My blog life and my real life rarely coincide. In my blog life, I’m a foul-mouthed, bosomy broad with an extensive knowledge of the twisted side of the internet and VHS cult catastrophes. In real life, I’m a knocked-up, foul-mouthed, bosomy broad with sore nipples and morning sickness. I also like sour candy and poorly translated manga with ridiculous adult situations.
Checking the stats of my blog, I’m always fascinated to see which country of origin has given me the most clicks for the day. One or two clicks is fine, but I’m particularly impressed with the ones who actually stick around to indulge in my enthusiastic review of Zombie Ass or my rantings on North Korean variety shows.
Granted, I write this blog for entertainment purposes. Any blog that analyzes the influence of David Bowie’s testicles on one’s developing girlhood is probably not going to give you the latest traffic report (unless traffic happens to be backed up due to a pileup on David Bowie’s testicles – then I’m all over that shit in a minute). However, despite my rantings and musings, there is still an actual shit-show going on out there and it’s called the United States Presidential Election.
Now, I’m not a political blogger so I’m not here to discuss the obvious but, sometimes, a certain floppy-haired, pussy-grabbing political candidate shows up on tv and smears his flat ass all over my people and culture. As a second generation Mexican-American, I feel compelled to come out of the closet. So, for the next week or two (in between pregnancy-induced vomiting sessions), I’m going to be counting down the Top 5 Things I Learned from Growing Up Mexican-American. Let’s see how well you can Dora-the-Explorer your way through this shit.
#5) The Folklore
I’m a second generation Mexican-American woman. For my international readers, that means that I was born in the USA, but I’m at least one generation away from a Mexico-born relative. In my case, that relative would be my grandmother.
The path of growing up Mexican-American is peppered with major milestones – birth, baptism, the Quinceañera, Type II diabetes – but somewhere in between baptism and diabetes, there is a beautiful moment when your closest relatives pull you lovingly into the fray to pass down generational folktales that will forever scare the shit out of you well into adulthood.
Enter, La Llorona or, in English, the Crying Woman.
I was 8 years old when my father first told me the story of the Llorona. The storyline itself involves many permutations that depend primarily on which part of Texas or Mexico your relatives grew up in. This is the version closest to what I was told:
“Some years ago, the story goes, a young hidalgo fell in love with a lowly girl, usually named María, who over a period of time bore him two or three children. She had a casita – a little house – where the young man visited and brought his friends, and in almost every way they shared a happy life together, except that their union was not blessed by the church. His parents, of course, knew nothing of the arrangement and would not have allowed him to marry beneath his station. They urged him to marry a suitable lady and give them grandchildren. Finally he gave in, and sadly he told María that he must marry another. But he would not desert her, he promised-he would still take care of her and the children and visit them as often as he could. Enraged, she drove him away, and when the wedding took place she stood veiled in her shawl at the back of the church. Once the ceremony was over she went home, and in a crazed state killed the children, threw them into a nearby body of water, and then drowned herself. But when her soul applied for admission to heaven, el Señor refused her entry. “Where are your children?” He asked her. Ashamed, she confessed she did not know. “Go and bring them here,” the Lord said. “You cannot rest until they are found.” And ever since, La Llorona wanders along streams at night, weeping and crying for her children-“Ay, mis hijos!” According to some, she has been known to take revenge on men she comes across in her journey. She usually dresses in black. Her face is sometimes that of a horse, but more often horribly blank, and her long fingernails gleam like polished tin in the moonlight.”
In my family’s version, María was a single mother whom murdered her children in a blind fit of rage. In other versions, she was a loving mother who, in the process of trying to save her burning house, lost track of her children as they drowned in a nearby river. In all versions, the kids always die in some gruesome way and María is always condemned to skulking the planet – although she seems to prefer Mexico and Texas – searching for the lost souls of her children. After so many years, however, she’s gotten a bit desperate and will pretty much settle for any greasy little asshole caught wandering around after dark.
The purpose of telling this story to small children is to serve as a passive-aggressive warning against disobeying your parents. If your mother calls you in for supper and you refuse, she’ll tell you the Llorona will get you and you and your Mexican friends would scatter like cockroaches.
Of course, just being inside the house after dark doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe. There’s always the cucoy (pronounced koo-kooey) waiting for you in your closet and the owl-like Lechuza flittering about just outside your window.
At night in South Texas, especially under a big moon, things start moving.
Deer begin grazing, coarse-haired feral hogs emerge from the brush to steal corn from game feeders on the big ranches, five-foot rattlesnakes slide from their lair, the sensors on their arrowhead-shaped heads looking for warm meat. And sometimes, an owl spreads its wide wings and flies from its roost looking for prey.
But some people along the border believe that owls are more than big-eyed night feeders. Among that group are three Zavala County women who vividly remember an experience they had one night on their way home from a shopping trip to San Antonio.
Just outside Batesville on State Highway 57, a large, dark and menacing bird suddenly appeared in the headlights of their car. The bird flew ahead of them faster than the vehicle, swinging back and forth and bobbing up and down.
The woman behind the wheel pressed her foot on the gas to outdistance the bird, which at one point circled back to fly right outside the driver’s window. The bird seemed to be mocking the women, but this was no mockingbird.
That’s when the car went dead. The lights went dark and the vehicle stalled, slowly losing speed. The driver managed to get the car off the roadway but could not restart it. The women locked themselves in the car, stuck out in the middle of nowhere. The bird, meanwhile, had disappeared.
As mysteriously as it had died, the car eventually restarted. Sure, it could have been a loose battery wire, or any number of easy-explainable mechanical things. But as far as these three women were concerned, the answer could be articulated in one word: lechuza.
The Lechuza is basically an ugly witch disguised as an owl whose sole purpose in life is to fuck with people who are minding their own business.
When I was little more that 5 or 6 years old, I awoke to the sounds of footsteps on the roof of our house. I ran to my parent’s room and dragged my father out of bed by the ankles so he could come and put a stop to it. When he came to my room, all was silent. As soon as he went back to bed, I would hear the footsteps and again, I would tear ass to his room and bury myself under the pillows. This went on for a few nights until my father decided that he would sit in my room until I fell asleep. Finally, on the fourth or fifth night, he heard the footsteps and my Vietnam Veteran father immediately grabbed his shotgun while I burrowed myself into the center of the mattress like a maggot in an elephant carcass. After 20 minutes, he returned and told me not to worry because it was just a Lechuza passing by and they’re apparently not dangerous; just an unwelcome pain in the ass.
The next day my father told me more details of the Lechuza story and basically ended any hope of me ever sleeping normally throughout my adulthood.
Even now, as I write this article, it’s three o’clock in the god-damned morning and I can promise you that there is a loaded shotgun within grabbing distance. Homie don’t play that shit. Especially where Mexican folklore is concerned.
But don’t worry, I’m not a complete monster. Here’s a little eye-bleach to lull you back into the sweet, unprotected vulnerability of devastating darkness and paralyzing slumber.
Tune in next time for #4: Too Mexican for the Gringos.
Sweet Dreams Chicken Beans!