Book Review: Maya's Children The Story of La Llorona by Rudolfo Anaya

by DerdriuMarriner

Maya’s Children: The Story of La Llorona by Rudolfo Anaya gives legends of the Crying Woman in English text with Amy Córdova’s artwork and Enrique Lamadrid’s Spanish translation.

Maya's children are the Crying Woman's eternal quest

Maya’s Children: The Story of La Llorona adds a 500+-year-old legend to the storehouse of children’s literature in English and Spanish through the substantial storytelling capabilities of Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya (born October 30, 1937), as:
• anthologist, editor, essayist, folklorist, historian, mythologist, novelist, playwright, poet, storyteller in the Old Southwest’s Land of Enchantment;
• counselor in the United States of America’s forty-seventh state; and
• emeritus literature professor at the University of New Mexico.

The story brings together the beliefs, customs, folklore, legends, myths, proverbs, and sayings of Hispanic and Native American peoples from fifteenth-century Mexico northward into sixteenth-century New Mexico.

It can be considered an old tale whose role-modeling cautions against children behaving badly and parents suffering nightmarish losses.

se inicia el mestizaje aqui en tlaxcala acuerdo de paz y recepcion (Mestizoization began here in Tlaxcala; peace agreement and reception): mural by Tlaxcalan muralist Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin (February 11, 1922 – September 14, 2007)

Malinche (center) with Hernán Cortés (right) and Tlaxcalan leaders (left)
Palacio de Gobierno, Tlaxcala City, Tlaxcala state, east central Mexico
Palacio de Gobierno, Tlaxcala City, Tlaxcala state, east central Mexico

Maya's children become bedtime stories for five centuries


Cultural anthropologists and historians describe the Festival of the Sun as ancient Mexico’s super-celebration day. Folklorists extract from New and Old Mexico’s histories, legends, myths, and stories La Llorona’s  (The Crying Woman) haunting tale. Some authorities find the story’s origins in Hernán Cortés (1485 – December 2, 1547) romancing doña Marina (1502? – 1529?), Coatzacoalcos area-born Nahuatl-speaker:

  • born to Cimatl, lady of Oluta and Xaltipa, and lord of Painala;
  • captured by Xicalango’s and Tabasco’s Maya-speakers;
  • delivered of Martín Cortés (1523 - 1595);
  • exasperated by Hernán’s marrying doña Juana Ramírez de Arellano de Zúñiga in 1529;
  • frightened by Hernán’s kidnapping-minded soldiers; and
  • goaded by local prophecies of stabbing and throwing into Tenochtitlán’s lake Hernán’s two sons to avert cultural annihilation. 


Historic meeting of Cortés and Moctesuma: doña Marina alongside Hernán Cortés ~

"Tenochtitlan. Tierra del nopal. Entrada de Hernan Cortes, la cual se verificó el 8 de noviembre de 1519": ca. 1890 facsimile of paintings by artists for Tlaxcalan royal houses ca. 1560
Historia de Tlaxcala, also known as Lienzo de Tlaxcala (Linen of Tlaxcala)
Historia de Tlaxcala, also known as Lienzo de Tlaxcala (Linen of Tlaxcala)

Maya's children configure immortality in a clay pot


An updated version gives the Crying Woman different means, motives, and opportunities, with:

  • birthday on the Festival of the Sun to village-dwelling parents;
  • birthmark in the shape of the Sun on a shoulder; and
  • blessing by a priest because of the mark’s indication of immortality.

Maya has to be hidden in the jungle because Señor Tiempo (Father Time) begrudges her having a never-ending life and receiving love from gods, nature, and people. As a young beauty, she is so lonely that Wise Owl shares how to grow babies in a pot. Five clay-potted babies soon jostle one another on flat surfaces throughout Maya’s remote abode. But Time keeps current of Maya’s whereabouts and the potted progenies’ existences. 


