Letter From Estela Romero: Arriving Monarchs and Día de los Muertos


Published: 11/04/2021

Dear friends,  

A cold front is forecasted for the weekend. Intense rain and heavy clouds are likely to dominate our skies today and for the next couple of days, just when our Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) festivities have begun.  

The arrival of Monarchs has been imminent in the last few hours. Many local community members search the skies and the historic colonies in our mountains. As Eréndira, and her mother, who live next to El Rosario Sanctuary, noted: 

“Guess what, Estela, we saw many today! -30 to 50- we can say; they were flying really high and the dark clouds made it not easy to see their beautiful bright orange as when the sun is shining, but they were really them!”

The sightings of these first monarch arrivals were verified by local shepherds, Lucero, Alejandra and Baldemar, who also live close to El Rosario Sanctuary: 

“They arrived today! We could see many coming over the day from that direction!

It is official: the monarchs have arrived. Our cameras and smart phones could hardly catch any today. But numbers of monarchs will increase this week. Regardless, over the weekend, we could not hide our enthusiasm. We celebrate the monarchs’ arrival despite the weather. 

Families in town got their own ofrenda settings ready in the street as our Monumental Ofrenda was set up downtown. Monarchs symbolize the spirits of our dead relatives and remind us of one of our strongest beliefs – that is that we all die three times:

The first death comes with all breath abandons our body; breathing ceases.

The second death comes when our bodies are buried and returned to the ground to become part of natural cycles. Burials are spaces of confinement but also places of peace for our ancestors. On the Day of the Dead, we remember our ancestors by sharing memories, by evoking their names and telling stories over the whole year. The spiritual connections between the living and the dead are celebrated with color, art, music and happiness.

A third death, an infrequent occurrence, happens when the last living relative who remembers the deceased actually dies themselves and there remains no one to tell stories and honor the lives of the deceased with ofrenda.   

This third death happens seldomnly. We believe that the ancestors continue to return home to us. 

Monarchs, the spirits of our ancestors, have arrived. We celebrate our enigmatic relationship with our ancestors and the monarch butterfly. The cycle life is renewed again this year, today!

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»