The story of La Llorona is so much more than that trailer you keep seeing with Linda Cardellini. We invited podcast critic Elena Fernández-Collins to tell us a little bit about La Llorona, the historical figure that might have inspired the tale, and her own personal experiences with the spirit growing up in Puerto Rico. We also talk about the strange rules to get into heaven, government influence on the stories we tell, and why you should never yeet your children.
- Elena Fernández-Collins is a podcast critic and reporter and a forensic sociolinguist living in Portland, OR. She curates a biweekly newsletter about audio fiction, Audio Dramatic, where she reviews episodes and provides essays and news for the community. She also covers the audio fiction podcast beat for The Bello Collective, an indie online publication about podcasting. You can also follow her on Twitter @ShoMarq.
- Skillshare is an online learning community where you can learn—and teach—just about anything. Visit skillshare.com/spirits2 to get two months of Skillshare Premium for free! This week Amanda recommends “The Staples of Branding.”
- Zola: To start your free wedding website and also get $50 off your registry on Zola, go to ZOLA.com/SPIRITS
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Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends, and folklore. Every week we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is episode 116, La Llorona with Elena Fernandez Collins.
Julia: I am very excited. Ely is a good friend of ours and is also very knowledgeable and it was wonderful to have her on the show.
Amanda: This was one of my favorites to record, and we are so excited to share it with you, the listeners.
Julia: Yes. So, speaking of our listeners, we have some new patrons this week.
Amanda: Yay. Thank you and welcome to Mark, Brett, Desmond, Perry, Jessica, Hannah, Ana, and Eda Maria. And thank you as always to the supporting and legend level producers whose names we know so well: Philip, Julie, Eeyore, Kathy, Vinny, Danica, Marissa, Sammy, Josie, Neal, Jessica, Phil Fresh, and Deborah on the supporting producers side, and those legends. ... You know them, we know them, everyone loves them: Ayla, Jess, Sarah, Zoe, Sandra, Audra, Mercedes, Jack Marie, and Liam.
Julia: We know that if y'all ran into La Llorona, she would not bother you.
Julia: That's how cool you are.
Amanda: Totally. Julia, tell us, what will we be drinking this episode?
Julia: Did you know that there's actually a La Llorona cocktail, Amanda?
Amanda: I did not because you tell me what I'm drinking after I drink it, which I don't recommend with anybody except your BFF.
Julia: I have been mixing cocktails for as long as Amanda and I could legally drink, wink.
Amanda: Mom and dad.
Julia: So, she has learned to trust me with my cocktail mixing abilities. This one is made with pisco. It is delicious. It is bitter. And if you are one of our patrons at the recipe card tier, you're gonna get a copy of that in your inbox.
Amanda: Beautiful. Actually, speaking of delicious cocktails, my recommendation for the week, Julia, is canned limoncello margaritas.
Julia: Okay. Interesting choice. Tell me more.
Amanda: Yes, that is a real thing. We were actually fortunate enough to get sent some, which this is my literal dream is to have alcohol companies be like, "Hey, here is some booze for you to enjoy," and I'm like, "Thank you." So Fabrizia limoncello is the company that reached out. They sent us a box of their margaritas. They have a margarita mix that you can just pour out of the bottle and also these really adorable convenient little cans.
Amanda: Every time I see a bad Limearita at a supermarket, I'm like, "Ugh, who would do this?" But then I'm able to put a limoncello margarita in my purse in just a can and I'm like, "Me. I would do it," but it tastes really good, and we thank them for reaching out. So that's my recommendation for the week.
Julia: So you saved me one for when I come over next, right?
Amanda: Oh, I saved you three. Also this week, I would love to recommend and thank our two sponsors. There's Skill Share, where skillshare.com/spirits2 will get you two months of Skill Share Premium for free, and Zola, where you can get your free wedding website and 50 bucks off your registry at Zola, Z-O-L-A, dot com slash Spirits.
Julia: At the time of recording this, we are leaving for this week to go to Portland for the Listen Up Festival. If you are going to be there, we are excited to see you. If not, sorry. The tickets are sold out, but we are excited to put on another great show in basically the same 30 day period that we put on three other live shows. I'm very excited.
Amanda: We're starting off the year with a bang, and we definitely have more shows in store for 2019. We'll be able to announce them at some point in the next month or so. So, the best way to stay up to date on everything creepy, cool, and Multitude, is to go to Multitude.productions and sign up for our mailing list.
Julia: You should do it. Amanda puts a lot of effort into making it very, very cute, and it's so purple, and she's wonderful and the newsletter is wonderful.
Amanda: Aw, thanks. I do my best. But let's not keep the listeners any longer from this excellent episode. So y'all, enjoy episode 116, La Llorona with Elena Fernandez Collins.
Julia: Listeners, welcome. A lot of you I'm going to say a couple months ago at this point sent us a trailer for a movie. The movie, it looked real bad. It looked real bad, guys. I'm not gonna lie.