Aztec calendar stone known as Stone of the Five Suns or Eras: basaltic carving, which includes sun and time symbols, was buried during Spanish Conquest of Mexico, ca. 1520, in Zócalo, main Aztec ceremonial center in Tenochtitlan:

rediscovery of stone on December 17, 1790, during repairs to Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption: consecrated in 1656, construction was ordered by Hernán Cortés after tearing down of nearby Aztec Templo Mayor (Main Temple).
Museo nacional de Antropología e Historia  (National Museum of Anthropology and History), Mexico City
Museo nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Museum of Anthropology and History), Mexico City

Maya's children do not get back home, ever!


Time never lets go of plans to turn Maya’s endless joy into limitless woe. He makes use of stormy weather to deceive Maya into destroying all five pots in whose fertile soils a mystery man’s seeds grow babies. Maya needs to find her children to ease her culpable, manipulable naiveté. She therefore opts to concentrate audible sobs and visible searches to jungle-like settings of:

  • lonely roads; and
  • wooded lakes and rivers.

So Maya’s Children: The Story of La Llorona provides kindergarteners to fourth-graders aged 5 to 9+ years with culturally enriching, educationally entertaining, geo-historically enthralling journeys into Mexican and New Mexican popular culture, thanks to:

  • Rudolfo Anaya, author;
  • Maria Baca, illustrator; and
  • Hyperion Books for Children, publisher. 


Maya's Children: The Story of La Llorona by Rudolfo Anaya ~ illustrated by Maria Baca ~ available via Amazon

In ancient Mexico, the beautiful and magical grandchildren of the Sun God are endangered by the threat of Señor Tiempo who, jealous of their immortality, plots to destroy them.
Rudolfo Anaya stories



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Pyramid of the Sun: stairway to the top ~ Sun was important power and symbol in ancient Mexico

Teotihuacan: designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987
Teotihuacan: designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987

Sources Consulted


Anaya, Rudolfo. 1997. Maya's Children: The Story of La Llorona. Illustrated by Maria Baca. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children. 


Zia Sun Symbol on Flag of New Mexico: Aztecs were not alone among indigenous American peoples in belief in Sun as sacred symbol; New Mexico's indigenous Zia tribe esteemed their own Sun Symbol.

Deming, central Luna County, southwestern New Mexico
Deming, central Luna County, southwestern New Mexico
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Historic View of Tenochtitlan, Ancient Capital of the Aztec Empire, and the Valley of Mexico ~ Giclée print ~ available via AllPosters

mural of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco by Diego Rivera (December 8, 1886 – November 24, 1957)
Historic View of Tenochtitlan, Ancient Capital of the Aztec Empire, and the Valley of Mexico

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 04/08/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 07/14/2015

CruiseReady, Thank you for liking this review! Rudolfo Anaya has a talent for lifting readers up -- as in his beautiful story "Bless Me, Ultima" -- even when he touches upon what is disappointing or sad in life. The book is told so beautifully and offers such cultural and historical insights that it is worth the read and I do with this book and with the author's other children's books. Spanish-speaking parents use the story of the crying woman -- not of scary monsters like in horror films (which I tend to avoid) -- to encourage their children to be home before dark and to be careful of strange behaviors and people outside their known circle of family, friends, and peers.

CruiseReady on 07/07/2015

What a beautifully illustrated article! After reading it, I find myself thinking I would like to read this children's book myself, even though it sounds as if it has some pretty sad elements.

DerdriuMarriner on 04/09/2015

Mira, New Mexico lives up to its nickname as The Land of Enchantment. Me, too, I also love the Zia Sun Symbol on New Mexico's beautiful state flag.
I appreciate the compliment on the illustrations in my articles. Images entertainingly convey information and effectively reinforce education.
I especially value your compliment on this article because Rudolfo Anaya is a living treasure.

Mira on 04/09/2015

I love that sun symbol on the flag. You always illustrate your articles so nicely. Thank you for sharing all this with us. The story is also interesting.

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