Writing Intern for the Office of Communications
Out of a handful of undergraduate students presenting at the American Folklore Society Conference this year in New Orleans, Gloria Diaz, a senior at CSUSM, will showcase her research on the Latino folktale of La Llorona, exposing the predominant patriarchal views that are still heavily embedded in Chicano culture.
The conference, primarily for graduate students and scholars, allows individuals to present their research and discuss their findings with others. For Diaz, this will be the third time she has attended, a rare feat for someone so young.
The story of La Llorona hits close to home for Diaz who grew up hearing the story since she was a child.
"When I was little I used to hear the ghost tale of La Llorona and learned that she was an evil woman," said Diaz. "I grew up scared of the character."
La Llorona, an infamous woman described as the epitome of a bad mother, preys upon unwary children and adults. Many traditional Latino parents tell her story as a cautionary tale in an effort to scare their unruly children into behaving.
During a Literature and Writing course on folklore and mythology, Diaz's interest peaked when the familiar story was assigned for reading, accompanied by critical analysis of the folktale by Chicana feminist Ana Castillo. The analysis offered a striking portrayal of La Llorona as being not an evil woman or vengeful ghost but rather a nurturing mother goddess figure who grieved for her lost children. The radically different perspective of the old, deeply ingrained story came as a shock to Diaz.
"Everything was new to me," said Diaz. "This was the first time I had read or heard La Llorona being referred to as a positive female figure. Castillo took a different approach to the story, revealing the duality of society's patriarchal view of women, where women are considered either good or bad without an in-between. What I originally viewed as a negative and evil character became a positive image in Latina culture."
Fueled by a desire to learn more and connect to her cultural roots, Diaz decided to extend her research on the topic of La Llorona, which eventually led to her interest in sharing her project at the conference that will take place in New Orleans this year. Her research will help deconstruct the sexist gender roles forced on Latina women and how, even today, those patriarchal ideals still exist in Latino culture.
"Sometimes we don't really think about what we read, but everything has meaning. It's important to read between the lines and critically analyze a story and its morals and take it to another level," said Diaz, "What are they trying to tell us besides a simple story?"