Velvet Barrios pp 229-247 | Cite as

Lost in the Cinematic Landscape

Chicanas as Lloronas in Contemporary Film
  • Domino Renee Pérez
Part of the New Directions in Latino American Cultures book series (NDLAC)


La Llorona is the woman of our dreams and nightmares who wanders through the landscape of our imagination, crying, searching, nurturing, always calling out to us. She is the wronged mother, lover, or woman who murders or abandons her children, though she will never stop searching until her children are brought home. La Llorona’s prominence within Chicano popular culture has given her iconographie status.1 Corridos, plays, poetry, and art represent this mysterious figure in her numerous incarnations, but while her appearance in the literature and music of Chicanos and Chicanas has been analyzed, La Llorona’s representation in film has yet to be explored, and this is my project here. No Chicano or Anglo mainstream filmmaker has overtly foregrounded this cultural figure or focused on the implications of her deep roots in Chicano consciousness, but I see distinct outlines of La Llorona in the narratives and depictions of Chicana characters in film. My approach, in part, is informed by Tey Diana Re-bolledo, who offers that contemporary Lloronas are not only symbolic of women but of Chicano culture as a whole, “whose children are lost because of their assimilation into the dominant culture or because of violence or prejudice.”2 This reading accounts for those women and men who become lost in our racially charged, xenophobic world.


Female Character Gang Member Undocumented Worker Opaque Word Final Scene 
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  1. 1.
    According to Rebolledo, there are signs in New Mexico with La Llorona’s image on them warning children not to play too closely to ditches, emphasizing her presence as an accepted and identifiable cultural and regional icon. See Tey Diana Rebolledo, Women Singing in the Snow: A Cultural Analysis of Chicana Literature (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995), 65.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    I do not wish to suggest that an “essential” La Llorona myth exists. In fact, Bess Lomax-Hawes, in “La Llorona in Juvenile Hall,” Western Folklore 27 (1968): 153–170, suggests that because of variations in the weeping woman narrative, the only consistent element might be the name, La Llorona. I am, however, drawing upon traditional versions of the tale, which depend heavily on the seminal work done by Américo Paredes in Folktales of Mexico (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970) andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Thomas A. Janvier in Legends of Mexico City (New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1910).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jacqueline Bobo, Black Women as Cultural Readers (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 87.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bell Hooks, Black Looks: Race and Representation (Boston: South End Press, 1992), 21–22.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    José Limon, American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998), 152.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Trihn T. Minhha, Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), 79.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    Jean Baudrillard, Seduction trans. Brian Singer (1979; New York: St Martin’s, 1990), 124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 14.
    Lester J. Friedman, ed., Unspeakable Images: Ethnicity and the American Cinema (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 9.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Jason C. Johansen, “Notes on Chicano Cinema,” in Chicanos and Film: Representation and Resistance ed. Chon A. Noriega (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 306.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alicia Gaspar de Alba 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Domino Renee Pérez

There are no affiliations available

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