The monarch butterfly migrates to Mexico by the thousands every year. The local people, the Mazahua, believe that the monarchs represent the spirits of their ancestors. They consciously chose to believe the monarchs are the spirit of their lost ones, and they make them so, by believing. If you believe it you make it so, at least in your own reality. And your own reality is the only one you can experience and live, your own reality is the only one that is real to you. Why not believe in such a beautiful thought? For the Mazahua, the arrival of the butterflies begins a celebration called the day of the dead. What a better way to pay respect and homage to your loved ones? They build altars for their loved ones and decorate them with gifts of the things they liked. The ceremony is beautiful and very important, we have to appreciate life, but also respect death. And perhaps what’s most important is that they truly see the monarchs as carriers of the spirit of the departed who come once a year to say hello. You can also think that they are just some insect, mindlessly following a migrational pattern that is biologically ingrained in them. It’s up to you what you chose to think. You can chose to make what you want of this reality. With your thoughts you turn objective reality into your subjective one. It was Einstein that said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I chose to believe in miracles, in magic, in wonder, in beauty, and in love. I choose to look at the butterflies and think of my loved ones, and you know what, for that short period of time I will feel connected with them. For that brief and fleeting moment, the spirit of my loved ones will be alive, with me, in the shape of a beautiful monarch butterfly.
Sadly, not all is beauty and love in this story, monarch butterfly populations have decreased at an alarming rate in the last 20 years. Why this is happening is hard to pin-point but evidence points to the high use of pesticides and fertilizers. Also, as the climate of the world continues to go awry, these delicate creatures die off in the millions, since their systems can’t handle the extreme weather changes. How sad for this world that these beautiful and amazing creatures are slowly disappearing. Sadder to think that it’s not only the butterfly that’s disappearing, how many species of flora or fauna have gone or are going extinct? The list is endless and it continues to grow every day. This brings to mind a writing by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano titled Los Desaparecidos(the disappeared or missing):
August 30th, The day of the Disappeared.
Disappeared: The dead without tombs, the tombs without names.
the stars in the night of the cities,
the aroma of flowers,
the flavor of fruit,
the old cafes where there was time to lose time,
kids playing in the street,
the right to walk,
the right to breathe,
houses not hidden behind bars,
doors without locks,
the sense of community,
and common sense.
We cannot allow the beauty and the good in the world to go extinct. The disappearance of the Monarch butterfly would be heartbreaking, terrible and wrong. Butterflies are a beautiful marvel of creation and they also represent many wonderful things. They represent freedom. They symbolize the right that living beings have to freely move. Many humans have to migrate in order to survive just like the butterflies. The monarch butterfly begins its trip in mexico in the spring and head north into Canada. The first generation dies a month into the trip, getting about a third of the way there into the southern US. The second generation lives about another month and gets up into northern US. The third generation also lives for one month and gets all the way up into Canada. But the special fourth generation, heeds an unknown and inexplicable call, and heads back south, living about 3 months making it all the way back into Mexico. It’s a mystery how the fourth generation is able to show up at a place it has never seen before. A place the butterfly had been 4 generations ago. There is a hidden, mysterious and magical force which drives them to the place of their descendants, to a place of their dreams, were all the monarchs re-unite and come together to survive the winter. The Immigrant is like the butterfly in many ways. He takes off into the unknown, taking steps down new roads, sometimes armed with nothing more than a vision, nothing more than dreams, and with resiliency, courage, and determination they go after them.
We all have the freedom to fly with imagination, just like a butterfly. I hope they don’t join the other species who have gone extinct but our world is in turmoil, the great extinction continues, climate change continues, the situation keeps getting worse. Will we wake up in time?
“Pues la Mariposa, verdad, es símbolo de que los americanos pueden hacer una cerca lo mas alta que puedan y siempre pasa la gente, siempre pasan los pájaros, las mariposas y todo eso. Ese cerco no puede parar ideas, no puede parar el amor.”
-Rene ‘El Padrino’ Yanez, Curador
“The butterfly, really, is the symbol that America can build the biggest fence they can but people will always get through, birds will always get trough, the butterflies and all that. The fence can’t stop ideas, it can’t stop love.”
“There are dreams on this side as well”
Accion Poetica, On the Mexican side of the Mexico-US border