Watching and Waiting in Mexico

Letter from Estela Romero


23 de Octubre de 2018

Dear Friends,

The time is near! Monarchs should be reaching their final overwintering destination in our mountains within only a few days! Any time, even this very coming weekend, we could be announcing the great news. And,  if this were not enough—of course- also our Day of the Dead huge festivity is coming!!!.

You know,  we can smell it in the air, we can feel it everywhere, we are so proud of both of these great events, we know our región is so very unique in the world.

While driving around, and with the help of some friends, we visited the entrance points were Monarchs should be doing their triumphant arrival:

Oscar, age 12, who’s attending his first year at middle school in town, lives in the housing área on the way to El Rosario Monarch Sanctuary –the biggest of all Sanctuaries. He invited me to come to this magnificent view point right at his house to explain to me:

“Look, Estela, fix your sight to the north… you see, not yet, this is only October 23rd. It would be unusual to see even one Monarch popping up; the moment the very first ones appear, my Mom who is the whole day at home coming in and out will immediately see them and tell u sall in the family!  She usually keeps the big surprise for dinner time that day when dad and us are all together.  Monarchs will shortly land in “El Cerrito” to take their traditional rest, and then we shall see them passing along above our heads, rushing up to reach “El Rosario” Mountains, or the Sierra Chincua  mountain peaks, up there in front of us. This very weekend, we all will even to start the count-down!”

I continued my drive directly towards the surroundings of El Cerrito área. What if locals on this side could have seen one or two? Monarchs are so unpredictable…

Ignacio, and Roxana, both age 13, attending middle school downtown, walk through such a wonderful forest área on their way to school every day and then back home aroung this very entrance área to Monarchs’ arrival every season, by “El Cerrito” halting point to Monarchs, that they said to me:

“No, not yet Estelita; Our grandpa’s and Moms and Dads are just waiting for the moment!, then this will be the signal that our dead relatives have reached home!, no doubt!; on arriving, they will land on the backyards or front gardens of our houses!.  They fly all around and néctar and puddle and wait for us to get ready with our ofrendas to enjoy our wondeful festivity in their memories.  Monarchs, the spirits of our dead ones,  shall take not to long to arrive now!.  For our grandpa’s  Moms and Dads there is now way we cannot see them! We are waiting for them!!!.”

Finally, I ran into a fantastic  group living by El Cerrito side: Henry and Dorian ages 8 and  7 attending elementary school, and Neftalí and Denim, age 5, attending kindergarten and all neighbours at the surrounding housing área by “El Cerrito”, while coming from downtown from school and seeing  white Rocinante and a set of binoculars inside it,  they went crazy the moment I invited them to explore the área in detail serching for whatever moving black-orange little creature!.

It was just fantastic to see them spinning around themselves and walking with no direction looking up through thier binoculars either up to the open sky, into the trees, down to the grass or directly to the ground along the trail… and finally almost crashing their heavy lenses to a strange sort of rough-black spot…  right below their knees… —never knowing it was their own shoes’ black front—, stopping at it for some seconds as if having found out  an unusual, never-ever-seen  spot in nature, and reciting every time:  oooohhhh, ooohhh, ooohhh!!!.

Respect was to be shown at all moments, to our little busy reserchers. No way to doubt on their deep concentration.

It took  a loooong time for them to start getting discouraged at not seeing any moving orange little creature anywhere, and  finally surrendered themselves telling me:

“You know Estelita, THEY ARE COMING, they do!”. 

“Yeah… we know it because Mom and Dad and grandpa’s have, for a few weeks now,  cut down on our traditional children’s Sunday- money-gift!.  Of course, there is a lot to buy for our ofrendas: fruit, candies, pulque, beer, meat, mole, tamales, corundas, bread, flowers, color paper, music, candles… we are sall so excited  and only counting down the days for our Day of the Dead!… Monarchs will be the signal, as every year!, Monarchs will announce it!, we should hurry up, —our Moms and Dads say every day—,  the moment  the first 2-3 Monarchs appear up in the sky, our Ofrendas and our graves at the cemetery shall be looking super ready in color and delicous meals to greet them!!!, then our Dead ones will have reached home! .  That’s it!!!. Hurraaa!!!, —they recited as they took on their school bags ran to their moms, who, while nodding their heads, proudly saw them and took them home within this wonderful athmosphere of tradition and ancient belief from our ancestral Mexico!.

Our monitoring map, as you can see, reflects no registration, but keep looking!, any day now, it might suddenly rise from zero to whatever quantity within hours!.

Here brave Rocinante (my beloved VW) and I will continue patrolling around. The countdown on days has just started, and the moment any bright black and orange winged creature appears in the sky, the whole town will, as if a symphonic orchestra, burst out in color and music and mysticism at the same time. 

Monarchs shall sign for the great start!.

Life in town sounds as if turning up its volume; all around people start to come and go, families seem happier children more restless and a special bright in our faces make us shout out in happiness and say hello to all of you!.

Estela Romero

Journey North Reporter

Angangueo, Michoacán, México

P.S. A note about conditions here: After a long season of hurricanes along the Pacific affecting us with an unusually intense rainy season in this region during the whole summer and most of the fall now, our densely clouded and dark-grey sky, slowly starts to open up for the first weak sun rays to come through.  As our mountains start to little by little look  b-e-a- u- t- i- f- u-l  bright green, the sky turns deep blue and the sun showers all around, our local winter flowers shall get ready to blossom; nature knows Monarchs will be in search of nectar all over, hungry when they arrive. Rivers are vigorous and humidity should be in optimal levels all around for them to get really good sources of minerals from the soil.