The story of La Llorona, but not the one you know

It’s such a small stone for such a big name.

La Llorona: she who cries. A massive, creepy presence in our legends, in the minds of children up and down Latin America. The woman who drowned her own children, who walks the riverbanks ceaselessly, crying and crying. A powerful myth. A strong, loud wail.

But that Llorona has nothing to do with this shiny stone, selected long ago from the Santa Cruz mountains. The stone belongs to Melesia Villafuerte, and belonged to her mother before her. Like the indigenous people of Guanacaste for generations, Melesia and her mother have used a favorite stone to polish the rough sides of clay pots and vases and dishes into a high sheen: the famous pottery of Chorotega.

One day in Melesia’s youth, a boy in the neighborhood stole the stone. Melesia cried so hard and so long on the porch of her family’s Guanacaste home that, ashamed, the boy eventually returned it. She cried so hard and so long that, from that day on, the stone has been known as La Llorona.

Today, Melesia is 57, and La Llorona flies and gleams in her hand as she sits polishing pottery at Coopeguaytil, where women come together to make art. It shines from years of polishing and being polished in return, a give and take between clay and stone. It shines with the memory of Melesia’s tears the day it was taken from her, only to return. It shines almost like a river stone, plucked from the waters before it was too late.

As published today in El Colectivo 506. Image by Mayela López. Text by Katherine Stanley Obando, inspired by a story by Mayela López about the artisans of Guaitil, Guanacaste, published by El Colectivo 506. Our Sunday #MediaNaranja series collects short love stories with a Costa Rican connection: romances, friendships, love of humans, animals, things, places, ideas. To share your own ideas for stories to be featured in this space, write to us at

The startup that lets you shop Costa Rican small businesseses – from anywhere

Last week I was thrilled to attend a presentation by the Costa Rican startup Local Keeps. Founded by Costa Rican-born Galit Flasterstein and her husband Eric Scharf, Local Keeps is an online store that allows small Costa Rican businesses to sell their wares to customers anywhere in the world.

I’ve interacted with a number of Costa Rican artisans and small business owners in the past and heard, “Ah, I’d love to sell online someday, but I have no idea how” – so I immediately understood that Local Keeps is filling a very necessary role for its “makers,” as it calls its product creators. Two of the makers joined Galit to speak to visitors from Travel with Ann and other students at Personalized Spanish in Trés Rios on Friday: natural cosmetics creator Adriana García and fruit jewelry genius Rosa Montealegre. Rosa is pictured below with her husband, Juan.

Yup, I said fruit jewelry, which has to be seen to be believed (and you can see it here): Rosa and her now 11-person team collect unsold fruit from farmer’s market and create incredible pieces from shaved mango seeds, dried banana slices and other things you could never have imagined as bright, gorgeous rings and necklaces. Meanwhile, Adriana, a one-woman show, whips up lotions and sugar scrubs that smell good enough to eat.

Galit explained that the mission of Local Keeps is not just to sell the work of these entrepreneurs, but also to help them grow. They give each entrepreneur a professional photo shoot and access to the resulting images, and are organizing regular get-togethers so that the companies can exchange ideas and receive support.

Going to the post office in Costa Rica is not exactly the easiest process, so I’ve often opted for U.S. online merchants when buying presents for someone back home – which is a shame, given the insane number of high-quality artisans and producers here in Costa Rica. It’s a relief to know I can just hop online and support them while getting the gift delivered anywhere. This post might sound like an infomercial, but that’s just how excited I am that someone is making this possible for Costa Rican microbusinesses and fans of Costa Rica from around the world! Thanks, Local Keeps. I can’t wait to see you grow.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter).