Monarchs Arrive on Night of the Dead
Letter from Estela Romero
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November 2, 2016

Dear Friends:
For several days up to last Sunday, October 30th, my niece Fernanda, age 7, and her friends walked around Angangueo and its nearby mountains, monitoring — map in hand — looking for monarchs expected any minute, any day to reach the sanctuaries.

On cloudy, rainy and rather chilly days in our region, Fernanda and her friends climbed towards El Rosario Sanctuary and El Cerrito, a hillsides overlooking Angangueo especially this latter — the obliged stop for monarchs to nectar and sunbathe and perhaps wait for more monarchs to catch up to first arrivals.

Monday, October 31st came and no matter how desperate Fernanda and her friends were no monarchs appeared in the sky.  The rather bad weather continued...

Tuesday, November 1st — as if by magic — dark rain clouds pulled apart overnight, and the first monarchs appeared in El Cerrito by noon!  Damian Rivera and his mother — living right there — were wandering around. They registered the first arrivals on the monitoring map:

“We knew they would come any moment, and you see, our dead relatives are coming to visit us tonight and here the monarchs are arriving! The butterflies are the souls of our Dead Ones!”

Since November 1st, all of our families in town — as everywhere throughout México — started to prepare themselves for our great festivity, taking out all of our local crafts and locally elaborated metal, paper wooden products for visitors to take as souvenirs. Also, our streets are full of varied kinds of flowers — especially the traditional xempatsùchitl flowers to buy and take to the graves of our local cemetery for our Dead Ones. Wine, special delicious bread and typical mexican candies — unique during these days — were also in exhibition everywhere. Trees, like our typical Tejocote fruit tree, are now heavily crowded.  

Families colorfully decorated the facades of their homes for our great celebration.  All around is music, color, harmony, Mexican folklore with a touch of a very special mysticism, and the soft fly, intense orange color of monarchs overflying our local cemetery, located right besides El Cerrito — an event which for our parents and grandparents means "that the souls of our Dead ones in monarchs are announcing their visit to their families.”

Today, the Day of the Dead, monarchs are massively arriving! Some popped-up yesterday, but the massive arrival is occurring right now. For us, their arrival symbolizes our ancestors' souls returning to Earth for their annual visit. A lot of people in town noted that monarchs had not been so precise in the last few years!

Marcela, Romeo, and Carla, elementary students here in Angangueo, show the monitoring map at the local cemetery. The festivity has been especially touched by the massive arrival of monarchs. All the festivity closed with the lifting of the paper, handmade balloon of a monarch!

Not many words to add except to tell you that our families and children, many of them participating in a parade and contest of Catrín and Catrina apparels also closed the night.

In the upcoming days, all people in town will be witnessing the massive arrival of monarchs — nectaring in our flowered meadows and prairies, and warming themselves everywhere in order to gather up at the sanctuaries of Sierra Chincua and El Rosario, which will be officially open to tourists from all over the world on November 19th.

Estela Romero
Angangueo, Michoacán, México
November 2, 2016

Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico
Near the two largest sanctuaries, El Rosario and Sierra Chincua
Map: Location of monarch butterfly overwintering region in Mexico
Monarch Wintering Sites
The region in central México where monarchs overwinter.