The mythical character becomes even more terrifying when real life events mirror the tragedy of La Llorona's tale. In 2005, Susan Smith of South Carolina strapped her own children to a car and rolled it into a river. She was sentenced to life in prison after she confessed to killing them. Since then, there have been other cases resembling each other.
And yet, there is something that has compelled us as a culture to keep the terrifying memory of La Llorona alive for over 500 years, the same thing that keeps us coming back for more spine-tingling experiences – whether it's at a theme park or the newest horror movie.
Christopher Chacon, an authority on the scientific exploration of paranormal, supernatural and anomalous phenomena who regularly appears on national television, offers some clues as to why Latinos are so drawn to the supernatural. "As Latinos, we have a great ancestry of indigenous cultures that had an awareness or sensitivity to the supernatural," he says. "We supposedly only have five senses, but the ancient cultures believed that we have more than that. The question is, if we want to use them."
"From a metaphysical standpoint, there is this belief that if it's in your blood, then you're always going to have that proclivity to visualize that there's something there," Chacon adds. "So it's part of you and who you are. And I have friends who are very hardcore Catholic, and want nothing to do with that stuff, but the fact that they don't want anything to do with it implies that they believe it's there. In some ways, fear drives our existence."
Chacon believes that when the Catholic Church laid over its beliefs over the other, more ancient existing ones, this only served to accentuate our complicated relationship with the supernatural. "The Church labeled these other, secular beliefs as dark and evil and dangerous, putting a new label on beliefs that had been practiced for hundreds of years. They put a tone on those things, said you need to be afraid of them."
With holidays like Dia De Los Muertos, when we believe the spirits are among us again, it's clear that Latinos don't see death in the same black and white way that other cultures do.There's something beyond life than its obvious physical aspect (See also: The Ultimate Day of the Dead Guide).
Psychic medium A.J. Barrera, who has had his own show on mun2 called From Beyond, says once you understand the other world – and accept that it exists - there's nothing to be afraid of.
But still, you should know the difference between a ghost and a spirit, because apparently they behave differently, according to Barrera: "A ghost actually died tragically or doesn't know they've passed on, so they need the help of someone, either a medium, or someone who is sensitive to those things, to help them transition to the other side," he says. "They can come across as very mischievous, you can see them rocking a chair, making effects of shadows, things to get your attention. But we have to understand that we have to co-exist with them. As for spirits, those are our loved ones, they have that opportunity to come and go as they want, meaning they're not here all of the time, but they're going to give us guidance when it's needed. They're going to give us more positive messages or signs, like your mother's favorite perfume – rather than a ghost, who's trying to get your attention any way they can."