Letter From Estela Romero: Preparations Under Way At The Sanctuaries

Article by Estela Romero


Published: 10/21/2020

Dear Friends,  

Despite the unusual conditions that the Covid-19 pandemia has imposed in our lives, the monarch overwintering areas in Central México prepare to welcome the incredible Mathusalen Monarchs generation within a few days.

For my community and other communities surrounding the Monarch Sanctuaries, there has not been a Covid-19 outbreak. However, due to prevention measures by our health and education authorities, our schools continue to be closed and our children have started their school year with instructions delivered via TV and radio.  Families and teachers have been facing real challenges with this transitory condition. I will provide more details of life here in my subsequent articles.  

For now, the best news of the year (I am sure for all of us!) is that monarchs are on their way to Central México, thereby ensuring the monarch life-cycle will continue. Our friends in the north are bidding farewell to our migratory monarch generation while we here in Mexico await their arrival. We are counting down the days.  

Beto, Rosa, Javier and Erika told me recently: “No, Estela, monarchs could not yet be around now;  it could be still too early;  there is no testimony in our families that they could have arrived this early before… but… we should keep watching… remember we could see the first ones arriving one, two, three days before our “Day of the Dead”.  If this happens, grandpas’ say they are just the elderly souls of our Dead, knowing the way by heart and getting a little ahead guiding the younger ones…  they could arrive all in mass just at the main celebration days… we never know.”

Little Rafael and his mother, Gloria, are delighted to fill in our Journey North monitoring map. They live just by the “El Cerrito” and “La Cañada” areas, one of the traditional sheltering, nectaring and ponding areas where monarchs have been seen first arriving before they split into two groups, choosing either their Oyamel mountain peaks in “Sierra Chincua” (heading north), or in “El Rosario”, (heading south) 

Gloria told me, “Rafael loves Monarch butterflies and learns they are the spirits of our Dead just coming withing a few days to be with us. I have to teach him the way I was taught by my own great-grand parents, grandparents and parents. Our ancestral beliefs are just part of us; we could just not be us without them.” 

Pedro lives in a community near the “El Rosario” Sanctuary.

While helping his father work the family Maíz crop, Pedro told me:  “We are all somewhat concerned;  the raining season left much earlier and we could be having a very dry winter and severe droughts at only the start of the spring. Estela, I have told my dad how the “monarch lessons” at school you bring to us have taught us how humidity is so important for insects, including monarchs”.

Pedro and his dad are correct. The raining season suddenly stopped one month earlier than usual. The sun feels more intense than we have felt in the past. Many of us are concerned already about the heat. Water sources, creeks and ponds look healthy enough for monarchs and other insects for now, but they might not stay the same in the burning sun as the weeks go on.  Our cooling nights could hopefully help a little bit.

The larger colony of monarchs have typically formed in El Rosario Sanctuary. The second largest colony has been found in Sierra Chincua Sanctuary. Both of these Sanctuaries have announced that they will officially open on November 21 - 22.  Appropriate hygiene rules shall be in place for our visitors’ to follow to protect everyone. Touring these Sanctuaries is an outdoor experience where physical distancing is possible. 

Right now, we have butterflies in our stomach and are restless as we await the arrival of monarchs. We hear that monarchs have just entered Mexico and are making their way to their final destinations.    


Estela Romero, Environmental Educator
Angangueo, Michoacán, Mexico