Amanda: It was about mythology, so I understand why they sent it to us.
Julia: I get it.
Amanda: We were both like, "Oh no."
Julia: But we saw it and we're like, "Wow, that's a lot of white people for a Mexican folklore story." So I was like, "We should do that. We should do an episode on that." I am also a white woman, so I probably don't want to do that myself. So, today we've invited Elena Fernandez Collins on the show. She's a podcast critic and journalist. Ellie, welcome.
Elena: Hello. Thank you for having me.
Amanda: Our good, good friend. Hello.
Julia: Our good, good friend. Ellie, how are you doing today? How are you for the listeners? Do you have a drink in hand? Are you feeling good?
Elena: It's way too early over here for me to be drinking.
Amanda: Slander, blasphemy.
Julia: It's after noon there. It's okay.
Amanda: It is 5:00 the somewhere where I am. Therefore, it's okay.
Elena: Therefore it's fine. I have water.
Amanda: That is good.
Julia: A good, bold choice.
Amanda: Stay hydrated.
Elena: Yeah, I know.
Julia: So Ellie, you're gonna talk to us about La Llorona, correct?
Elena: I am.
Julia: Is that a story that you grew up with?
Elena: Yeah, it is. So I grew up in Puerto Rico. I was born there. I lived there for 18 years. My parents still live there. I should note, my mother is white. I am not, Afro-Latinx. I pass as a white person, so I have that privilege that I'm coming from as well. But I did grow up with La Llorona both in my household and away, but mostly in my community and with my friends.
Julia: I hope not literally in your household. Just saying. Just hopefully. From what I've heard, maybe not that.
Elena: Not in my house. I wouldn't be here if it had been in my house.
Julia: That is true.
Amanda: I know nothing, as is usual for our recordings. So I'm very excited to hear what this myth is about. I've only ever seen it, like Julia said, recommended to us on Twitter. I was like, "Oh, it seems scary but also a reduction of what it probably actually is." So, yeah, I would love to just get the bones of the story from you.
Elena: Yeah. We can do that. So La Llorona is a Latin American myth, right? It's not just from Puerto Rico, right? As is obvious in the trailer, it's also found very heavily in Mexico, across many islands in the Caribbean, and some other parts of Latin America.
Elena: The basic part of the story is that there is this indigenous woman. It's from Spanish colonizer times, of course.
Julia: Aren't they all?
Elena: Aren't they all? There's this indigenous woman who falls in love with a Spaniard. They have children together. Whether or not they're married is a variant in the story, but they have children together. Whether or not he's in love with her is also a variant in the story.
Julia: Would it really be a good story if the man wasn't potentially unfaithful?
Elena: Pretty much. And so they had kids together and the number of kids also varies a ton.
Amanda: This makes me think it's probably more likely to be an actual story because someone was like, "No no no, I heard there were seven kids. No no no, I heard there were three." That just makes me think that there is something real and it's not just making it up.
Elena: You are very intelligent because there is, and I will get to that.
Amanda: Amazing. We really don't plan these, guys. I just sweep in and sometimes my predictions are right, hashtag [inaudible 00:07:43].
Julia: Amanda is just very insightful all of the time and it's kind of ridiculous, and sometimes it ruins my moments but it's fine. It's fine.
Elena: And so they had kids together and then he abandons her, either because he has fallen out of love with her or because he was never in love with her in the first place and she wants to get married and he laughs in her face, or sometimes it's because he's worried about what marrying her is going to mean for him socially. He abandons her, and she goes mad with grief when she finds out that he has decided to marry a high class Spanish noblewoman. She drowns her children.
Julia: I mean, not my first reaction to that kind of thing, but understandable.
Elena: Yeah, exactly. She drowns her children and she realizes what she's done after they're dead, and then she commits suicide also in the same river.
Elena: I think probably my favorite version of this story when I was growing up was the one where she sees them in a carriage going by on the street and she goes insane in five seconds and throws her children into the river.
Julia: Just tosses 'em? Just yeets it? Just straight up yeets 'em? Gotcha. Okay. Cool, cool, cool.
Elena: That's how it's described is that she throws them into the river and then throws herself in after them. She has killed her children, killed herself, and now she wanders that section of wherever it is that she has supposedly died wailing, crying for her lost children.
Elena: The Catholic version of this story ... There's a lot of versions of this story.
Julia: I'm very excited for the Catholic version. Go on.
Amanda: How could it get more macabre?
Elena: The Catholic version of the story has a little coda. The coda says that when she dies, she goes to the gates of heaven, but whoever it is that's guarding heaven ... I've forgotten the name. I'm not Catholic.
Julia: St. Peter, I think.
Elena: That one, is horrified by what she's done and says that she can't come in until all of her family, i.e. her children are present with her.
Julia: Oh no.
Amanda: Okay, interesting.
Elena: And so she has to wander the earth. In this case, it's usually the earth or whatever, looking for her children. Sometimes she steals children who look like hers who are not hers, right, and she kills them.
