Much like several other legends, there are numerous variations of the tale of La Llorona as well. However, as mentioned above, the crux remains unchanged. Here's what the legends says:
"Many years ago, there lived a beautiful girl named Maria
in a little village of Mexico. Apparently, she was the most beautiful girl in her village and all the surrounding villages, owing to which, she was very proud of her beauty. She would not even glance at any of the youths in the village as she believed nobody was good enough for her. In fact, she dreamed of marrying the most handsome man in the world.
One fine day, a handsome and dashing, young rancher rode into her village on horseback. When Maria saw him, she instantly fell in love―it was love at first sight―and decided that if she would marry someone, it would be that rancher. The young rancher also liked her when he saw her; but whenever he approached her or attempted to speak to her, Maria would turn her head away and leave quietly. One day, in order to impress her, the rancher went to her house to entertain her and her family, by playing his guitar and singing for them. While everyone else in the family was all praises about his skills, Maria didn't even peep out of her room. Moreover, she also refused to accept all the expensive gifts that he had got for her. All these were, in fact, Maria's tricks of seeming different than other girls, and it did indeed work. The rich rancher had never ever come across a difficult girl like Maria, something that attracted him even more towards her. He swore by all his heart that he will marry only Maria and no one else.
So, finally the rancher asked for Maria's hand in marriage, and the girl was super happy as everything had turned out the way she had wanted. Her tricks had shown their magic. Very soon, their engagement was announced, and it was not long after that, they were finally married. In the beginning, everything was nice and fine in Maria's married life. Both were very happy together, and soon, they became proud parents of two, very cute children.
Some time after the kids were born, Maria's husband's attitude towards her began to change. He started staying out of the house and away from his family for days together, and whenever he visited them for a short while, he would only spend time with his children, and not with his wife. Owing to the rancher's growing indifference towards Maria, she was immensely disturbed and sad, and she would let all her frustration out on her kids, on whom her husband showered all his love. Days passed by, and the last time her husband visited home, he told her that he was in love with someone else and that he wanted to abandon Maria, and marry the other woman. On hearing this, Maria completely broke down as she was devastated. She just couldn't understand what she could do to save her world from falling apart. Leaving her alone in agony and grief, her husband went away, this time she thought, forever.
Maria drowning her children
But he did return to his village. That evening, Maria was strolling along the river bank with her children, and she saw her husband coming towards her in a carriage. But he was not alone, rather he was accompanied by a beautiful lady, seated elegantly by his side. Maria understood that she was the same lady her husband was talking about when he had last visited home, and instantly knew that her husband had taken her as his wife. The rancher stopped his carriage on seeing his children, got down, and met them with love and affection. However, he didn't even look at Maria who was standing just beside them. When he stepped onto the carriage and went off, completely ignoring Maria, she was extremely offended and annoyed. At that moment, she also felt very jealous of her children, who got all the love of the rancher. Thus, terribly enraged, she caught hold of her children and threw them into the river.
Seeing her children drowning, Maria suddenly realized the terrible mistake that she had committed, and immediately ran down the river bank, in order to save them but in vain. Before she could reach the kids, they disappeared into the depths of the river, and Maria could do nothing but curse herself for her sin. But she knew that she could not continue living with the terrible burden of her kids' death on her shoulders. So, she committed suicide by jumping into the river. The next morning, a traveler saw the corpse of a beautiful woman along the river bank, and immediately informed the villagers, who instantly recognized her. Maria's corpse was then buried at the very place, where it was found.
However, everything was not over yet. On the very first night, people passing by her grave heard a voice of a woman crying out of agony and sorrow. The villagers recognized Maria's voice as she asked (from her grave) where her children were. The very next moment, she was seen walking across a river bank, dressed in the same white robe/gown in which she was buried. From then on, on many dark, moonless nights, people could hear her laments as she roamed across the village in search of her children. Since that night, because her spirit kept continuously weeping and sobbing for her children, she was no longer referred to as Maria, but as La Llorona
, the weeping woman."
There is another version of the tale which tells us that when Maria drowned herself and died and her soul reached the gates of Heaven, she was not permitted to enter because of her sin. She was told that she could only enter the afterlife if she got the lost souls of her children along. Otherwise, her soul would be trapped in between Heaven and the Earth. Owing to this, La Llorona was forced to return to Earth and look out for her children, whom she would never be able find. Thus, her spirit would never be free of the sins she had committed when she was alive, and would continue to roam the Earth for eternity. Some versions also mention that in her quest for the kids, La Llorona often abducts small children strolling/playing alone at late evening/night, and drowns them as well. In another popular version, La Llorona gave birth to her lover's children before marriage, and drowned them to death, when her lover refused to accept her with the children. Moreover, there are several other versions that inform us that the entire episode took place in present-day Mexico City. It is worth noting that although varied versions of the tale abound, there are a couple of aspects, common to each one of them. For instance, La Llorona dressed in a white garment, and her constant weeping as she wanders near water or in deserted alleys are common in each of the versions.