Tuesday, April 24, 2012

La Llorona haunting the pages of Batwoman


Currently, my Spanish 1102 students are working on their epic movies on their reimagining of the legend of La Llorona.  Living in New Mexico, and especially if you are from Northern New Mexico, you grew up hearing the legend of La Llorona if not her wail.  The people from Northern New Mexico are the descendants of the Conquistadores that came to the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries.  As they passed through Mexico, these Conquistadores brought with them the legend of the Wailing Woman.   Any Hispanic knows she lives near the acequias (ditches), or the rios (rivers) or lagunas (ponds and lakes).  Sometimes she is near the traques del tren or una cueva.  As children, we are warned to stay away from these dangerous places because La Llorona is looking for her children, and she may yet catch us to replace her lost children.  And of course we were freaked out by our grandparents, but at least we did not drown. The story of La Llorona has no antecedent from Spain.  Perhaps the closest would be the Greek Tragedy Medea, but this woman unlike La Llorona feels no remorse.

La Llorona or the Wailing Woman is a woman who haunts the waterways in the Spanish American World.  She is a product of the Conquest, because part of the Legend is that she loses her children, normally because of a man.  As times progress, new elements are added to the story that range from jealousy, guns, infidelity, and the like.  Now the root of this Legend might come from Dona Marina/Malitzin/Malinche, who was the concubine of Hernan Cortes.  Many speculate that she is the woman who dress as the Virgin Mary/Tonatzin (Lady of Guadalupe) to convert the Native Americans in Mexico.  In many ways, she was instrumental in the conquest because her  Tlaxcalan name Malintzin became corrupted to Malinche which now means traitor.  Her name originally meant tongue or translator, however, now it stands for treason.  History tells us that she had sons with Cortes and they survived to become part of the Spanish Royal Court, but legend tells us something else.  She killed them because as mestizos (half breeds) they would not be accepted.  Now Spanish culture is made of mestizos, even in Spain, and skin color is not the determining factor for prejudice, but rather your education and Social Economic Status.  However, because the legend is part of the Conquest, this is an integral part of the story.  Later Malinche feels remorse and must forever search for her children in the waterways.

The Llorona is not evil, but rather a cursed soul.  She is never depicted wearing black in the Hispanic culture, rather she is dress in white.  They are elements of the Earth Mother Tonantzin and the Virgin Mary, in the Ave-Eva continuum that exists in the Hispanic Culture.


Recently, La Llorona played an important part in Batwoman.  I was worried that she would not be depicted in a good light.  She was portrayed as a cursed woman, wearing white, and in the end, she let go of the children.  J.H. Williams II and W. Haden Blackman did a superb job on her depiction.  I am glad that J.H. Williams III and Blackman were sensitive to the Hispanic Culture and its beloved legend.  It could have been disastrous and made her look like Elvira.  Williams art is really beautiful and haunting.  The story has me captivated, and the splash pages, pun intended, were breathtaking, another pun.

I loved how the Llorona would use water in the story.  The scene with the Holy Water was spooky.  As Batwoman goes against La Llorona, she makes Kate confront her past demons of her mother and sister, in the end she turns the table on La Llorona whose name is Maria and tells her, "Your kids died because of you.  Now look at the thing you have become."  These words make Maria realize that she is in the wrong and atones for her sins by telling Batwoman where some missing children are.  As La Llorona disappears, she alludes that she has been conjured as a demon by MEDUSA.  This is the last we see of La Llorona. Overall they did a fine job with the exception of the demon reference.

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