Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chicanonautica: Mysteries of La Llorona

It's warming up in the Valley of Sun -- late Spring, but feeling like Summer. It still cools down as the sun sets, perfect weather for an evening walk through the purple sage under a lemonade sky. My wife and I were on such a walk not long ago, when suddenly we heard sirens, and an armada of emergency vehicles shrieked past us. The next day there was news of a child drowning. La Llorona has struck again.

About a week later, I met a writer from New Mexico, David J. Corwell y Chávez at LepreCon.We had both published in Tales of the Talisman. He had a story, “Susto,” in Día de los Muertos: A Day of the Dead Anthology edited by Anglea Charmaine Craig. He asked if La Llorona was known outside of New Mexico, and told him that my parents knew of her in East L.A.

Corwell y Chávez's story “Susto” brings La Llorona from traditional folktale into the modern horror story, and she thrives in the format, but then she tends to do well no matter where she goes.

I've blogged about La Llorona before, both here and on Mondo Ernesto. I'm amazed at how she's not intimidated by new media and technology. Google and Youtube searches bring an incredible amount of material.

Her origins are a bit hazy. Local Phoenix legends all tend to put her in a nearby body of water, though in East L.A. she took up residence in the trees in a park. In the movie La Venganza de La Llorona, the wrestler Santo and boxer Mantequilla Nápoles discover a Spanish origin. I've always seen a link between her and the Aztec skull-faced disease spirits, and the Cihuateotl, the spirits of women who died in childbirth.

Another mystery centers around my memory of a commercial in which she appeared. It was for Verizon, the “Can You Hear Me Now?” guys showed up and told her that she didn't have to cry in the night for her lost children, they could fix her up with cell phone deal. I only saw it once. Later, when trying to find it on the Internet, I find sites that mention it, others commercials starring La Llorona, but not that Verizon one.

Strange. Like the troubling fact that when it gets warm here in the Valley of the Sun, you hear more about children drowning in swimming pools than you do in California.

Are those more sirens under pinks clouds and a turquoise sky?

Ernest Hogan's story “Death and Dancing in New Las Vegas,” a sequel to “The Rise and Fall of Paco Cohen and the Mariachis of Mars,” is in the July/August 2011 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

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