La Llorona is a well-known character from an old Mexican folktale (one I heard many times as a kid). She appears in Evangelina’s dreams and represents her feelings of guilt from a tragedy she could have prevented. From Wikipedia:
“Although several variations exist, the basic story tells of a beautiful woman by the name of Maria who drowns her children in order to be with the man that she loved. The man would not have her, which devastated her. She would not take no for an answer, so she drowned herself in a river in Mexico City. Challenged at the gates of Heaven as to the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, with her constant weeping giving her the name “La Llorona.” She is trapped in between the living world and the spirit world.
In some versions of this tale and legend, La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who resemble her missing children, or children who disobey their parents. People who claim to have seen her say she appears at night or in the late evenings from rivers or lakes in Mexico. Some believe that those who hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death.”
Now…from Chapter 4 of Evangelina’s Journey:
The knobs in the old woman’s spine protrude beneath her gray cloak like miniature fists trying to break free. Her back is stooped, arms exposed, and the pale, wrinkled skin hangs from her bones. Her palms extend toward the threatening sky – long, frail fingers curve upward – stiff – pleading for something, waiting for something.
She walks away from me slowly; a hood shrouds her face. She emits a wail so sorrowful, so penetrating and hopeless, every muscle in my body tenses and a sudden chill washes over me. My heartbeat slows, thump—thump—–thump————thump—————————thump. I must escape or I will die here and now.
This old woman has a secret – I can tell, and I must know what it is.
Reluctantly, I follow her with light steps, afraid she’ll turn around. She moans, “Where are my babies? What have you done with my babies?” The steep, narrow path leads us away from the cliff top down to the Rio Bravo. She does not look down as she walks although the ground is uneven. The roots of the Pinion trees stretch across as if carefully placed to make unsuspecting daydreamers fall to their watery deaths below. No need to watch her step – the old woman has walked this path thousands of times before.