Julia: I mean, that's an interesting method.
Julia: For sure.
Elena: I always thought that was kind of bonkers.
Julia: It is very Catholic. Let's be real here.
Elena: It's so Catholic.
Julia: It's very Catholic.
Elena: It's very Catholic. Probably also one of the other very Catholic addendums to the story is that sometimes her name is Maria, which is-
Amanda: Why not? Why not?
Elena: ... a Spanish white person name.
Elena: And so when I was growing up, when I was really little, this was the basic story, right? It was an indigenous woman and a Spanish colonizer and he causes her to go bad with grief and kill her children and do this horrible thing.
Elena: When I was in high school in 2004 I guess, ish, it became this really big thing again in my town. Everybody started talking about it again, and it took on this new form called La Llorona de Lajas. So Lajas is a town in PR, and supposedly there had been sightings of a crying woman wandering this bridge in Lajas. People's parents started warning their children against wandering at night. We were teenagers. We were like 14 or 15. I had other people's parents tell me not to wander the streets at night.
Amanda: Wow. I mean, all teens love to do is wander the streets at night in fairness.
Julia: That is true.
Elena: Exactly. It's just all we do all day long.
Julia: It's a universal truth.
Amanda: My parents' version of that was not to hang out in front of the Dunkin' Donuts because apparently that's where all the vagrants in North America hang out.
Elena: Oh god.
Julia: We also ... Sorry to disrupt.
Elena: No, you're fine.
Julia: We also had the Gilgo Murders when we were in high school.
Amanda: Well, that's true. [crosstalk 00:11:27] They happened in high school and [inaudible 00:11:30] discovered it in college where they were suddenly like, "Hey, there's many, many people's remains in your public beach." We were like, "Oh." So yeah, they should've been focusing more on the unlit isolated state parks and less at the Dunkin' Donuts.
Elena: Wow. That's [crosstalk 00:11:46].
Julia: I feel like everyone has a really traumatic story from high school about a potential murder that happened.
Elena: Oh yeah.
Julia: Isn't that just how small towns are?
Elena: Yeah, pretty much.
Amanda: So in Lajas, was there an implication that there was danger or just that there was this person grieving in public and that was just uncomfortable?
Elena: There was an implication of danger.
Elena: What was really interesting about La Llorona de Lajas was that the story changed. Suddenly there was this story going around about a woman who had died in a car accident on that bridge in the '90s.
Elena: Either she was young and she was crying for her parents or she was older and she was crying for her children and stealing away children. If she was a child, then she was stealing children so that they could be friends with her.
Amanda: Oh no.
Amanda: Hey, here's my tea party. By the way, you're dead now.
Julia: Oh, it's just Hill House is what you just described.
Elena: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative). Pretty much. I didn't actually remember that until after you were looking for people to talk about La Llorona and I was like, "Oh right, there was that weird time when suddenly she was from the '90s and died in a horrible car accident."
Julia: I wonder why the crime had to be so old. I guess because as we discussed, fresh ghosts aren't as scary.
Elena: They aren't, yeah.
Julia: Did that seem plausible? Were people just like, "Oh, that's creepy. I don't want to touch it"?
Elena: Yeah, pretty much. They were like, "Oh, this is creepy. We don't want to look at it," and then sometime in 2012, so this is after I left the island, so I'm a little bit hazier on this part, but apparently there were some people that were actually faking the ghost appearance of La Llorona de Lajas.
Amanda: Oh, like dressing up?
Elena: They got discovered by a group of ghost hunters.
Amanda: Yes. Coming through, Zak Bagans. Oh, so good.
Elena: Some kind of local group of ghost hunters that I have never heard of, but this apparently happened.
Amanda: This put them on the map.
Elena: And now they call it El Fraude de La Llorona, the fraud of La Llorona.
Amanda: That's so funny.
Julia: That's so cool.
Julia: That's so cool. I love that. I mean, it's kind of crappy for someone to pretend to be a ghost and whatnot, and it kind of reminds me of the 2016 clown thing that was happening, the creepy clown thing. I really do like people perpetuating a myth in that kind of way, even if it seems like more physical and tactical, even if it is fake.
Elena: Absolutely. Yeah. It's mind-boggling. I think, and this is the part that I'm very hazy on, I think that the people who were faking it were also another group of ghost hunters.
Julia: That's a little worse.
Amanda: We need details.
Elena: It's just like, "Wait. Really?"
Elena: So either it was just some local group of kids or it was a group of amateur ghost hunters or something. But in any case, there was this fraud that was uncovered about La Llorona de Lajas. It apparently caused a lot of people to get really angry, which I understand. Don't fake pretend that you're a ghost, people.
Julia: Just in general [crosstalk 00:15:01].
Amanda: Parents are already so worried about teenagers all the time, so giving them more to worry about and then being like, "LOL, I'm a kid," and then a ghost hunter is here and for once has discovered something, a lot is happening right now.
