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"La Llorona" (lit. "The weeping woman") is a Mexican folk song. It has their origins on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the mid of the 19th century besides to another song, "La Sandunga"[1]. However, the song was first made well-known by Raphael, Spanish singer, in 1968. In 1993, it was introduced to contemporary audiences by the Costa Rican-born Mexican singer Chavela Vargas.



Originally the song's name and inspiration comes from the legend of the same name La Llorona popular in North and South America, but, because most of the verses were added in the Mexican Revolution, and later by others, the story lines differ when comparing the song and the legend. Usually the singers only take a few verses for their versions. Below are some of them and some of the English translations:[2][3][4]

The melody of La Llorona, is on public domain.

Interpretations of "La Llorona"Edit

One popular interpretation of the song is of the singer feeling trapped by this woman (La Llorona) who has fallen in love with him. If he even thinks about leaving her, she weeps. He tries everything in his power to leave her, but he is trapped by pity for the woman. He wishes to be taken down to the river to be drowned, and so then his suffering can finally end. The suffering that the man goes through from being trapped in a relationship with a woman in a way parallels the suffering that the woman in the legend goes through from having her lover leave her.

Popular coversEdit

“La Llorona” falls under the genre of Mexican folklore and ranchera because of its origins as an legend and its heavy use of the guitar, respectively. The two artists most commonly referred to as the singer of "La Llorona" are Costa Rican-born Mexican singer Chavela Vargas and Mexican singer-songwriter Lila Downs.

Joan Baez recorded La Llorona on her Gracias a la Vida album, originally released in March 1974. [5]

Chavela VargasEdit

The late Vargas is known throughout the Americas for her songs of struggle, defiance, and triumph.[6] When Vargas recorded the song back in the 1990s, she remained loyal to the ranchera genre by making the guitar the primary instrument in the song.[7][8] Although Vargas did remain true to the typical ranchera sound, she also created her own unique sound in the process. Carlos Gutierrez of Cinema Tropical explains "she took ranchero music and made the music her own. She stripped the music from the trumpet and other arrangements."[9]

Lila DownsEdit

Downs' version of "La Llorona" was released as part of her debut album, La Sandunga. The song is one of 12 tracks in Downs' album, which was officially released on June 29, 1999, under the label Narada.[10] Downs' recording incorporates contemporary elements; La Sandunga was one of the first to merge the sounds of traditional music and modern rhythms such as jazz, blues, and bolero. The album was popular in many countries, selling over 500,000 units worldwide. Downs even ventured out to making several versions of her rendition of the song, including a mariachi[11] and a piano version.[12] Downs says of the song, “after ten years of singing it ["La Llorona"] in concerts and clubs, it has taught me about how spiritual music can be.”[13] According to Downs, “La Llorona” is about a sacred female death or a deity. The song is regularly sung in her hometown of Oaxaca, at baptisms, weddings and various rites of passage. In Downs' particular interpretation of the song, she aims to compare the Spanish invasion of Mexico and the aftermath resulting in the demise of indigenous culture, with La Llorona’s loss. Downs is mourning a time before the Europeans came, through song.[13] "La Llorona" was also included on her 2001 album Border. She dedicated this album to the spirits of Mexican migrants who have died crossing the line.[14] "La Llorona", with its themes of death and longing, corresponds well with the themes in her Border album.

Popular culture influenceEdit

Frida filmEdit

The song “La Llorona” appears in the film Frida (2002), about Frida Kahlo, directed by Julie Taymor[15] and starring Mexican actress Salma Hayek. Chavela Vargas was invited for a special appearance, singing her version of "La Llorona". It is well known that Vargas was a close friend and a frequent house guest of Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera. Vargas was so close to Kahlo, that a short-lasting affair is speculated to have occurred between the two before Kahlo married Rivera.[16]

In the film, Vargas plays the role of a ghost who consoles Kahlo. Kahlo had been drinking in a bar for some time when she notices a ghost sitting down at a nearby table. A black shawl, which references the song lyrics, is wrapped around the ghost and Kahlo initially is quite hesitant to approach her. As Kahlo is about to sit next to the ghost, the ghost reveals her face to Kahlo. Kahlo continues to listen to Vargas’ interpretation of the song, and becomes overwhelmed by her memories and begins to cry. Kahlo begins to remember the car accident that changed her life and also her turbulent past with her husband.

Coco filmEdit

The song “La Llorona” is featured in the 2017 Disney-Pixar film Coco; it is performed by Alanna Ubach as Imelda Rivera and Antonio Sol in a guest appearance as Ernesto de la Cruz in the English version and Angelica Vale and Marco Antonio Solis in the Spanish version. In the film, Imelda sings the song during the sunrise concert as she attempts to evade Ernesto who sings the song in duet with her.