Migrating Arts: Celebrating the Monarch Butterfly in México

The life cycle and migration of the monarch butterfly is arguably one of the most celebrated of any pollinator species. Eastern monarchs breed in the Great Plains and across central and eastern U.S. and Canada, and migrate to south Central México in late summer and fall. Their transnational migration connects so many of us to this iconic species.

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The loss of the critical host plant, milkweed, has caused significant declines in both the Eastern and Western monarch populations. Habitat loss, pesticide usage, and the planting of non-native and exotic plants is to blame. To address this crisis, over 600 mayors across the U.S., Canada, and México, have taken the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, committing to actions that will protect and sustain the monarch butterfly for generations to come.

In México, the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge initiative is run by the National Wildlife Federation’s partner organization, Profauna A.C., through the Programa Correo Real. This past year, through their “My Municipality with the Monarch” initiative, they worked with elementary schools and youth arts centers to paint dozens of monarch murals across their cities. Since 2015, they have completed 29 murals with various partner organizations.

  • butterfly mural
    Monarch Mural located in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. Photo: Carrum Roy

One of the first municipalities to participate in the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge in México was Saltillo, Coahuila, located in northern México. In 2017, the city made a mural that was a tribute to Rocío Treviño, known as the “the granny of the monarchs in México.” Rocío Treviño coordinated the Correo Real program for 28 years and is recognized as the woman who managed to trace, with the help of hundreds of citizens, the migratory route of the monarch butterfly in México.

Community Metamorphosis

Since the first mural was painted in 2015, dozens of other schools and municipalities have fused the mission of monarch conservation with that of art and youth engagement. The Urban Art and Culture Apodaca Youth Directorate, located in Apodaca, in the State of Nuevo León, México, and the Héroes de la Independencia elementary school have organized multiple successful youth programs that raise awareness of the monarch butterfly and its epic migration journey. Dozens of young students were directly involved in designing and painting murals at the elementary school, community centers, and public squares. 

Abel Zacarías Rodríguez Chapa, the coordinator of the Urban Art and Culture Youth Directorate, said that his Youth Directorate of Apodaca office works with murals because,

“We are committed to the development of young talent through the Express-Art program. This program provides material, space, and training for the promotion of culture and urban art, promoting values and awareness on relevant topics in society. Murals are a tool for beautifying and rehabilitating spaces for the good of the community, reflecting positive messages, such as inclusivity, allowing the greatest number of people to appreciate quality works of art.”

Student posing at the mural at Colonia Privalia Concordia housing development.
Student posing at the mural at Colonia Privalia Concordia housing development. Completed by the Apodaca Youth Directorate. Photo: Isabel Ortiz Soto

The organization, with students and volunteers, painted murals in the Los Robles neighborhood public square, in San Benito, and at housing developments in Apodaca, Nuevo León. México.

Profauna AC also partnered with the Manuel Rodríguez Vizcarra Kindergarten Elementary to bring together students, parents, teachers, and faculty, to create a mural named, “Soy Monarca” on school grounds. The mural project translated to mean, “I am Monarch”, engaged students through art and creativity, allowing them to learn about wildlife in a fun and collaborative environment.

The principal of the Héroes de la Independencia Elementary School, Leslie Azucena Gutiérrez, said:

“Our students and professors are committed to work for the environment and the preservation of the monarch butterfly. Teachers, parents, and students work together to plan projects, and one of the many projects includes murals that give life and color to our schools. We have found an excellent way to spread the love for the environment.”

Murals achieve many things. Apart from making biodiversity visible, the process of working with kids, parents, students, and community leaders creates bonds of friendship and gives people the opportunity to discover their artistic skills. Murals provide a vehicle to express ourselves and become champions for environmental education and conservation.

To sustain community-level efforts to protect the monarch butterfly, we must continue educational outreach efforts that allow for children to learn about wildlife and conservation, in creative and collaborative spaces. With programs like these, we can be sure to be celebrating the monarch butterfly for generations to come. Encourage your mayor to sign the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge and connect with a community of cities across North America that are building and inspiring the next generation of monarch champions!

Take the pledge to be a steward for monarchs and all pollinators!

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