Publication Date

Spring 2021

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Kate Horigan (Director), Dr. Ann K. Ferrell, Dr. Timothy H. Evans, and Dr. Rachel V. González-Martin

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


For centuries, the relationship between Mexico and its infatuation with scary stories has been profoundly complex, but why? Perhaps it is the easiest way to communicate a Mexican culture, although proud and resilient, riddled with haunting narratives. For myself personally, the Mexican horror narrative La Llorona has served as a lens for conversation and communication that is unique and important.

In this thesis, I explore how Mexicans and Mexican Americans alike use the legend of La Llorona as a unique form of communication through personifying what truly haunts us. From using the narrative as a tool for entertainment, cautionary tales, historical knowledge, and even to unintentionally pass on intergenerational trauma, this Latinx horror legend serves a variety of purposes for each individual that tells it.

My central research questions included the following: how does the legend of La Llorona manifest in emotionally diverse ways among the people and families I interviewed; in what ways is La Llorona used as a tool of communication within the Mexican and Mexican American households of my interviewees; and what are the commentaries on the legend of La Llorona that are hidden in the subtext?

My research consisted of interviews and conversations with Mexicans and Mexican Americans who have had a personal experience and connection with the legend of La Llorona. The informants and their words are discussed in three chapters: Chapter One addresses children ages thirteen to fifteen, Chapter Two describes young adults ages twenty-five and twenty-nine, and Chapter Three focuses on older adults.

The results of this research include bringing a culture's narratives of hurt and healing to light through the reclamation of “the monster.” La Llorona has proven that she is so much more than the monster that the Western world makes her out to be. Through explorations of gender, emotionality, machismo, marianismo, and the dichotomy of human and monster, my research demonstrates how this legend is a form of subtextual communication for the Mexican and Mexican Americans I interviewed.


Anthropology | Chicana/o Studies | Folklore | Latina/o Studies | Oral History | Other Arts and Humanities | Performance Studies