TUCSON, Ariz. - It is a tale that has been told to children for centuries.
An emotional story that holds power over one's imagination but lives strong in the memories of the many who swear that it's true.
The story takes us to the darkest woods, and loneliest and deepest rivers.
"There's always a shadow, a flowing garment, something moving through the mesquite forest that you may think you saw, so you never really know," Dr. Anna Ochoa O'Leary, associate professor in the Mexican American Studies department, at the Univeristy of Arizona.
It's a cultural phenomenon known to many as La Llorona.
"Growing up, I thought many of us think La Llorona lived where I grew up," O'Leary said.
There are many variations of the story, but the basic story is that Maria, enraged by the betrayal of her husband, seeks revenge by drowning their children in the river.
Devastated, Maria meets the same fate as her children.
Maria is condemned to cry, which is the root of the word "llorona".
"She is just condemned to remorse and spends the rest of her years or millenia crying over what she did," O'Leary explained.
Deep in the mesquite forest or near the river beds, people will hear her say "ay mis hijos (oh my children)," in a remorseful way because she cannot believe what she did.
The myth says La Llorona's soul is unable to rest until she finds her children --- or anyone's.
"Any sound that you might hear, you might construe as being La Llorona somewhere in the mesquite forest near a river where she wails in remorse,"O'Leary added.
Historians argue the story, which portrays vulnerability, is clearly more than just a horror story.
In fact, many believe its a cautionary tale that parents invoke for their children for things such as, not staying out after dark or staying away from the river.
"Stay close to your parents, don't wander off by yourself and that invokes the fear aspect that parents use to keep children close to them and not have them wander off," O'Leary said.
As the legend has been told, children who don't listen, can hear her wails echo closer and closer, as they pace their way through the woods. Before they know it, they will end up just like her children.