Letter From Estela Romero: Final Departure
The last remaining monarchs have left. These monarchs were part of the largest of the three colonies that overwintered at El Rosario from November through mid-February and then moved to La Salud for the past one and a half months. The gradual departure took place all last week up until Sunday, March 28. On Sunday morning, there were only a few lonely monarchs flying high over the top of our Oyamel trees.
Driving up to the Sanctuary, I could see the last cars of tourists coming down from visiting the remaining monarchs. Local boys in La Salud smiled and were proud to have been the tourist attraction for over a month. Community members in La Salud took turns being vendors, horse handlers and tourist guides.
One community member, Eduardo, who is in his last grade at the local elementary school, was somewhat sad to know the season is finished. He said: “Monarchs have already left but tourists still ask to come up to at least get an idea of where the butterflies were overwintering these past weeks. I take them along the best trail to show them how the dead remain on the forest floor. It is sad how dry the season has been. My mom, dad and grandpas are very concerned that we only had a few raindrops a couple days ago. And this is after six months with no rain. Without rain, we cannot place our corn seed crops.”
Eduardo also noted, “there are only a few Monarchs flying up in the sky. The rest are all dead and carpeting the ground! There seem to be many more dead males than females.”
Many dead butterflies —victims of predators — have dry or pinched abdomens and heads, or even no abdomens at all. Every so often the desperate noise of a still alive but hurt or weak monarch tumbling on the ground could be heard.
The La Salud Oyamel forest looks totally empty. The cross tips of the Oyamel twigs and branches look bright green but rather naked..
A peaceful, spiritual silence at the meadow and forest invited time for meditation and deep gratitude.
Eduardo, his mother, and “Pinta” bid farewell to the season: “We are so happy and proud. The way we care for our Oyamel forest allows it to be an important spot for monarchs to refresh before their final departure.”
On Sunday afternoon, the remaining monarchs began their long journey north with favorable winds blowing south to north.
Into the infinite horizon they go. At a high point with smoky, humid views, dense clouds pushed over Angangueo town. The cloudy sky promised rain upon our heads and the tarnished sunset in the far west embraced us and subtlety murmured that monarchs will always come back home.
Angangueo, Michoacán, México.
Note to our readers: This article has been edited from the original English version for clarity and readability.