La Llorona

Fernando Antonio Martinez, grad student

Once I dreamt I was nine years old, stuffed in an eight-seat Chevy Astro with nine other people

Cruising down the empty streets of Guanajuato in the dead of night

A moment of relaxation we so desperately needed

See, we just spent the last 10 hours exploring the two most famous pyramids in this desert state where people were honored to have been sacrificed

But sacrifices weren’t enough so we took a stroll through El Museo de las Momias

An underground freezer that holds the mummified bodies of the Guanajuatenses who perished during a cholera outbreak 189 years ago I cannot begin to describe how ominous this day has been

II

I am nine years old, stuffed in an eight-seat Chevy Astro with nine other people

Cruising down the empty streets of Guanajuato because we did not expect to stay out here this long and home is three hours away in a different state

We’d rather find shelter in a semi-decent hotel that won’t upcharge because we’re from Michoacan and not Guanajuato

But see, shelter is 20 kilometers from the city, across El Puente de Santa Ana

A bridge that the locals have told us is guarded by a short pale-skinned woman en un camison blanco

A woman whose only words are “O hijos míos, a dónde los llevaré? // My children, where will I take you?” You cannot see her face but still … you can tell that past her long, dirty, disheveled hair … this woman is in pain

Crossing that bridge means that your empathy will heighten

See you’re afraid of this woman but you do not want to leave her on the bridge alone

Crossing that bridge means she steps into the eight-seat Chevy Astro stuffed with 10 people to make sure she gets home safe

Crossing that bridge means that when you finally cross over the bridge, she is no longer in the car with you

You do not know where she is

III

I am nine years old, having found my way back to Los Angeles

I am walking with confidence to the front of the room of my fourth-grade class because I have the story of a lifetime

It feels as if I came back to the first day of school for this moment and this moment only

I know it is not a competition but for the first time I will have the best thing to show

Except I don’t

See, that woman en El Puente de Santa Ana … well she has a lot of names

La Llorona, La Malinche, La Siguanaba, or the Weeping Woman

I guess we all have the same stories