The Monarch Migration to Mexico

I wasn’t aiming for alliteration in my title but there it is.

Having travelled to Mexico on many occasions, I am fascinated with the monarch migration. I have only seen its power once and that was one year in mid-March when the butterflies were already beginning to make their journey northward and so I missed the full glory of this wonder of nature.

The migration plays a major role in my soon-to-be-released novel, The Monarchs. The main couple in the book migrate back and forth between Canada and Mexico, as the monarchs do. The fact that they keep missing each other adds to the poignancy of the theme.

When the monarchs migrate in the fall, they leave Canada and the U.S. and collect in the state of Michoacan, west of Mexico City. There they huddle for warmth in the oyamel trees.

Isabel’s House of Butterflies, a children’s picture book by Tony Johnston, is an excellent resource that gives some idea of the migration and its effect on a Mexican family.

The migration has not always been successful. There is always the worry of deforestation since many logging companies seek the wood from the oyamel trees. A cold snap in January 2002 killed millions of butterflies due to the lack of trees to protect the insects from the weather.

However, to my understanding, there are laws in place to preserve the forest. The migration is widely advertised as a tourist attraction.

The phenomenon of the monarchs brings with it Mexican mythology. The Aztecs, for example, believed that monarchs were the reincarnation of soldiers killed in battle and that the bright butterfly colours represented the soldiers’ battle dress.

Another belief is that the monarchs represent the souls of people who have died.

This last myth struck me as very moving and does have a connection to my novel.

One day, I hope to experience the migration in January or February when the splendour is at its best.


About randycoates

Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education.
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