Letter From Ellen Sharp: Adopt a Colony Project


Published: 04/21/2021

Dear Butterfly People,

We’re happy to share a little snippet of our Adopt a Colony project with you. Ana, Pato and I produced ten mixed media e-magazines from November until March, and this clip comes from a longer piece that profiled Butterflies & Their People forest guardian Emilio Velazquez.

Every issue included a citizen science report that documented the dynamism of the monarch colony: roost locations vary from season to season and across the season, and butterfly behavior changes too, depending on the temperature and the quality of forest cover. Apart from these detailed reports, we also created virtual butterfly tour videos, as well as shorts that explored different aspects of local culture, like how to make pulque and guacamole and the economics of the resin and avocado businesses. 

Additionally, each edition featured an interview with a differently positioned butterfly expert, including one with Estela Romero where she discusses her family’s role in the history of her hometown, Angangueo. While Macheros is built on the ruins of a timber hacienda, Estela explains how Angangueo’s history intertwines with the fortunes of the mining industry. Differences in ambiance and infrastructure in these two jumping off points for butterfly tourism persist to this day.

Adopt a Colony kept us just as busy as hosting a full house of butterfly tourists would have. Happily, subscriptions allowed our business to maintain six full time workers and subsidize the administrative costs of our non-profit, Butterflies & Their People. The 15% of proceeds that go to paying our forest protectors is enough to cover one and a half full-time workers for the coming year (including Emilio). I’m hopeful that this level of support could increase, as we continue to offer subscriptions to the 2020-2021 archive and to the upcoming 2021-2022 season. 

We hope that our ecotourism business will be able to open its doors next season, but we’re waiting for the pandemic landscape to clear up a little more before taking reservations. In Mexico, people over 60 are getting their second vaccination this week. It’s still unclear when the rest of the population will be eligible to start this process, or how high compliance will be. Rumors of Covid casualties in surrounding communities reach our ears, but there’s been nothing in Macheros itself of late.

Last year, Macheros’ patron saint’s day celebration on May 15 was canceled. San Isidro is the patron saint of agriculture and some said that the rains were late and light last year because we failed to honor him on his day. Last night, a committee of May 15 organizers paid Joel and I a visit. Extracting promises of mask use during the proceedings, we agreed to be the “godparents” of a tent and chairs for an outdoor mass in San Isidro’s honor. Although I’m not Catholic, I think I might actually attend services this year so that I can pray for a robust vaccine roll out and a roiling rainy season.

Saludos desde Macheros,