[Este artículo contiene spoilers]

La Llorona (or The Weeping Woman) is one of those both terrible and fascinating characters which make us like horror films, the apparition of the mother who drowned her children and now searches for them everywhere, making people shudder with her disembodied sobbing and lamenting. 

In his film La Llorona (2019), the director Jayro Bustamante revisits this ghost in Latin American folklore and delivers it to us as a bearer of the pain of a people to whom institutions do not know how to do justice. And the fact is that not many days go by before Enrique Monteverde – the Guatemalan general who was declared guilty of the Mayan genocide – is sent home free, after his sentence was revoked because of the invalidity of the procedure. Popular outrage explodes and crowds throng around the house (with shouting and chanting that never leave off throughout the film). Together with those, another cry begins to pierce the night: the crying of a woman whom we cannot see, but whose spirit has begun to inhabit the old general’s home. 

This text does not set out to describe the film –which in any case is recommended– but rather to call to mind the effect that the apparition has on the wife of the genocidal general. While he goes on listening to those skinless sobs, his wife begins to experience a strange conjunctivitis –her eyes are always tearful, and even the house grows full of a ghostly wateriness– and in her dreams she begins to identify with a mother killed together with her sons by her husband. The general, before shooting, says to her: “If you cry, I’ll kill you.” This mother – we go on to discover when we see her face in the dream – is the young girl who came to work in the family home a few days previously, when the protests began. So much for the part that gets under your skin.

In our societies there are many different types of sensitivity. For this reason, it is useful to have a lot of patience: we can be sure our own expectations will never entirely be met. In fact, what La Llorona by Jayro Bustamante gets us to face is that perhaps there is something more objective than our expectations. This is the mysterious appeal that the victims’ tears bear, the pain that knows nothing of political agendas (where if something is not a priority for the majority this does not however mean that it is not right to attend to it and even liberating to achieve it), and which demands a response. When institutions fail, the tears of some go on being shed, and there are stories that help us to trust that someone has ears to hear this weeping. It is the tale of a kind of political grace. Perhaps we shall experience it like the general’s wife, who spent her whole life deceiving herself, preferring not to see. Perhaps our prejudices and our ideology have created a barrier we can only flood beyond when we are asleep. Because what the spirit of La Llorona manages to do –through the thrust of dreams– is to ensure that the general’s wife puts herself in the position of the mother who was murdered by him. No more and no less than this. We shall see, in the end, what consequences emerge from this (at least according to the code of a political horror film).

Societies are not capable of bearing their responsibilities and blame once and for all. Perhaps this would be too much to ask. At times we do not even agree on determining what those responsibilities and blame are. But in the midst of this blockade, there is something that moves the story on and carries it mysteriously towards a reconciliation: the victims’ tears. As in the film, these go on welling up until their flow erupts into someone’s dream.

Some of the small movements of consolation and reconciliation that arise –almost miraculously (the film Maixabel is a good example of this)– from our societies, seem to be the fruit of listening to a groaning released at a very low frequency (or to a shout for those who do not have a good sense of hearing). The same shout as Yahweh with the enslaved people in Egypt; the same as Moses, who could not forget it. This way gestures begin to surface that allow this other Llorona who is humanity itself, now restored, to breathe a little better, to relax those stricken muscles.

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Jesuit in training. He studies the Licentiate in Fundamental Theology at the Pontificia Facoltà Teologica dell´Italia Meridionale in Naples. He collaborates with the association Figli in famiglia in the neighborhood of San Giovanni a Teduccio.
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