Letter From Estela Romero: Awaiting Arrivals


Published: 10/27/2021

Dear friends,  

After a long journey south this fall, monarch butterflies are about to reach their overwintering home in the Oyamel forests of central México.

I am sure you will miss the monarchs during winter just as I do in the spring. But rest assured, with help from communities surroundings the Monarch Biosphere Reserve, I will report when the monarchs arrive and accurately describe the monarchs and their habitat during the whole winter season. 

Before the first Monarchs appear in the sky, I must tell you of a concerning event that happened in the Reserve at the end of the spring and beginning of the summer.

Suddenly, our Ejidatario community members started to observe some Oyamel, Pine and Cedar trees dying out. Tiny larvae appeared under the tree bark, a saw-dust effect and orange-redish sap oozing from the trunk indicated trouble. Ejidatario community members, assisted by the corresponding state specialists, determined that screwworms were infecting trees. Apparently, this is a phenomenon that can happen during times of severe drought. These past years have been very dry and our forests have been under severe stress, particularly over the past three seasons.

The solution unfortunately was that the dead trees needed to be cut to avoid further spread of infection. As one Ejidatario member stated: 

 “Fortunately, most of the dead trees to be cut are outside the core area and rather scattered over the buffer zone in the Reserve” 

This news was a relief to many in the community. 

Now, nature, incredibly resilient as usual, has done its part. This summer, we have had such a long and intense rainy season. The most rain that is in our memories. Our mountains look beautiful. They are verdant and moist. 

Monarchs and other insect species will have the humidity they so much need. 

Meanwhile, on November 1 and 2, we begin our celebrations for The Day of the Dead. Monarchs will majestically arrive in the skies signifying that the Souls of our Dead relatives have arrived also. We are proud guardians and responsible heirs of this natural treasure. We are excited and many preparations are underway in our homes and cemeteries. For this two day celebration, there will be music, colorful displays and decorations and delicious meals. The monarch butterfly symbolizes our deep rooted connections to our ancestors. We await the arrival of the monarch. 

Until next week, with the great news on the arrival of monarchs and the souls of our dead. 

Let the festivities begin!

Estela Romero

Angangueo, Michoacán, 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»


Correction: Journey North is committed to correcting our mistakes. Last week, we identified the small pest making a large negative impact on the forests of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve as a “screwworm”. This identification came from an article in the popular press about the infestation, and was not the term used by Estela Romero. We stand corrected. The problem at the Reserve is related to pine bark beetle infestation. There have been outbreaks in many temperate forests in Mexico. The most common pine bark beetles are Dendroctonus frontalis, Dendroctonus mexicanus and Scolytus mundus.