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Every year, millions of monarch butterflies make a long journey from Canada and the United States to the mountains of central Mexico, where they spend the winter in the oyamel fir forests. Their arrival coincides with a special celebration in Mexican culture: Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This is a time when people honor and remember their deceased loved ones, by creating altars with photos, flowers, candles, and offerings. They also visit the gravesites of their ancestors and share stories and memories of them.

For some indigenous peoples of Mexico, such as the Purépecha and the Mazahua, the monarchs are more than just beautiful insects. They are believed to be the souls of their ancestors returning to visit them for Día de los Muertos. This belief has been passed down for centuries, and is based on the observation that the monarchs arrive around the same time as the holiday, and leave around the same time as the spring equinox, when the souls are said to depart. The monarchs are also seen as a symbol of hope, resilience, and renewal, as they overcome many challenges and dangers to complete their amazing migration.

The monarchs are a precious part of Mexico’s natural and cultural heritage, and their conservation is important for both ecological and social reasons. However, they face many threats, such as habitat loss, climate change, pesticides, and illegal logging. We can help them by planting native flowers that provide nectar and milkweed that provide food for their caterpillars, and by supporting efforts to protect their overwintering sites in Mexico. By doing so, we can ensure that the monarchs and their remarkable journey will continue to inspire and delight us for generations to come.

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