Milk industry turns to ghostly Hispanic legend in ad campaign

The Associated Press
Monday January 14, 2002

LOS ANGELES – The ghostly Hispanic legend of “La Llorona,” Spanish for The Weeping Woman, will be used by California milk producers in an advertising campaign. 

The $2 million blitz will make references to the legend that centers on a ghost who cries for her children who she drowned after being spurned by her husband. 

The legend is deeply ingrained in Hispanic culture, so much so that parents can correct the behavior of unruly children just by warning, “If you don’t behave, La Llorona will come for you.” 

In the commercial that will begin airing Monday, the shrouded ghost goes to the refrigerator for milk, finds the carton empty and leaves weeping. 

The campaign was developed by four Hispanic students at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. 

“It’s overwhelming,” said one of the students, 27-year-old Tania Sosa. “I never thought I’d have a commercial so soon.” 

Some wonder if incorporating the cultural legend into a mainstream ad campaign makes sense. 

“My grandmother used to say, ’La Llorona is coming to get you,”’ said Gabriela Lemus, director of policy for the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington. “I don’t know if I’d buy milk from someone who was trying to kill me.” 

The only word spoken by the ghost is leche, Spanish for milk. 

The ad will be one of the few attempts in which Spanish is used to sell a product on English-language television, said Jeff Manning, spokesman for the California Milk Advisory Board. 

The board is hoping to reverse a trend that shows teen-agers are drinking less milk. 

“Are we taking a chance? Absolutely,” said Manning. “I hope it’s an intelligent risk.” 

Milk producers decided to let students at the Art Center design the campaign in an attempt to reach younger milk drinkers. 

The center gathered Hispanic students, Sosa, Jose Rennard, David Delgado and Ali Alvarez. 

The La Llorona idea came up early. 

“All of us knew the story,” Sosa said. “That’s how we knew we might have something.” 

The legend surrounds a young woman who has two children with her husband. After he loses interest, she becomes disconsolate and drowns her children in a river in despair. Then, realizing what she’s done, she kills herself. Her pathetic ghost then walks the planet, crying and looking for her children. 

In other accounts, she is more of a villain, with the ghost seeking revenge on men and children. 

The commercial will run first in California, but also will be offered to other regions.