Monarchs of Mexico

I expected there to be some overlap between the International Year of Biodiversity and the Mexico 2010 celebrations, and here is the first example. I was reading about monarch butterflies in Mexico, and how their winter habitat was hit by two unusual storms at the end of January. Heavy rains, wind, hail and snow hit the mountains of Michoacán resulting in floods and landslides which claimed several human lives and have devastated the butterfly colonies. Scientists are still working to assess the ecological damage, which has been made worse by illegal logging in the reserves.

Interestingly, it was a poet who was instrumental in the creation of the butterfly reserves. Homero Aridjis grew up with the monarchs, and was inspired to write poetry by them and all the other creatures of the forest. He later went on to create the Grupo de los Cien (Group of a Hundred), an association of Mexican artists and intellectuals who speak out on environmental issues. But perhaps his most eloquent pleas for nature come through his poetry. Here is one example:

A una mariposa monarca

Tu que vas por el dia
como un tigre alado
quemándote en tu vuelo
dime què vida sobrenatural
está pintada en tus alas
para que despuès de esta vida
pueda verte en mi noche

To a Monarch Butterfly

You who go through the day
like a winged tiger
burning as you fly
tell me what supernatural life
is painted on your wings
so that after this life
I may see you in my night

From Construir la muerte/The building of Death (1982)
Translated from Spanish by: George McWhirter

You can read a selection of Aridjis’ poetry here, and there’s more about the butterflies at the most delicious blog I know, Mexico Cooks.

Monarch butterflies, Michoacán, Mexico

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4 comments on “Monarchs of Mexico

  1. Poncho says:

    I heard about that. The storms around here have been terrible, and the human tragedy has also been sad.

    A sad story, indeed.

    BTW, the poem sounds way better in spanish IMHO.

    Thanks for this.

  2. Sylvia says:

    Ah, I should have posted it in Spanish too. Thanks for mentioning it, Poncho!

  3. Stefanie says:

    Oh no! I hadn't heard about the storms and the damage to the monarchs. That is very sad news. I love butterflies but the monarchs are my favorites. I love to seem them as they migrate south in August, they are such amazing creatures. When I select new plants for my garden I nearly always choose ones with butterflies and bees in mind. It is such a pleasure to see the flowers bent over with big fat bees on them while nearby the delicate butterflies are daintily sipping.

  4. Sylvia says:

    Stefanie, that's great that you plant butterfly-friendly plants in your garden. As you probably know, monarchs are dependent on milkweed, the sap of which makes them toxic and thus protected them from predators. They can't do without it any more than they can do without the forests of Michoacán.

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