Women-led Mexican Horror Cinema: La Maldición de la Llorona (The Curse of the Crying Woman) 

National Hispanic Heritage Month is upon us and many of us find ourselves preparing for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a Mexican holiday that combines the ancient Aztec custom of celebrating ancestors with All Souls’ Day. While it may seem that Halloween and Día de los Muertos share similarities, with Halloween many view death as separation from their loved ones, rather than celebrating the lives of dead loved ones. What we can agree on is that both holidays share a ‘spooky’ quality and this inspired us to explore our roots in celebration of Mexican Horror Cinema.

With the exciting rise of talented actresses of Mexican descent like Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera, we honor the many women actors who helped paved the way for generations of Latinas in cinema, notably the stars of La Maldición de la Llorona, Rosita Arenas and Rita Macedo,

Excellent gothic and horror films were made between the 1930s – 1960s, including Mexican traditional creatures, like La Llorona. The legend of La Llorona, Mexico’s founding fright mother, goes full gothic. Selma, a fiendish witch, manipulates young Amelia into performing a dark ritual to reawaken the withered corpse of Doña Marina, her foremother, better known as La Llorona. An eerie tale of cursed bloodlines and the tempting powers of evil that showcases to full effect the talents of actresses Rita Macedo and Rosita Arenas who, coincidentally, were both pregnant at the time of the shoot. 

Recently married Amelia (Rosa Arenas) travels with her new husband Jaime (producer Abel Salazar, THE BRAINIAC) to the remote mansion of her Aunt Selma (Rita Macedo) after several years without seeing her. Unbeknownst to the newlweds, Aunt Selma moonlights as an eyeless specter who causes a series of deaths in the area with the help of a knife-throwing maniac (also her handyman) and her three mastiffs and that Amelia figures into her plan to resurrect the corpse of The Crying Woman (whose skeleton currently resides in the basement torture chamber) at midnight. Adapted to film at least three times prior, the legend of La Llorona tells of a woman who murdered her own children to be with the man she loved only to subsequently be rejected by him causing her ghost to wander in search of her own children.

While this is not actually about the legend of its title, it instead is a Mexican horror that centers around the curse of the wailing witch who gave up love in exchange for power. now, the women of her family are cursed to the same fate. Selma is a descendent of this lineage, and she has lured her niece, Amelia, to her mansion so that she can use her in an evil ritual to resurrect the original witch and make the three of them very powerful and immortal.

La maldición de la Llorona
DIRECTOR: Rafael Baledón. WRITTEN BY: Fernando Galiana, Rafael Baledón. CAST: Rosita Arenas, Rita Macedo, Abel Salazar, Carlos López Moctezuma. 1961. 80 min. Mexico. B&W. Spanish. DCP. Courtesy of Alameda Films.

Photos copyright of Alameda Films.