Letter From Estela Romero: The Long Wait (For Visitors) Is Over!


Published: 12/03/2020

Dear Friends,

At last, what we were waiting for. 

At the El Rosario and Sierra Chincua Sanctuaries, monarch colonies are now well defined and dense. Big clusters can be clearly identified at various locations viewable by visitors. Our temperature conditions continue to be very concerning, ranging from 23-25 Centigrade in the shade. We fear that ideal levels of humidity will disappear. We shall certainly hear experts speaking about this later on in the season.

Last Saturday, November 28th, the official opening took place. We were awaiting to see if many visitors from Mexico will arrive this first weekend.

Once visitors approach the main entrance, everyone will be required to wash hands with sanitizers and to have temperaturas taken. Entrance fees are 80 pesos per adult and 50 pesos per child. Guides who have received appropriate training and wearing protective gear will be assigned to the incoming visitors to lead them into the colony. It is only a 30 to 40 minute hike to the core of the overwintering spots.

The colony in El Rosario Sanctuary is settling at Los Carrizales site, a spot located rather north/north-east to the well known Llano de los Conejos spot. This spot, which encompasses around 80 trees, offers great views of small, medium and large clusters and even bended branches due to the already heavy concentration of butterflies on them.

It will be interesting to observe the colony in El Rosario. Over the last couple of weeks, there was a lot of monarch activity. Monarchs were seen streaming down to town coming from El Rosario Sanctuary, behaving the way they do when they leave in March to fly northwards; perhaps they were only searching for additional sources of water and nectar to later come back to their colony in El Rosario. Perhaps some monarchs could actually be relocating and moving to the Sierra Chincua” Sanctuary. This was not a common event so early in the season.

Silvestre remarked, “This is only the spot allowed for visitors. There is a second colony designated for research, as it in the past, further east to south-east with a magnificent concentration of monarch on about 500 trees.” Silvestre is a guide and Ejidatario father and grand-father. He was accompanying a monitoring personnel in the El Rosario Sanctuary.

It has been indeed an unexpected weekend Sierra Chincua Sanctuary as well. The colony that is viewable by visitors is located at Las Peñitas further ahead and down-canyon to El Mirador point. This particular colony is slightly smaller, yet still majestic. The sun is still intense even early in the morning. Guides here confirmed that there is a second, larger colony. As in the past, this larger colony is not open to visitors, only researcher.  

Alina and Mireya, guides at the Sierra Chincua Sanctuary and part of an Ejidatarios family, reported, “We are very happy to welcome visitors this season despite the health protocols. Being this is an open-air recreation activity where physical distance is part of the recreation conditions themselves, we are trying to handle the situation in the most responsible way. We are confident that with sanitizing measures in place we can guarantee our visitors’ well being and their safe return home.”

On Monday temperaturas dropped which will hopefully mean a return to normal conditions for the monarch colonies.

I shall now take a break from writing these articles to focus on my school visits. In mid-January, I will report back to you from the Sanctuaries.  

All of us here, including the Ejidatario families at both Sanctuaries, are thankful for this natural treasure for which we are honored stewards. All our efforts are needed to protect monarchs for our future generations.

Estela Romero

Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico