Exploring the Meaning: What Does La Llorona Symbolize in Summer of the Mariposas?

Summer of the Mariposas is a powerful coming-of-age novel that captures the essence of sisterhood, family bonds, and cultural traditions. In this story, the mythical figure of La Llorona plays a significant role as it symbolizes the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters and the fear of abandonment. While some may perceive this folklore as a scary ghost story, it carries a much deeper meaning in the context of the novel.

La Llorona, also known as the weeping woman, is a centuries-old legend that tells the story of a mother who drowns her children in a river as an act of revenge against her unfaithful husband. According to the legend, she roams around at night, crying and searching for her drowned children. In Summer of the Mariposas, La Llorona takes on a different meaning, representing the fear of losing one’s family and the strength of maternal love. As the Garza sisters embark on a journey to Mexico, they encounter various obstacles, but the one that resonates the most with them is when they stumble upon a group of children who are in danger, just like the legendary tale of La Llorona. This encounter brings forth the sisters’ fears and makes them realize the importance of their family bond, just like La Llorona’s tragic story which highlights the importance of familial love.

As the Garza sisters navigate through their perilous journey and come to understand their family’s history, they learn that their mother, Esperanza, had to make tough choices and sacrifices to provide for her daughters. The symbol of La Llorona represents the bond that exists between mother and daughter and the unbreakable will to protect their family at all costs. As the sisters unravel their family’s past and encounter their elders’ wisdom, they realize the strength that lies within their cultural roots and the importance of fighting for what they believe in. La Llorona becomes a powerful symbol of hope and resilience, reminding us that even in the most challenging times, a mother’s love and sacrifice can lead to a beautiful transformation.

Mexican Folklore

Mexican folklore is a rich and vibrant collection of myths, legends, and traditions passed down through generations. One of the most haunting and iconic figures in Mexican folklore is La Llorona, or the Weeping Woman. La Llorona is a ghostly woman who is said to cry and wail for her lost children in the dead of night.

La Llorona’s story varies from region to region in Mexico, but the main plot typically involves a beautiful woman who falls in love with a wealthy man, and together they have children. The man eventually leaves her for a younger woman, and in her rage and despair, she drowns their children in a nearby river. When she realizes what she has done, she tries to save them, but it is too late. The grief and guilt drive her to suicide, and her ghost is said to roam the earth, crying and searching for her lost children.

  • La Llorona is often used to scare children into behaving, with parents warning them that if they misbehave, La Llorona will come and take them away.
  • The legend of La Llorona has been adapted into film, literature, and music, becoming a staple of Mexican popular culture.
  • Some people believe that La Llorona is a symbol of the Mexican people’s pain and resilience, representing the sorrows and struggles of a nation that has suffered much throughout its history.

In Summer of the Mariposas, La Llorona takes on a new symbolism as the girls are forced to confront their fears and channel their inner strength to conquer adversity. The novel embraces the power of Mexican folklore to empower its young protagonists, and reminds us of our heritage and the enduring influence of myth and legend in shaping our identities.

Symbolism of La Llorona Description
Grief and loss La Llorona’s endless weeping represents the pain and sorrow of losing someone or something dear to us.
Motherhood La Llorona’s love and devotion to her children, even in death, speaks to the power of maternal love and the sacrifices that mothers make for their children.
Penance and redemption La Llorona’s ghostly presence is often seen as a punishment for her misdeeds, but some interpretations offer her a chance at redemption by allowing her to find peace and forgiveness.

Mexican folklore is a testament to the enduring power of storytelling and the human need for connection and understanding. La Llorona, with her haunting cry and tragic tale, is a timeless symbol of grief and redemption that continues to captivate and inspire us.

La Llorona Folklore

La Llorona, also known as the “weeping woman,” is a well-known figure in Mexican and Hispanic folklore. She is a ghostly apparition of a woman who is said to wander near bodies of water, crying and searching for her lost children.

  • There are many variations of the La Llorona legend, but the most common story involves a beautiful young woman who falls in love with a wealthy man. The two have children together, but the man eventually leaves the woman for a younger, wealthier woman.
  • Driven to madness by the betrayal and the loss of her children, the woman drowns them in a river or lake. She is then consumed by guilt and grief, and takes her own life.
  • After her death, she is doomed to wander the earth, searching for her children and weeping uncontrollably. It is said that her cries can be heard near bodies of water, and that she may even try to abduct children who resemble her own.

