Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


A Destructive Mother?: La Llorona [The Wailing Woman] as symbol of the Chicano barrio in Barrio on the Edge by Alejandro Morales


Modern Languages & Literatures


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Barrio on the Edge (1975) by Mexican American (Chicano) writer Alejandro Morales recovers one of the most ancient and popular legends of Mexican and Chicano Culture of the Southwest: The legend of the Wailing Woman. The novel portrays the Mexican barrio as a contradictory territory since it functions as both, a protective space from American discrimination and a destructive space that drags its inhabitants to their own destruction. Life in the barrio is presented through the lens of violence and stagnation, producing a series of horrific images that account for a decadent reality. My essay explores the relationship between The Wailing Woman and the barrio, the latter being a space governed by patriarchal authority. The fantasmagoric presence of The Wailing Woman in Barrio on the Edge is a symbol of the barrio as a creative/destructive maternal force that hinders its inhabitants to develop as individuals. This conflictive force emerges from the oposition between "this side [the barrio]/the other side [the United States]" which structures the identity of the barrio and the novel itself. The presence of The Wailing Woman in the novel questions the validity of patriarchal authority of the barrio and, at the same time, unveils the subaltern character of this space towards another patriarchal space: American society.

Conference Name

LASA. Crisis, Response, Recovery

Conference Location

Toronto, Canada

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