Letter From Estela Romero: Día de los Muertos

Monarchs, the Souls of our Dead, fill our sky.

By Estela Romero, Environmental Educator
Angangueo, Michoacán, México


Published: 11/04/2020 

“One never really disappears forever; an invisible thread remains that holds the butterfly tied to its mother tree”

—Mexican ancestral indigenous saying.

Dear Friends,

Massive arrivals of monarchs are underway. We see endless waves of monarchs as they make their way to the Oyamel trees. It is lovely to see the bright, golden-brown-to-orange specks float across they sky as they are carried softly by the warm wind. 

Our youth observers for today were Kevin, Mauricio, Diana, Felipe, Meriela, Venacioa and Carolina, all from the neighboring community to the El Rosario Monarch Sanctuary.

The youth froze in place to watch the massive flight of the monarchs as they passed over their homes.

With stopwatches in hand, these students counted the monarchs passing by and shouting the readings: “Their are about 40 to 60 butterflies coming per minute!” 

Meriela wondered: “Who of those will grandma be?”

Venancia added: “And great-grandpa’”

Little Carolina asked: “Also my little non-born brother is on the way” 

We observed this wave along one corridor. But across town, there are other corridors. We can only contemplate the spectacle because it would be simply impossible to see all the massive waves arriving at a time. Also, some monarchs arrive at high altitudes remaining invisible to us. By flying high, the monarchs avoid the intense heat of the day.

Our photos provide only a glimpse of our excitement. Our monitoring map hopefully indicates a promising season as we record this massive arrival. We hope the monarch population thrives. 

This year, our great festivities for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) have been limited. Only immediate family members are to celebrate within their homes. We cannot meet in large groups due to the pandemic. This situation is difficult. Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a time for our community to rediscover and remember our ancestors. Remembering our ancestors brings forth our place in our own family histories and reminds us of our own identities.

Since 2003, Mexico has created a monumental Ofrenda, or Altar to the Dead, called the A Flower to Every Soul. In 2008, UNESCO recognized Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) to be an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and is now part of our shared patrimony. For the sixty-seven indigenous Mexican cultures who honor our ancestors, the center piece is the Ofrenda. The Ofrenda represents the four cardinal points, our deep connections of history and identity, and to Nature and Cosmos. Death is part of the continuum of life.