The story of La Llorona, but not the one you know

It’s such a small stone for such a big name.

La Llorona: she who cries. A massive, creepy presence in our legends, in the minds of children up and down Latin America. The woman who drowned her own children, who walks the riverbanks ceaselessly, crying and crying. A powerful myth. A strong, loud wail. 

But that Llorona has nothing to do with this shiny stone, selected long ago from the Santa Cruz mountains. The stone belongs to Melesia Villafuerte, and belonged to her mother before her. Like the indigenous people of Guanacaste for generations, Melesia and her mother have used a favorite stone to polish the rough sides of clay pots and vases and dishes into a high sheen: the famous pottery of Chorotega.

One day in Melesia’s youth, a boy in the neighborhood stole the stone. Melesia cried so hard and so long on the porch of her family’s Guanacaste home that, ashamed, the boy eventually returned it. She cried so hard and so long that, from that day on, the stone has been known as La Llorona. 

Today, Melesia is 57, and La Llorona flies and gleams in her hand as she sits polishing pottery at Coopeguaytil, where women come together to make art. It shines from years of polishing and being polished in return, a give and take between clay and stone. It shines with the memory of Melesia’s tears the day it was taken from her, only to return. It shines almost like a river stone, plucked from the waters before it was too late. 

Image by Mayela López. Text by Katherine Stanley Obando, inspired by a story by Mayela López about the artisans of Guaitil, Guanacaste, published by El Colectivo 506. Our Sunday #MediaNaranja series collects short love stories with a Costa Rican connection: romances, friendships, love of humans, animals, things, places, ideas. To share your own ideas for stories to be featured in this space, write to us at [email protected]

Mujeres de Guaitil salen adelante para preservar su arte