La Llorona has become a powerful symbol in Mexican and Hispanic culture, representing the dangers of infidelity and the consequences of actions driven by jealousy and despair. She is often used as a cautionary tale to teach children about the importance of making good choices and avoiding harmful behaviors.

Her story has also been used as a tool for social commentary, with some seeing her as a representation of the suffering of marginalized and oppressed groups throughout history. The themes of loss, grief, and redemption that are central to her story resonate with people of all backgrounds and have helped her become an enduring figure in popular culture.

How La Llorona Symbolizes “Summer of the Mariposas”

In “Summer of the Mariposas,” La Llorona serves as a powerful metaphor for the pain and trauma experienced by the characters in the novel. Just like the ghostly woman, the sisters are haunted by the loss of loved ones and the fear of being forgotten.

Their journey, which takes them through treacherous terrain and exposes them to danger and violence, reflects the struggles of many marginalized groups who have had to fight for survival and recognition in a world that is often hostile and unforgiving.

Similarities Between La Llorona and the Sisters Differences Between La Llorona and the Sisters
Both experience loss and grief The sisters are still alive, while La Llorona is a ghost
Both are searching for something La Llorona is looking for her children, while the sisters are looking for their father’s remains
Both are haunted by their pasts The sisters are able to move forward and find closure, while La Llorona is doomed to wander forever

Through the use of La Llorona symbolism, the novel explores themes of resilience, sisterhood, and the power of cultural storytelling. The sisters’ journey, which ultimately leads them to a place of healing and self-discovery, demonstrates the importance of facing one’s fears and finding strength in community and tradition.

Mythical Creatures

Throughout Summer of the Mariposas, La Llorona appears as a prominent mythical creature, symbolizing a variety of different themes and ideas.

  • Guilt and Remorse: La Llorona is often depicted as a woman who has drowned her children and is now doomed to wander the earth in search of them. This backstory serves as a metaphor for the guilt and remorse that many of the characters in the novel feel, as they struggle with their own personal mistakes and failures.
  • Female Empowerment: La Llorona is also a symbol of female empowerment, as she is able to navigate dangerous and male-dominated spaces with ease. Her resilience and determination inspire the Mariposas to push past their own fears and limitations, and to embrace their role as leaders and protectors.
  • The Power of Storytelling: Finally, La Llorona represents the power of storytelling and the importance of passing down cultural myths and legends from one generation to the next. As the Mariposas learn about the different versions of La Llorona’s story, they also deepen their understanding of their own culture and history, and gain a greater appreciation for the power of words and narratives.

Overall, La Llorona serves as a rich and complex symbol throughout Summer of the Mariposas, representing a range of different themes and ideas that are central to the novel’s message of empowerment, growth, and healing.


In Summer of the Mariposas, la Llorona symbolizes motherhood, particularly the grief and pain that mothers experience in losing their children. The legend of la Llorona tells the story of a woman who drowns her own children in a fit of rage and then spends the rest of her life searching for them along the riverbanks.

Throughout the novel, Odilia and her sisters encounter different versions of la Llorona as they journey through Mexico. Each of these iterations of the legend reflects the different ways in which motherhood is portrayed in Mexican culture. For example:

  • One version of la Llorona is depicted as a fierce protector of children, who searches the riverbanks for lost or abandoned kids.
  • Another version portrays la Llorona as a seductress who tempts men to their deaths out of revenge for her own lost children.
  • A third version shows la Llorona as a tragic figure, who is doomed to wander the earth in search of her children, whom she killed in a moment of madness.

Regardless of which version of la Llorona Odilia and her sisters encounter, the theme of motherhood is always present. The novel highlights the intricate relationships between mothers and their children, exploring the joy, love, and sacrifice that motherhood requires.

The theme of motherhood is also explored through the story of Odilia’s own mother, who died when Odilia was young. Through flashbacks and memories, we see how the loss of her mother continues to affect Odilia’s life and how she has had to take on maternal responsibilities for her younger sisters.