Elena: Yeah, it's really shitty.
Amanda: Julia, I am now a full-time business owner and runner.
Julia: You are.
Amanda: And it's lovely. Also, really hard. There's a lot that I didn't know I needed to do. One of those is even though we have a gorgeous logo, we have a great name, I'm super happy with everything that you see when you go to Multitude.productions, there's a lot about branding and talking about your company that I didn't really realize was a thing.
Amanda: So, this week on Skill Share, our sponsor for the week, I looked at this class called The Staples of Branding from Purpose to Product with Jeff Staple, which I think is hilarious because it's a pun.
Julia: Very good.
Amanda: And there's a lot of discussion about taking a thought about a company and making it into an actual thing, whether it's a product or something like a whole company. I really appreciated it. Even though we're already out there, it helped me to rethink and refocus on what it is that you have to think about when you make something that the rest of the world sees. So, I highly recommend that you go to skillshare.com/spirits2 and sign up for a two month long free trial of Skill Share Premium.
Julia: Yeah. Skill Share has over 25000 classes in stuff like design, business, and more, and so you discover countless ways to fuel your curiosity, creativity, and career. Like Amanda's saying, she is now running a business. She's a full-time business owner and she is crushing it, but you could be crushing it more by taking a couple classes with Skill Share.
Amanda: Totally. Gotta keep that continuing ed requirement. Not a requirement, but a thing that I still think is really important. There's nowhere better online to do it than Skill Share, which is the best online learning community for creators.
Julia: Like we said, you can go to skillshare.com/spirits2 to get two months free trial with their premium membership.
Amanda: That's in the link of the episode description and again, skillshare.com/spirits2.
Julia: Amanda, I'm still in the process of planning a wedding.
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Amanda: Oh wow.
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Amanda: Thanks Zola. Now let's get back to the show.
Elena: So I mentioned earlier that you were right about the implication that there's some sort of real part to this.
Amanda: Slash, "Oh, I'm sorry 'cause it's very tragic."
Elena: Yeah, it is going to get tragic up in here.
Amanda: Spirits Podcast.
Elena: There was this real historical figure, a woman who has many names at this point. This has some association, though not necessarily origin. In Mexico, there's this Nahau woman. That's an indigenous group to Mexico. Her name was Malinalli. She's also called La Malinche. She was a Nahau interpreter for Hernan Cortes.
Amanda: Oh wow.
Elena: Yeah. And so she ended up having a child with Hernan Cortes.
Julia: Probably not by choice, but moving on from that.
Amanda: Yeah. Man, all of this is so wrapped up in those power dynamics and colonization.
Elena: Exactly. She was a slave. There was a huge sex slavery trafficking in that time between those people. Unfortunately because there's also massive quantities of patriarchy everywhere you turn, she became a figure of betrayal. There's actually a term in Spanish, Malinche [inaudible 00:20:54] which means someone who has betrayed their culture in favor of foreign expressions. Yeah, it's really loaded.
Julia: So not only did she probably get raped by Cortes, she got turned on by her own people as well.
Elena: Right. Yeah.
Julia: That is a lot.
Elena: So the thing is she was an interpreter and she supposedly ... I'm hazy on which parts of the history are confirmed and which ones are not, but she knew of some attack plans that her people were going to be ambushing Cortes and then she told Cortes that they were happening, but the thing is there's a huge power dynamic there that even if that happened, she was probably forced to do so.
Amanda: Yeah. She could be afraid of her life. Right. At the same time, I understand it's almost easier to believe that one person could change loyalty than to reckon with the massive shift in situation that your people, your nation is facing. It's just so much more to contemplate that, "Well, this is a situation we're all in now fighting together," than to say, "Oh, well, this one person made a bad choice and that is an isolated incident."
Elena: Right, exactly. You're completely right. The history of Malinalli, and I'm not gonna call her La Malinche because I don't want to use that word, her history is super tangled up in all of this colonizer effect, right? There's this perception of what she did and why that was wrong and she's not a victim ever. There was actually a statue of her and I think her children in a student campus in Mexico City. I'm not sure about that one. It got pulled down.
Julia: Wow. That seems so loaded. Just the cultural significance of it and the history behind it is so loaded. The fact that like you said, it's kind of hard to tell what is fact and what is fiction and that level of legend in it is probably so divisive if you're looking at it from a scholarly perspective.
Elena: Yeah. There's been a lot of scholarship on her. I don't have any kind of specialization in Mexican history, so this is the barest bones of what I know, but what I do know is that there's an associated legend. I'm almost 100% sure that it is the legend that she at point killed the kid that she had with Cortes, and that's how she gets associated with La Llorona. Some people mark her as some kind of origin point because of that whole betrayal aspect, 'cause this other legendary figure, La Llorona, betrays her family because she goes mad with grief, and so there's that association. It's just real rough.
