Perhaps the most famous of all Guatemalan legends, not to mention the rest of Latin America, La Llorona tells the story of a woman’s ghost who haunts the streets around the Pensativo River in Antigua. Versions of the story vary, one telling that La Llorona drowned the illegitimate son she bore from an affair. Another says that La Llorona drowned the child born to a man who was not ready to be a father in attempt to save the marriage. The man leaves her, and she falls into a deep depression, eventually killing herself in the river. A final version says that La Llorona’s husband dies, leaving her destitute and with three children to support. Without a job, she drowns the children so that they won’t suffer. Either way, after drowning her children she is overcome by grief and drowns herself as well. Because of her actions, she is punished and must wander the streets, never at peace until she is reunited with her children.
In the middle of the night, La Llorona appears near sources of water dressed in a white robe. Her long, dark hair hides her face from those who claim to have seen her. All that can be heard is her wailing voice crying out in search of her children. Locals say that La Llorona can best be heard late at night near the Tanque La Unión or the pilas of Santa Ana outside Antigua. Some say that she patrols the night skies as an owl and only transforms into a woman when she lands on the ground. Still more swear that she kidnaps wandering children, believing them to be her own. Today, parents use the myth as a cautionary tale to keep children from misbehaving: “Be careful, or La Llorona will take you away.”
El Sombrerón (The Big Hat)
Also known as Tzipitío or Tzizimite, El Sombrerón is a short, mischievous man dressed in black with a shiny belt and large, black hat. Carrying a guitar and trailed by four mules, he travels by dusk, his boots clomping loudly wherever he goes. He braids the tails of horses and searches for beautiful women to serenade. Women with long hair and big eyes are particularly attractive to El Sombrerón, and when he finds one he will sing and dance outside the girl’s house every night to bewitch her and prevent her from sleeping. It is also believed that he keeps her from eating by repeatedly contaminating her food with dirt.
The myth originates from the outskirts of Antigua Guatemala, where a beautiful young woman became the first target of El Sombrerón. She soon fell in love with him, and his powerful melodies kept her awake at night. Every time she went to eat, the food on her plate was inexplicably filled with dirt. After weeks of not sleeping or eating, the girl’s parents sought a resolution by taking her to a convent. There, her long hair was blessed with holy water, but one week later the girl died. At her funeral, her hair was fashioned in a curious braid. Today, the myth is used to instill conservative values among young women. It is said that beautiful women will keep their hair short to avoid falling victim to El Sombrerón.