The first Monarch Butterflies arrive in Mexico’s sanctuaries

Every fall, after a long journey of more than 4,000 kilometers from the United States and Canada, the Monarch butterfly arrives in Mexico to hibernate in Michoacán and the State of Mexico, where there are oyamel, pine, oak, and cedar forests.

Faithful to the tradition of the Day of the Dead, the first sightings of their arrival in Mexican sanctuaries began to be registered, said Abel Cruz Reséndiz, secretary of the tourism committee of the El Rosario Sanctuary, the largest reserve located in the municipality of Ocampo, Michoacán.

“First sighting in the #SantuarioelRosario #MariposaMonarca season 2021-2222 rainy afternoon,” he posted on Facebook on October 30.

The watchman announced that tourism service providers are doing everything possible to have the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, in order to reopen the Sanctuary and visitors feel safer. In that sense, although state authorities have not announced any schedule, the secretary estimated that the sanctuary could be opened on November 27.

“We hope this season will be better because most of the people will already be vaccinated; Last season was very low, we received around 45,000 visitors compared to other seasons that reached more than 150,000 people”, he indicated.

The migration of the Monarchs begins in the Rocky Mountains, southern Canada, and part of the United States, where they reproduce. Their journey of 4,200 kilometers concludes in the forests in Mexico, their place of hibernation.

The Monarchs in Mexico enter along a wide strip of approximately 500 km, ranging from Chihuahua and Coahuila to Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas. They cross a good portion of the Chihuahuan Desert and arid zones of the central highlands where they are able to locate patches of vegetation which they use as resting places.

In the rest of their journey, the monarchs stop at different natural protected areas of Mexico such as the Santa Elena Canyon, in Chihuahua; Maderas del Carmen and Cuatrociénegas, in Coahuila; Chipinque, in Nuevo León; and Sierra Gorda and the Cumbres de Cimatario National Park, in Querétaro .

However, the critical climatic situation has threatened this annual migration, because according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, climate change interrupts the annual migratory pattern of the monarch butterfly since it affects climatic conditions, both in the hibernation areas and Mexico and along its migration route in the United States and Canada.

Abnormal and extreme patterns of drought or rain at breeding and feeding sites in the United States and Canada can result in the death of adult butterflies and less food for caterpillars. When monarch butterflies die or there is less reproduction in the United States and Canada, it means that fewer butterflies will migrate south to Mexico for the winter.

Legend of the Monarchs and its relationship with Day of the Dead

Mazahua legend has it that monarch butterflies are the spirits of our ancestors back to the world of the living during the Day of the Dead, that is, November 1 and 2, a tradition recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.


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This belief also indicates that deceased children arrive at 1 in the afternoon on October 31 and then pass to adults on November 1, at the same time. In both cases, the tradition is to make a procession to guide the butterflies and say goodbye to them.

The Purépecha peoples believed that butterflies carried the souls of the deceased on their wings, as a way of helping to reach the world of the living. Therefore, people must remain silent and listen to the message of the relatives who left, which is heard in the flapping of the monarchs.

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