Julia: Yeah. It's so interesting too because if you're looking at just the patriarchal elements of the story, the worst thing in this story in particular, the worst thing you could possibly do as a mother is to kill your children. So this story is so loaded with that kind of guilt and that societal guilt. It's like as a woman, the worst thing she could do is give birth to a person and then kill them. There's plenty of other stories in other cultures that have that, but it feels like so much more when you load it with the history that white people have with Latin America. It makes it all the much more worse in my opinion.
Elena: Yeah, pretty much.
Amanda: It's a fiction that under colonialism or imperialism anyone has agency. It's a system forced onto someone else and you want to feel like you have agency, you can make choices, you can determine your own history within in, but these retelling of these women's stories make it seem as if they make a bad choice when in fact options were taken away from them and then they're just left there to deal. I see all of the threads that form this tapestry, but it's still a fucked up tapestry.
Elena: It is. I also notice how these stories end up going towards the women are crazy fiction, the women can't be in control of their emotions fiction, which is used a lot here. The other way that I see this is La Llorona is a really popular myth to capitalize on in advertising.
Elena: Yes. There is a Got Milk ad with La Llorona.
Julia: That's horrifying. Please tell me more.
Elena: It's a house and there's this crying woman in a bridal gown walking through the house. She's a ghost. She's semi-transparent. So she's crying and wandering the house and hysterical, and then she opens the fridge and finds the milk and is like-
Amanda: Oh my god.
Elena: Yeah. That's just the tip of the iceberg. That is not the end of ads that I have seen with her.
Amanda: That is the most capitalist hetero-patriarchal thing I have literally ever heard. This whole structure says or implies to women that the best way to survive is to be accepting and to accept the rules and whims and structures of the men, whether it's your father and then your husband, the government, whatever, puts in front of you because if you rebel too much or if you are, I don't know, if you exist and your husband decides to leave you, then the only logical reaction, which is to be devastated or to have this seismic shift of your world changing, even if there wasn't love present, it's still like you're in a whole different scenario, socially you've been stigmatized, whatever. To react in the same volume that matches the stuff that was done to you is labeled as crazy, like you pointed out, Elena.
Amanda: The myth wants you to be like, "Okay, I'll go on," and I don't know. It just wants women to be obedient and quiet and not to be public with their grief or anger. That's why the idea of a woman, or an apparition, whatever, crying in public in a bridge, it's like there's a lot to cry about in the world and if any of us stop and think about it for a minute, don't you get it? That's destabilizing or something in a way that I understand why parents would be like, "No no no," and try to close the door on it.
Elena: Yeah, pretty much. You're dead on. I'm gonna show that you're dead on by noting that people who got warned about La Llorona, at least in my experience [inaudible 00:28:21] were only women, girls, teenage girls.
Amanda: Oh. It didn't even occur to me that boys would be warned.
Elena: Yeah, exactly.
Amanda: Isn't that messed up? Yeah.
Elena: I wanted to make that clear to anyone who might be listening who's like, "Oh well, it was all children, right?" Because the thing is the children that she kills, they're sons usually or they're twins, right? But only women get warned about La Llorona?
Amanda: Well, because those are like the "valuable" children probably. If you want to maximize the tragedy, that probably is a detail you add.
Elena: Right. The younger the children, the more likely it was that everyone got warned, right? So when I was in middle school, everyone was talking about how their moms, always their moms-
Julia: It's always the moms.
Elena: It's always the moms, were like, "Oh, don't walk around this street at night. La Llorona's out there and she's going to take you." Not, "She might take you." "She is going to."
Amanda: Oh no, oh no.
Julia: That's somehow just so much worse [crosstalk 00:29:14].
Amanda: Well, obviously.
Elena: And then as I got older, it became more the women that were receiving these warnings.
Julia: In my head, my instinct is it reminds me of when parents will tell you about having safe sex and watching out for dark street corners and stuff like that. They're not warning the boys. They're warning the women.
Elena: Yep. It's just more of that. It's more of that.
Amanda: Yeah, because the world happens at you. I understand why you have to guard yourself against stuff that does happen to women, disproportionately women of color, disproportionately indigenous woman every day, and yet only focusing on the measures we can take to mitigate the tragedy that's apparently ultimately coming our way. That is fucked up too because there are things we need to change, and focusing on the perpetrators of violence and not the people who are inevitably there to receive it unless they're on a different street that night.
Julia: The phase, "The world happens at you," is a fantastic phrase, Amanda. Great job.
Amanda: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Elena: Yep, I agree. That's definitely been my experience. Also when we're talking about La Llorona in particular in Puerto Rico, 'cause I don't have any personal experience with it anywhere else really, the changes in the story, to no one's surprise, have coincided pretty heavily with changes in government.
Elena: Yeah. So when people who were in power who were pro-statehood around the time that the story about the automobile accident happened.
Elena: The people who were in power who were pro-status quo, so staying the way we are right now, other one about the indigenous woman was prevalent, I should say.
