she is very near; and when it is close, La Llorona is far away.”

To this day, Guatemalans claim to hear La Llorona near the coffee plantations of Sacatepéquez and the ruins of Antigua. Some believe that her presence foreshadows death. Some say it’s a cautionary tale warning young girls not to get pregnant. Still others believe it is a parable, suggesting La Llorona drowned her son to spare him from a life of poverty...that even death is better than being poor.

One thing’s for sure though – with legends like La Llorona floating about this Halloween, it’s scary to think what could happen to poor children in Guatemala if you weren’t around to look after them.

Photos by Javier Cárcamo, from Children International's agency in Rural Guatemala.


evergreen3 said...

Spooky! How do other cultures "celebrate" Halloween?

Damon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damon said...

The legend of La Llorona is actually a very popular folktale shared throughout the year in parts of Central and South America. As for other cultures, who knows how many ghost stories are out there lurking in the shadows? I’m afraid to find out. But I’m brave enough to say that children around the world are very familiar with pop culture and are probably starting to celebrate the season as we do here in the States.

brandonv said...

2 weeks ago u went in vacation to Guatemala and I was staying at my aunts house so I was laying in bed playing angry birds like at 12 and out of mi where u hear a lot of dogs barking one dog was right infringe barking also and then I hear a really loud weep at first I thought it was a cat crying but then I realized it was way To loud for a cat and I just layed on the bed listening it went on for like 10 minutes and I was alittle scared I here my cousin moving around so I knew he was awake and he told me did u hear that I said yea and he said if was her and that whole night I couldn't sleep and by the way it was in the capital in zona 1