When Reyna Grande was small, her father’s mother, Abuela Evila, liked to scare her and her siblings, Mago and Carlos, with stories of La Llorona—a weeping woman who steals children away. When the children were misbehaving, their abuela warned them that if they didn’t straighten up, La Llorona would take them far away, to a place where they would never see their parents again. Their other grandmother, Abuelita Chinta, would tell the children not to be afraid of La Llorona, because God, La Virgen, and the saints would always protect them from the lady-ghost. Neither grandmother, however, told the children about a power more fierce and fearsome than La Llorona—a power that takes away parents, not children. That power, Reyna writes now, is called the United States.
The book’s prologue establishes the fact that the real-life challenges Reyna and her siblings will face are infinitely more grave and frightening than the little stories they were scared of as children. It also shows Abuela Evila’s mean streak contrasted against Abuelita Chinta’s conciliatory kindness—an important dichotomy the first half of the book will explore carefully.