Julia: In the words of John Mulaney, we don't have time to unpack all of that, but do you have some ideas of why that is?
Elena: Only vaguely half-formed ones. At some point I wonder if I'm just finding connections where there aren't any.
Julia: Hey, that's what this show is all about.
Amanda: Yeah. Welcome. I'm glad you got the email.
Elena: But I think part of it might be because a lot of mythology is used to refocus on different parts of your culture, and if you're trying to become a state, you don't want to focus on the bits that mean that you aren't a state, focusing on the tragedies of an indigenous population.
Julia: Gotcha, so making it more nationalist and more globalized.
Amanda: Yeah, like ever upward, eyes forward, let's focus on the now.
Elena: So the myth that ends up being prevalent is the one that is modern and doesn't have as much colonizer baggage associated with it because that's not what you want people to think about.
Amanda: I really hope there's a band named Colonizer Baggage.
Julia: There is now. It's our new girl punk name. I'm actually interested. In my head, and this might be a big leap, but it reminds me of the cultural revolution in China and how the change in leadership dictated what stories were prominent and how those stories were being told, just basically the idea that the cultural revolution was, "Hey, we are going to be new and globalize and modernize," and so the way that we tell our stories, our cultural stories are more important that we tell them in the presence of the now rather than in the confines of the past.
Amanda: Yeah, and like Ely said, the colonizer baggage makes this seem different than the nationhood, than the whole. So that totally checks out in my mind. I am not a cultural anthropologist or folklorist who could talk to this, but in my layperson opinion, love it.
Elena: Yeah, and I suppose there needs to be an added note here, like star, footnote-
Elena: ... to remember that the story about the woman who dies in the automobile accident is associated very heavily with the people who are faking it.
Amanda: Right, yep, yep.
Elena: It's the same story, so I have no idea if they made up that story and managed to spread it around or if it came from somewhere else. That's a complete mystery to me.
Amanda: But it's still a story that someone found significant and timely to bring up now and that had an impact on people around it and the way that people interpreted it still has significance.
Julia: Right, and we see that in our urban legends episodes when we talk about those. We see a lot of stories that have adapted over time for each different generation, so adding different parts and different aspects to it that become important to the generation that is telling it is how these stories stay in the consciousness of the society.
Elena: I'm literally just thinking about growing up and interacting with these kinds of urban legends, which was especially interesting for me because my parents are both atheists and skeptics, and so I didn't actually grow up with this in my household except as them being like, "Oh, someone's spreading this story around again."
Julia: See, I don't want to get too far from the point of the episode, but I'm curious as to what kind of other urban legends you grew up with in Puerto Rico.
Elena: Everyone's gonna face palm all at once, La Chupacabra.
Julia: Yes, excellent. No face palms, only excellence.
Elena: That was a big one where I was from. So I lived in Mayaguez. Mayaguez is a western town. It's at the time the second most populated town after San Juan. Pretty heavily industrialized with some large areas of campo, I guess country parts, and so I grew up in the mountains. I grew up in the middle of nowhere.
Amanda: Ah, where folklore flourishes.
Julia: The best.
Elena: Accurate. La Chupacabra and La Llorona were honestly the two main ones that we had in Mayaguez. There were some stories about other types of ghosts over bridges.
Amanda: Man, people love bridge ghosts, just those liminal spaces.
Elena: There was supposedly a ghost on the bridge at the bottom of my mountain that you had to go over to get up.
Amanda: Were there any practices you had to do, like raise your feet over the bridge or something else like that?
Elena: No. It was just there.
Amanda: Just hanging out. Just there.
Julia: We didn't know what her deal was, but.
Elena: There was no gender. There was no story. Just hung out being a ghost as far as I know.
Amanda: Cool. Sounds pretty chill.
Julia: That's my ghost dreams.
Amanda: That's how I feel if there are mice in my building. As long as I never see them, I'm fine with that. I can cohabitate other species as long as they just never make their presence known to me. That's fine.
Elena: Yeah, pretty much. If you want creepy stuff, this is one from where I ... I was looking it up because it's from again, Lajas. Something's up with Lajas. I don't know.
Julia: Something's up. It's a hot bed of paranormal activity and we're into it.
Elena: It's called Los Desmembrados, which means the dismembered.
Julia: I could've guessed that. I've never taken any Spanish, but could've guessed that.
Elena: So supposedly the people in Lajas have witnessed incomplete bodies wandering around the 116.
Julia: Whoa. I have a question. I have a question. What part of it is incomplete?
Elena: Torsos without limbs, bodies from the waist down, things like that.
Julia: All right. Cool, cool, cool.
Elena: Supposedly the bits of bodies left over after car accidents and stuff.
Julia: Oof, oof, that is-
Amanda: Very morbid.
Amanda: Very striking.
Elena: I should note also that PR has a lot of car accidents. It's really dangerous to drive on the island, so I'm not surprised there's this much association with car accidents actually.