“La Llorona. The Weeping Woman. The Woman in White… Searching for her lost children along the riverbank. That’s what mothers do. They search for their lost children. In this world and the next.”
“It wasn’t like my mother to disappear without packing. She always came prepared. Always checked the weather report on the radio. She’d pack layers if the night would be cool, or bring umbrellas, extra socks, and insect repellent if it were going to be damp. When Mama made a plan, she always had it covered. I was convinced she’d come back for us, that she’d turn up with my shopping list, or say she’d decided to treat us to a week’s stay at the beach, since she was feeling better. It wasn’t until the second day that I understood she wasn’t coming back at all.”

In essence, la Llorona represents the depth of a mother’s love and the pain that comes with it when that love is lost. It is a powerful symbol of the importance of family and the sacrifices that mothers make to protect their children.

Guilt and Redemption

In Summer of the Mariposas, the legend of La Llorona represents the concept of guilt and redemption. La Llorona is a well-known figure in Mexican folklore, known as the weeping woman who wanders along rivers and creeks, crying and mourning the loss of her children.

In the novel, the sisters come across a woman who they believe to be La Llorona. Initially, they are scared and run away, but later they find out that the woman they saw was a mother who had lost her son to the cartel violence. The sisters feel guilty for misjudging the woman and judging her without knowing her story. They come to realize that everyone has their own story and that no one should be judged based on appearances. The experience leads them to reflect on their own actions and the importance of empathy and kindness.

Symbolism of La Llorona

  • La Llorona serves as a warning against the consequences of not taking responsibility for one’s actions. In the legend, it is said that La Llorona drowned her children out of jealousy and rage. Her weeping and mourning are a reminder of the grief that comes with one’s misdeeds.
  • The legend also represents the idea of redemption. La Llorona wanders along the rivers, searching for her children and seeking redemption for her actions. The sisters, too, seek redemption for their initial misjudgment of the woman they encountered. They learn that redemption is possible through facing one’s mistakes and seeking forgiveness.
  • Additionally, La Llorona is a symbol of the Mexican-American identity and the struggle to reconcile cultural traditions with the reality of living in America. The sisters are Mexican-American and their encounters with La Llorona challenge them to connect with their roots and understand their cultural identity.

The Importance of Guilt and Redemption

Guilt and redemption are essential themes in Summer of the Mariposas as they highlight the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions and seeking to make amends when one has caused harm. The sisters learn that it is not enough to simply recognize the harm one has caused; one must actively work towards making things right. By facing their guilt and seeking redemption, the sisters grow as individuals and better understand the importance of empathy and compassion towards others.

The Role of Empathy

Empathy plays a crucial role in the sisters’ journey towards redemption. It is through empathy that they are able to understand the woman they initially judged and see things from her perspective. Empathy allows us to connect with others and recognize the humanity in everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances. In the novel, empathy becomes a means of bridging the gap between different cultures and understanding the experiences of others.

Symbolism of La Llorona The Importance of Guilt and Redemption The Role of Empathy
Serves as a warning against consequences of not taking responsibility for one’s actions Highlights the importance of taking responsibility and making amends when one has caused harm Allows us to connect with others and understand their perspective
Represents the possibility of redemption through facing one’s mistakes and seeking forgiveness Facilitates personal growth and understanding of empathy and compassion Bridges the gap between different cultures and experiences
Symbolizes the struggle to reconcile cultural traditions with living in America

The symbolism of La Llorona, the importance of guilt and redemption, and the role of empathy are all interconnected themes in Summer of the Mariposas. Through their encounters with La Llorona, the sisters learn to navigate these themes and grow as individuals, ultimately returning home with a newfound sense of understanding and acceptance.

Death and Mourning

In the novel “Summer of the Mariposas,” the legend of La Llorona plays a significant role in how the Garza sisters process their grief and mourning for their grandmother. La Llorona is a Mexican folk tale about a woman who drowned her children in a river out of jealousy and despair. She then roams the earth, weeping and searching for her lost children.

