One of nature’s most astonishing journeys
An ancient Aztec legend tells that if you allow a butterfly into your house and keep it safe from the rain and set it free the next day, you can whisper to it your most longed desire. As a sign of gratitude, the butterfly will make that wish come true.
The monarch butterfly is one of the most symbolic creatures in Mexican culture. For some of them, they represented the souls of their beloved ones who came back from the hereafter. For others, they represent the warriors who return after dying in battle. Other stories say that the souls of the dead come on the wings of butterflies to visit their beloved ones who are still in the world of the living. Coincidence or not, the arrival of these small and extraordinary migratory creatures matches the day of the dead celebration in Mexico.
Weighing only half a gram, every year millions of monarch butterflies make the amazing prowess of flying more than 5,000 kilometers from the American Midwest and Canada to the Mexican oyamel, pine, oak, and cedar of the States of Mexico and Michoacán, where they will spend the winter and reproduce. The life span of a monarch butterfly is of only a month. However, Mother Nature is so wise that once every year a special generation is born, known as the “Methuselah Generation”. The butterflies that belong to this generation have a life span of up to eight months, and these are the specimens who fly for the first and only time in their life, guided by the position of the sun. In addition to their beauty, the butterflies play a crucial role in pollination, even of many food crops; this is why preserving their habitat is paramount. Unfortunately, the population of monarchs has decreased in the last decades, mainly because of deforestation. The Mexican sanctuaries of the monarch butterfly were declared world heritage in 2008, which has contributed towards their conservation but hasn’t completely stopped illegal logging.
Visiting the sanctuaries of the monarch butterfly is a one-of-a-kind experience. If you want to witness this unparalleled natural phenomenon, the best months to enjoy the spectacle are February and March. Remember that you have to enter these spaces with respect. Don’t hurt the butterflies or try to pick the bodies of the dead ones you will find lying on the ground, it has been found that the track they leave helps their descendants to return year after year. The migration of the monarch butterflies reminds us that in reality there are no borders and that all beings who share this world are interconnected, and that our footprint has a global impact.