Monday, January 19, 2015

Visiting the Monarch Butterflies

I arrived back in the DF on a Saturday night and Sunday morning we headed out (somewhat) bright and early to see the Monarch Butterflies!

Our roommate had friends visiting and since they were going and Edson had never been, we made the last minute decision to join them for a day trip. (I went for the first time with Karen in 2011, which you can read about here).

We visited El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacán.

Monarchs are the only type of butterflies that have two-way migrations, like birds do. They travel some 3,000 miles between Mexico and the Northern U.S. and Southern Canada. They spend November through March "overwintering" (ie - how insects spend the winter) in oyamel fir forests in the mountains of Michoacán and the State of Mexico.

On my first visit, I learned that their lifespan isn't very long, so the migration is completed over the course of multiple generations and somehow they keep returning to the same places. Whoa!

This time we learned that most Monarch butterflies only live 3-5 weeks, but when it's time to migrate a special generation is born, which lives 7-9 months. That's a big difference!

Confused about the two explanations? I was too. Thanks to Google (and the US Forest Service and Monarch Watch), I was able to clarify that the special migrating generation makes the trip all the way from the U.S./ Canada to Mexico, spends the winter in Mexico, and then makes part of the trip back before they die. New generations of Monarchs are born along the way, so the rest of the northern migration is completed over the course of multiple generations. Then, once again, a special migratory generation is born in time to make the trip South and, even though they've never been, they somehow find their way to the mountains in Mexico.

It was a pretty cold day (by Michoacán, Mexico standards), so there wasn't too much movement going on. However, it was still INCREDIBLE to see all of the Monarch butterflies clustered on the branches and trunks of the trees. In the photos and video below, all of the orange/brown "dead leaves" are butterflies!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Three Kings Day

Happy Three Kings Day! 

January 6th is el Día de los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day / Day of the Wise men, the day that the three wise men arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus. In Mexico, children write a letter to the magos, telling them what they would like as a gift, and send it off attached to a balloon on January 5th. 

The presents are left during the night for the children to wake up to the morning of the 6th. I'm told that years ago children received presents on Three Kings Day, but not on Christmas. However, blame it on globalization, t.v., immigration, or whatever you'd like, but nowadays most kids are visited by both Santa and the Three Kings bearing gifts during the holidays. 


On the 6th, people share a rosca, an oval-shaped bread decorated with candied fruit. The rosca represents the wise mens' crowns, with the candied fruit representing jewels. There's always  at least one baby Jesus figurine hidden inside. Whoever finds the baby Jesus in their piece is supposed to provide the tamales and the chocolate (like hot chocolate) or atole(a masa-based drink) for everyone on February 2nd, which is Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas or the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple). 

baby Jesus figure hidden inside the rosca

Why tamales and atole? While Mexico is a very Catholic country, many of its traditions and beliefs are the product of sincretismo, the combination of Catholic and Pre-hispanic religions and cultures. Tamales were used as offerings to the gods because they are made of corn, the material used by the gods to create humans. And atole is a masa (corn) - based drink. So, while February 2nd is a Christian celebration, it draws upon Pre-hispanic traditions to celebrate. 

Today wraps up the "Guadalupe-Reyes" holidays. Thought you had it good in the US with Christmas through New Year's? Here the holidays begin December 12 for the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (hence "Guadalupe") and end el Día de los Reyes Magos ("Reyes").  

Want to read more about holiday traditions in Mexico? Check out some of my previous posts, including: 

-Making piñatas 2010

-Pastorela and Posada with Rotaract 2010 and 2011
-the Posada song in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas 2010
-Christmas in Maltrata, Veracruz in 2011 and 2013, and other Christmas traditions like the Nativity scene"La Rama"posadas, and buñuelos
-Holiday decorations in the Zocalo 2010 and 2012 and Coyoacan 2014
-"Los viejitos" in Maltrata, Veracruz 
-New Year's in Maltrata, Veracruz 2012 and Minatitlan, Veracruz 2014

Back in the DF

I was home with family and friends for the holidays, but as of last Saturday, I'm back in the DF!

Edson greeted me at the airport with what is probably the most beautiful bouquet I've ever received! A very nice welcome back, indeed!

Now it's time for round two of thesis corrections and hopefully graduation!