Letter From Estela Romero: News from El Rosario and Sierra Chincua


Published: 02/10/2021

Dear friends,  

EL ROSARIO: It is still peak season. On the weekends, visitors still arrive at the El Rosario Sanctuary. Local community members are grateful to see tourists from Mexico support the Sanctuary; however, many say how they miss seeing tourists from other countries.  

Two relatives of guardians, Nora and Raquel, stated: 

Weekdays, which were really active and preferred by our international tourists, are now practically empty; that makes us feel we are not all complete; we used to be like a family with so many of them visiting year after year, but we know we will see them next year when the pandemic is under control.”

The sun rays are harsh and everybody comments how concerning this is. Clouds haven’t appeared since last Tuesday, and there was little promise of rain when they did. 

One observer, Raquel, described the dry situation and how the weather may be pushing the monarchs northward: 

Rain, rain is what we most wish we could have now. We have seen all the time that if it rains and the land is refreshed, monarchs take longer to move and postpone their departure. We are scared if it continues to be this warm…Monarchs could rush their departure… this is only beginning of February;  the mating stage has not even yet started, and they are very slowly moving down the canyon as if toward the Rio Grande, heading clearly North and perhaps arriving soon at La Salud, neighboring the Ejido bordersThey are moving north and that is too early in the season for it.

Communities keep certain areas wet. These ponds and wet grass provide the monarch some access to water. Most of the land is dry and dusty. 

Monarchs have moved slightly north to Los Horcones site. From this point, the beautiful dense part of the colony offers visitors a delightful spectacle similar to the one last week, except distributed in an area a few hundred meters away from the previous site.

El Rosario continues to be impressive. It is a beautiful sight despite what appears to be a slightly lower population of the colony. The images speak for themselves.

If monarch butterflies have endured climate challenges in the past, we might witness yet again their capacity to adapt. Our scientists and experts will be watching closely.

SIERRA CHINCUA: Sierra Chincua Sanctuary continues to delight visitors despite the colony’s evident and continuous movement. The colony, somewhat reduced in size, can still show a couple of well concentrated clusters of all sizes hanging in shining, brown-copper-golden beams. This is enough for tourists to admire them.  

The conditions at Sierra Chincua are really similar to El Rosario in terms of drought signs. The colony here continues moving slowly north and downhill. However, it has moved much less in distance than El Rosario – only a few dozens of meters – with the main concentration located north from the La Peña view sight. La Peña is the site they mostly concentrated at this same time last year.

Several guides stated: “The colony has now mostly moved downhill into a very steep location in a nearly inaccessible area; it would be too risky to try to take our visitors there. We are afraid we might not see Monarchs back up here unless it rains and refreshes.

Mating is yet to be seen, however the warm conditions might show the first signs from one moment to the other, both in El Rosario and here in Sierra Chincua

Mortality in Sierra Chincua as well as in El Rosario is now rather abundant, mostly caused by predators such as the Pico Gordo bird and forest mice. Evidence of predation can be seen in the many butterfly carcasses on the ground that are missing abdomen. 

Visitors seem to enjoy and leave Sierra Chincua delighted. In addition to watching the monarchs, visitors can pick up a tasty snack or early dinner, or pick up a souvenir to support the Ejidatario families who make their main living from tourism in the sanctuaries.

Our communities have learned together to keep attentive to monarchs as a clear indicator of the environmental status in our area.  

Monarchs have a way to think about our place in the world. Monarchs seem delicate yet they are determined as they undertake their migratory journey. In their determined nature, we can find inspiration in the conservation work ahead here in the monarch sanctuaries of Central México.


Note to our readers: This article has been edited from the original English version for clarity and readability.

Read the Spanish version of Estela Romero’s letter»


El Rosario Sanctuary