Julia: But that is so interesting. You've created your own spirit and cryptid based on something that is one, pretty new to the island all things considered historically, and you've created something that is wholly unique, which is really, really interesting.
Amanda: Yeah, I've never heard that before.
Julia: I love the creation of folklore so much.
Elena: Yeah. Bits of bodies.
Julia: Not the most wonderful thing. It's not like, "Oh, we have this mermaid that is unique." It's like, "Nope, they're bits of bodies," but still very cool.
Elena: Bits of bodies walking around.
Amanda: But I also love the description of them as incomplete.
Amanda: It's very charming and I love it a lot.
Elena: I was actually gonna bring this back to the thing that stated the episode, which was this movie.
Elena: I watched the trailer.
Julia: Oh boy. Please tell us.
Elena: What's happening?
Julia: Don't know. Don't know.
Elena: Why is she white?
Julia: Why is she white, though?
Elena: Why is she white, though?
Julia: Listen, I love Linda Cardellini. She was a fantastic Velma in the Scooby Doo series, but she doesn't have to be in this movie. There's no reason. There's no purpose whatsoever.
Elena: No reason. There's plenty of Latin American if you don't want to get specific. There's plenty of Mexican actresses out there who can make this happen. Even if you don't want to find someone who is Mexican, there's plenty of Mexican American actresses out there, too.
Julia: That's true.
Elena: That's a weird way to phrase that, but from Mexico, currently living there.
Julia: So for context for our listeners, so it's part of The Conjuring series, which is based off of the investigations of the Warrens who you might know from The Amityville Horror house and the creepy doll, whatever the hell its name is. So it's based off of that guy's series of books and the Warrens' investigations. I don't think the Warrens have anything to do with this. I hope not because they're a bunch of white people. Again, don't need any more of those. We're good, thanks. But yeah, I think Linda Cardellini is supposed to be an American social worker or something.
Elena: Yeah. It takes place in Los Angeles.
Amanda: Oh boy.
Julia: I mean, there is a strong Mexican and Latinx population in Los Angeles, so that makes some sense.
Amanda: But there's so much more interesting possibilities to bring to the table in terms of migration, the ongoing failures of the state for people of color, especially Mexican Americans. There's lots of ways that you can make a really interesting movie in 2019 about La Llorona and I don't think this is one of them.
Elena: I agree. I found an article in Remezcla.
Julia: [crosstalk 00:40:24] 'cause you started laughing.
Elena: Sorry, I was just reading this sentence, and I'm trying to say it with a straight face when I can't. As Twitter users, we're quick to ask, "Where are then all the Mexicans?"
Julia: That's a great question. Thank you, Twitter users. All right. I have a question for you, Ellie. If you were to make a Llorona movie, what would it look like?
Amanda: Or audio drama.
Julia: Or audio drama, because we know you love audio drama.
Elena: It's true, I do. If I were making it, I would set it in Puerto Rico because I want to work within my realm of experience for this. Like I had said throughout the episode, there's a lot of variations on the myth depending on where you are and who you are. Some of those are intricately tied with things that I have no experience with, like being Catholic.
Julia: It's fair. It's a very weird experience, speaking as one.
Amanda: Also, I'm so sorry. Can we revisit the theology of that at the pearly gates thing? Catholic tradition holds that baptized babies go to heaven, and if these children were baptized Catholic, as they likely were if the Spanish Catholic colonizer was involved, then it wouldn't be on the mom to go find them. The souls would be in heaven already.
Julia: Go find the souls of your baby. Yeah. No.
Amanda: Come on, St. Peter. You're drunk. Get your shit together.
Julia: Drunk on that communion wine.
Elena: The only way that this ever made any sense to me was that St. Peter didn't want an indigenous woman there.
Amanda: I mean, probably true.
Julia: Probably [crosstalk 00:42:00] St. Peter. Let's be real here.
Amanda: Be outright discriminatory as so many of you and your clergy are and just send her away. There's a system for that and it's called Hell via purgatory. I don't get the additional salting the wound of frickin' denying her and sending her on a never-ending quest of sorrow and haunting.
Elena: I think it's supposed to be one of those weird morals that are terrible. When you kill your kids, you won't get into heaven. I don't know.
Julia: Yeah. My question is, how did a woman who in a fit of "madness" kill her children and then get to heaven, get to those pearly gates and St. Peter was like, "Yeah, you can come in. You just gotta find your kids."
Amanda: I don't know. All of these stories seem to start with step one, don't get colonized, and frankly that is not their fault.
Elena: Yeah, pretty much. You're not wrong.
Amanda: Anyway, back to your movie slash audio drama.
Elena: In Puerto Rico, and needless to say, I would be casting Puerto Ricans.
Julia: That is a wild concept.
Amanda: Revolutionary. Whoa.
