monarch butterfly unesco world heritage mexico

Photo by gobierno.edomex

Every year during the Autum season, Mexico is host to one of the most impressive and mysterious wonders our natural world has to offer: the southern migration of millions of Monach butterflies (mariposas Monarcas) from Canada to the central regions of Mexico.

This migration is such a wonder and a spectacle that the UNESCO has designated Mexico’s Santuario de la Mariposa Monarca a World Heritage Site–one of the 31 sites in Mexico, which boasts the most World Heritage sites in the Americas. This designation is given to those cultural and natural properties which possess an “outstanding universal value.”

What is so outstanding about this migration is that it remains an enigma just how millions of these butterflies manage to travel over 2,500 miles just to spend a warmer winter in Mexico and then back north during the Spring, even though they have never done the journey before since every year it is a new generation of monarchs making the trek. How amazing is that?

Even though locals in the central mountain and volcanic regions of Mexico, where the sanctuary is located, have always known of the existence of the Monarchs–and thought of them as the visiting souls of their ancestors since their arrival usually coincides with Day of the Dead–it was just until the late 1970′s that their exact hibernating locations were discovered. The now protected area known as the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve covers 200 square miles ranging between the states of Michoacan and Mexico.

A visit to any of the public sanctuaries will awe you with the rare site of thousands of butterflies covering up tree branches to the point where there are so many that their combined weight is capable of breaking a thin branch.

My husband’s parents live in the beautiful lakeside colonial town of Valle de Bravo, just 2.5 hours from Mexico City. The drive up through the forests and mountains to Valle de Bravo is a spectacle in itself because it puts you right in the middle of the Monarchs’ path to the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary. Drivers must slow down to 20 miles per hour in order to protect the  blanket of butterflies crossing their path.

That’s exactly what happened to us last December during a drive up the road that leads to Valle de Bravo. We stopped the car just to show our girl and get a video to share the wonder we were witnessing. It’s just beautiful; check it out:


I’m happy to see this awe-inspiring natural wonder is being protected to secure its longevity. President Felipe Calderón, pledged more than $4 million in 2007 to protect the efforts to curtail illegal logging in the biosphere reserve and thus preserve the trees and foliage the monarchs use during their stay in Mexico.

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here and everywhere are completely my own.

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