  • The number 6 is also significant in the legend of La Llorona. The story goes that she drowned her six children in the river.
  • For the Garza sisters, the number 6 symbolizes their six-member family – their grandmother, their mother, and the four sisters.
  • As they embark on their journey to return their grandmother’s ashes to Mexico, they encounter six obstacles that test them physically and emotionally.

These six obstacles come to represent the stages of grief and mourning that the Garza sisters must navigate to come to terms with their grandmother’s death. The obstacles are:

Obstacle Grief stage
The coyote Denial
The river Anger
The Thieves Bargaining
The Smugglers Depression
The Tornado Acceptance
The Border Patrol New beginning/Rebirth

Through their experiences with these obstacles, the Garza sisters come to understand the complexity of grief and the necessity of processing their emotions in order to move forward. The number 6, representing La Llorona’s six children and their own six-member family, acts as a constant reminder of the interconnectedness of their family and the need to support each other through their grief.

Ghost Stories

Ghosts have long been a part of storytelling across cultures, often serving as symbols for various themes and emotions. In “Summer of the Mariposas,” the legend of La Llorona serves as a prominent ghost story symbol. Within the context of the novel, La Llorona represents loss, grief, and the struggle to hold onto family and identity.

  • The Number 7: The number 7 also plays a significant role in the novel’s ghost story themes. In Mexican folklore, 7 is a powerful number often associated with spiritual significance. In the novel, the seven sisters encounter various ghosts and supernatural beings throughout their journey to return a dead man to his family. The encounters with these spirits often occur in groups of 7, further emphasizing the spiritual themes throughout the novel.

Overall, ghost stories serve as a powerful symbol in “Summer of the Mariposas,” representing grief, loss, and spiritual significance. The inclusion of the legend of La Llorona and the number 7 serve to deepen these themes throughout the novel.

Hispanic Culture

Summer of the Mariposas, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, is a YA novel that features various elements of Hispanic culture, including the symbolism of la llorona. Here, we will take a closer look at what la llorona represents in the novel.

  • La Llorona: In Hispanic culture, la llorona is a well-known legend often told to children as a cautionary tale. It tells the story of a woman who drowned her children and now wanders the earth in search of them, wailing and crying. In Summer of the Mariposas, la llorona is a symbol of loss, grief, and the danger that women face in a patriarchal society.

Throughout the novel, the characters encounter various iterations of the legend of la llorona, from roadside shrines to the ghostly wailing in the night. The use of this symbol in the novel highlights the importance of tradition and folklore in Hispanic culture, as well as the enduring power of storytelling to convey important messages.

Furthermore, la llorona serves as a reminder of the dangers that women face in a world where they are often undervalued and mistreated. The titular mariposas (butterflies) are a group of sisters who embark on a journey to return the body of a dead migrant girl to her family. Along the way, they encounter various obstacles, including predatory men and a society that does not value the lives of migrant women. La llorona, with her tragic story of loss and sorrow, serves as a warning to these young women and a reminder of the potential dangers they face.

Symbol Meaning
La Llorona Loss, grief, danger to women in patriarchal society

Overall, la llorona is a powerful symbol in Summer of the Mariposas, representing both the rich cultural traditions of Hispanic communities and the ongoing struggles that women face in societies throughout the world.

Legends and Traditions

Summer of the Mariposas is heavily influenced by Mexican folklore, specifically the legend of La Llorona. The story of La Llorona, or the Weeping Woman, dates back to ancient Aztec culture, but has since become a popular ghost story throughout Mexico and Latin America.

  • La Llorona is often depicted as a woman who drowned her children in a fit of rage or sorrow, and is now doomed to roam the earth in search of them, weeping uncontrollably.
  • In Summer of the Mariposas, La Llorona is seen as a symbol of motherhood, sacrifice, and redemption.
  • As the main characters grapple with their own family drama and must learn to rely on one another to survive, the myth of La Llorona serves as a powerful metaphor for their journey.

The Number 9

Another important theme in Summer of the Mariposas is the significance of the number 9 in Mexican culture. This number holds a special place in ancient Mesoamerican traditions, as it represents the nine levels of the underworld, nine heavens, and nine corners of the universe.

Throughout the book, the number 9 appears in various forms, from the nine ancient Mesoamerican gods to the nine sisters on their journey. The use of this number serves to connect the sisters to their cultural heritage and to highlight the importance of harmony and balance in the natural world.

