La Llorona, the wailing woman, is an important part of New Mexico cultural folklore. The legend may have originated in 1520 with the Spanish conquest of Mexico. One story claims that La Malinche was the Indian mistress of the conquistador Hernan Cortes. Through the betrayal to her native people La Llorona is destined to roam the riverbeds and streets of Santa Fe, northern New Mexico and other parts of the Southwest. As she searched for her lost children it became a metaphor for her lost culture.
The Ghost Who Stayed in Santa Fe
In 1967 the New Mexico headquarters for the Public Employees Retirement Association opened. Both office workers and the nightly cleaning crew reported seeing a Spanish woman dressed in attire from a different era. The ghost wore a mantilla and disappeared through the walls. Those ghost sightings seemed plausible. The PERA building is located on the land of the old San Miguel cemetery. Prior to becoming a ghost, Doña Maria Gertrudis Peña de Sanchez arrived in Santa Fe in 1867. The exact date one hundred years later of the opening of the PERA building. The Spanish mother travelled from the family’s ranch in northern New Mexico. Doña Maria Gertrudis journeyed in haste when she received word that her young son had died at El Colegio de San Miguel.
A Prayer to St. Michael
When Doña Maria arrived she found out that the graves of the two boys who died had not been identified. Horrified, she realized she would never know the exact location of her son’s grave. Broken-hearted but determined, she never returned to the ranch and devoted the rest of her life to the memory of her son. Day after day she prayed to St. Michael, the patron saint of the dying, over the two gravesites, in the hope that her prayers would intercede on behalf of the soul of her son.