Elena: I know. It's shocking. Stunning, I know. I don't want it to be a horror. La Llorona, it's a frickin' ghost story, right? Obviously it's meant to scare people. That's what it's designed to do. What people it's supposed to scare and how they're supposed to scare them varies, but I don't want to associate this continuous, all these issues that we've pointed out with the way that it is treating indigenous women in particular back into what I do.
Elena: So what I want is that I want to subvert that somehow. I would want to have it be maybe the story of La Llorona is seen and witnessed at the beginning in its traditional real world form, but then someone has an experience with La Llorona that subverts that and we can talk about the effects of colonization and the effect of patriarchy on how women are portrayed in urban legends.
Amanda: I think that's awesome.
Elena: Yeah. That's what I would want to do it with it.
Julia: So maybe not a movie. Maybe we're thinking Netflix miniseries with 8 to 12 episodes.
Amanda: Very good, high budget. I think that's a really useful example to point out that, I don't know, I don't criticize and point out things like why is a white lady a protagonist of a movie about La Llorona just to point a finger, but to say this is a useful opportunity for us to ask ourselves as individuals and as a society why we tell the stories the way we do, the importance of how we frame those stories, which ones we choose to retell and with what actors, in this case.
Amanda: I don't want to seem as if we're just pointing something out that is annoying for the sake of saying, "Oh, that's annoying," but this is how we learn. Stories are how we determine and perpetuate and shift our values. There is nothing more important than looking critically at the ones that we hold up. Are there any stories, movies, books, audio dramas, et cetera that you feel are fascinating, representative or otherwise worth talking about and recommending instead of this dumb movie? Where should people spend money to support Puerto Rican artists and Latin American artists?
Elena: I do have all of those things. In fact, I'm going to start with Timestorm, which was created by Cocotazo Media, which is an audio and music artist collective of Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans, but specifically Puerto Rican people. They also have a variety podcast called Cocotazo Theater. That's C-O-C-O-T-A-Z-O, for people who can't understand by very fast Spanish.
Julia: Thank you.
Elena: Timestorm is their brand new podcast. It's a young adult podcast about these twins who are Puerto Ricans living in New Jersey who have the opportunity to travel back in time to preserve and record and observe history.
Amanda: Julia's making big wide, "I want it," eyes at the camera.
Elena: It's true.
Julia: That's so up my alley, it's not even funny.
Elena: Yeah. They're doing that, and it's very important to note that they're not there to change history. They can't. It's in the rules. They're there to observe history, especially history that has been tainted by white supremacy and colonizer narratives.
Julia: Oh, Ellie. Oh, all of that is so good.
Elena: I know.
Amanda: I love it so much.
Elena: It's really nice. I mean, it's really wonderfully done from what I've heard so far. I highly recommend that you check it out if you want young adult time travel adventures where they're trying to keep that a secret in their real life, so you also have the experience of them living their lives. It deals very heavily with Hurricane Maria because that, as you can expect, had a huge effect on the way that Puerto Ricans are creating art right now. So there's a lot of that as well, and I think it's really important that we support those artists, so I highly recommend that you check out Timestorm.
Amanda: They have albums for purchase and merchandise for purchase as well as I think a donation button so you can put your money where your enjoyment is for CocotazoMedia.com.
Julia: We will link it in the show notes.
Elena: Yay. Flyest Fables.
Julia: Yes. Yes.
Elena: I love this podcast so much. I'm so glad you agree with me, Julia.
Julia: You're just making these recommendations. Ellie, just sit next to me and tell me stuff I need to listen to for the next 20 years. Okay, good.
Elena: For those who don't know, Flyest Fables, it's a connected anthology of sorts that starts with this kid, this child who founds a magic book that has his name on the cover. He gets to experience these fantasy adventures while he's dealing with bullying in school and things like that. It's super empowering audio because this has been constructed specifically to showcase black children. The creator is Morgan Givens. Morgan Givens is amazing. He voices all of the characters-
Elena: ... differently. His vocal range is truly astonishing. He also writes and sings songs, original music for each that ties into the story. There's immersive sound design. This is an extremely well-constructed podcast. It's really wonderful. It is also the definition of hopepunk for me, which is this popular new category that we have floating around, 'cause it's radically kind, it's empathetic, it's empowering, it's positive, and I just really recommend that everybody check it out. So that's Flyest Fables.
Amanda: Most importantly, please check out ElenaFernandezCollins.com where you can subscribe to one of my favorite newsletters about podcasting and follow all her excellent takes and reviews and super, super smart blog posts. I'm so lucky to be working in an industry where Elena is a journalist, genuinely, and everybody should know your name and follow you on Twitter.
Julia: It's 100% true. Elena does amazing work. I will again link in the show notes her website.
Elena: Thank you.
Julia: Of course. Thank you for being on the show. We're so glad you were able to come and talk about La Llorona with us.
Amanda: Thank you so much.
Elena: Thank you for having me. It was super fun.
Julia: It was absolutely, and I say this with 100% honesty, our absolute pleasure. All right. Remember listeners to stay creepy.
Amanda: Stay cool.