Mexico and Beyond

THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY

Royalty Dresses in Orange

Mariana Figueroa

Photos: Aron Covaliu

One of the most impressive natural spectacles in the world is the Monarch butterfly in its sanctuary. After a 4,000 kilometer trip from Canada and the United States to Mexico to protect themselves from the winter cold, millions of butterflies have fulfilled the task of mating and will return in about a week to their place of origin; but first, they frolic in the warm forests of Michoacan and the State of Mexico.

   The Piedra Herrada Sanctuary, located 30 minutes from Valle de Bravo, is reached by road and the show begins there, where cars and buses circulate at about 12 miles per hour so as not to interfere with the flight of the butterflies and avoid the fines, because if someone kills one, that person is penalized economically.

   When arriving at the place, located in the municipality of Temascaltepec, it’s necessary to climb a 5-kilometer slope to reach the sanctuary; either on foot, for those with an impeccable physical condition, or on horseback.

   The road to the top is an idyllic route, the Oyamel trees perfume the environment, the fresh air caresses your cheeks and the butterflies flutter everywhere; the journey is silent, because it’s a requirement to enter the reserve in the least invasive way possible, making as little noise as possible, as these lepidoptera are very sensitive to it.

After reaching the summit, one is dazzled by the impressive orange and black clusters in which the butterflies are grouped with their characteristic colors, small flying stained glass windows that offer a show like few others; it’s easy to see them by dozens in full mating and, above, enjoying themselves as they cross the blue sky, listening only to the sound of the movement of their wings. There is something miraculous and poetic in that moment.

   When going down the slope, hundreds and hundreds of Monarch butterflies fly along in a downward direction. Flying in unison they would seem to be a river of orange light, joyful and harmonious. A moment that you will surely treasure forever.

   The Monarch butterfly can be seen in Mexico until March 15. In addition to Piedra Herrada, in the State of Mexico, there are two other sanctuaries: El Capulin, in Donato Guerra and La Mesa, in San Jose del Rincon. Michoacan has three more: El Rosario, Senguio and Chincua.