A group of farmers and environmental defenders made a trip to the beautiful town of Valle de Bravo in the State of Mexico in early January. Its main objective: to visit the protected natural reserve of Piedra Herrada, where thousands of monarch butterflies arrive to spend the winter in its majestic oyamel forests.
These insects travel thousands of miles from Canada and the United States to meet and mate. Local people say that the butterflies are their ancestors who come to visit them and begin to arrive around the Day of the Dead celebrations. The males die on Mexican soil before the females, with their precious cargo, head north in early March to lay their eggs on the milkweed plants, ensuring that the next generation will pollinate our fruits.
This ritual has been repeated over and over again for centuries, but just in the year 2022, the monarch butterfly was listed as an endangered species by the Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They, along with the rest of the planet’s pollinators, are responsible for the production of a third of the food we consume. Habitat loss on both sides of the border is caused by human activity. The indiscriminate use of toxic fertilizers and pesticides, monoculture production, and clandestine logging are just some of the problems that have decimated the butterfly population.
North Carolina farmers and environmental advocates heard firsthand how local communities protect forests as licensed guides who take visitors to this sanctuary, where tens of thousands of butterflies rest on the night forming clusters that look like swarms of bees. In the morning, orange-colored rivers flow downhill in search of water and nectar that the local flowers offer. There are so many that their soft fluttering can be heard. Witnessing this wonder is a once in a lifetime experience!
They also visited a farmers’ cooperative that brings together seventeen families that produce organic food such as vegetables, cheese, meat, flowers and honey. From them they learned that by working together, they can offer their products direct to the consumer without increasing the costs of intermediaries, creating a relationship of trust with their clients.
At the end of their visit, they participated in a panel in which they revealed the actions they are taking in North Carolina, whether it is creating gardens with native plants to feed butterflies, avoiding the use of pesticides on their lawns or supporting local farmers who grow their food naturally. This is how bridges are built between communities so far from each other, but whose common goal is to protect the planet.
A beautiful butterfly shows us that the balance of ecosystems can be easily broken, but it also teaches us that we can spread our wings and touch the distant one. Knowing that we can weave our dreams together so that the children of tomorrow can welcome us back home with open arms.
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