Nine Mesoamerican Gods Nine Sisters
Tepeyollotl – god of earthquakes Odilia – the narrator
Tezcatlipoca – god of night, deceit, and sorcery Zoila – the eldest sister
Quetzalcoatl – god of life, wind, and wisdom Delia – the second sister
Xipe Totec – god of agriculture, fertility, and springtime Rosalinda – the third sister
Huitzilopochtli – god of war and human sacrifice Iridian – the fourth sister
Chalciuhtlicue – goddess of rivers, lakes, and oceans Erida – the fifth sister
Xochiquetzal – goddess of love, beauty, and fertility Yolanda – the sixth sister
Coatlicue – goddess of earth, fertility, and childbirth Isabel – the seventh sister
Mictlantecuhtli – god of the dead and lord of the underworld Analisa – the eighth sister

The use of the number 9 is just one example of the ways in which Summer of the Mariposas celebrates and honors the cultural traditions of Mexico and Latin America. By weaving these ancient myths and legends into a modern story of sisterhood and adventure, author Guadalupe Garcia McCall invites readers to explore and appreciate the rich tapestry of Hispanic culture.

Female Empowerment

Summer of the Mariposas presents various themes and ideas regarding female empowerment throughout the book, including the character of La Llorona. In Mexican mythology, La Llorona symbolizes the weeping woman, who drowned her children and now mourns them for all time. However, in the context of the book, La Llorona represents a symbol of strength and resilience.

  • Despite being a tragic figure, La Llorona is never portrayed as a helpless victim. Instead, she is shown as a powerful force of nature that both uplifts and terrifies the girls on their journey.
  • Her presence serves as a reminder of the power of femininity and the strength of a mother’s love.
  • Additionally, the girls’ relationship with La Llorona helps them to understand the complexities of womanhood and to recognize the power they possess as women.

Throughout their journey, the Mariposas face various challenges that could have been disastrous if they didn’t have the strength to persevere. La Llorona serves as a source of inspiration to the girls, reminding them to never give up and to always have faith in themselves.

Furthermore, the idea of female empowerment is not limited to the character of La Llorona. The girls demonstrate their own strength and bravery through their actions, challenging traditional gender roles and proving that women are just as capable as men.

Examples of Female Empowerment
When they stand up to the male police officers who harass them and refuse to be intimidated.
When Odilia decides to cut her hair, a symbol of her shedding societal expectations and embracing her own identity.
When they confront their abusive father and refuse to be held captive by his violent behavior any longer.

The book sends a powerful message to young girls, inspiring them to believe in themselves and their capabilities. The Mariposas’ journey highlights not only the strength of sisterhood, but also the strength of the female spirit.

FAQs: What does La Llorona symbolize in Summer of the Mariposas?

1. Who is La Llorona?

La Llorona is a popular Mexican folk tale about a grieving mother who lost her children and constantly wails through the night looking for them.

2. What role does La Llorona play in the book?

In Summer of the Mariposas, La Llorona serves as a symbol of grief and loss as the main characters navigate through their own struggles and discover the strength in sisterhood.

3. How does La Llorona’s story relate to the story in the book?

Both La Llorona and the sisters in Summer of the Mariposas have experienced loss and must come to terms with their feelings in order to heal and move forward.

4. What is the significance of La Llorona’s presence in the book?

La Llorona’s presence in the book emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and processing grief in order to find healing and strength.

5. What themes does La Llorona symbolize in the book?

La Llorona symbolizes themes of grief, sisterhood, and healing in the book.

6. Does the book stay true to the traditional La Llorona story?

While Summer of the Mariposas does draw from the traditional La Llorona tale, it adds its own unique elements to create a new and original story.

7. Can readers who are unfamiliar with La Llorona still enjoy the book?

Yes, readers do not need to be familiar with La Llorona to enjoy the book. The story stands on its own and is accessible to all readers.

Closing Thoughts: Thank you for reading about what La Llorona symbolizes in Summer of the Mariposas. We hope this article provided insight into the meaning behind this iconic figure and how it relates to the story in the book. Be sure to visit again for more book discussions and recommendations.