In February, 2009, we had the opportunity to travel to Central Mexico with an organization called, Monarchs Across Georgia. Not only did we have the unique experience of visiting two Monarch butterfly colonies, Cerro Pelon and El Rosario, but we also visited some local projects that are directly involved in preserving the land and habitat of the Monarch.

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We spent the first two nights at the beautiful Aqua Blanca Canyon Resort near Junapeo, Mexico. This was near the first Monarch sanctuary of Cerro Pelon. We had to travel by horseback for one hour up steep, rocky trails. Since this was the "dry season" in Mexico, we were told to bring dust masks to wear on the trip. We were glad we did because the dirt was like talc and the horses stirred up clouds of dust as they walked. As we rode up the mountain we began to see Monarchs flying overhead which soon became exciting. We dismounted and began climbing on foot in the thin air and as we went, the Monarchs became more numerous. We reached the roosting area, at 9500 feet, about an hour later. It was later in the afternoon and the weather was warm and sunny, perfect for flying.

We stood there in awe as we viewed millions of Monarch butterflies flying all around us and clustering in the trees. It was an awesome experience to be in the midst of God's handiwork. It just inspired us to continue in our efforts back home to help propagate this marvelous natural phenomenon. We couldn't help but think that maybe some of our Monarchs traveled from our home in Souderton and were a part of this wonderful display of nature.

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Aqua Blanca Canyon Resort
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The dinning room in Aqua Blanca
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Monarch Statue at Zitacuaro
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Cerro Pelon
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Numerous monarchs flying overhead
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The monarch's roosting area
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After we left the Monarch colony, we returned to the village of Macheros. Earlier that day, we visited a Mexican elementary school in the village where we helped distribute school books and gifts for the students attending there. The students gave us a warm welcome and appreciated the books that would be used to help build a library. We enjoyed a tasty trout lunch at a Mexican home prepared on the grill.


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The Mexican elementry school

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Our trout lunch


The next day, we traveled to the second Monarch sanctuary, El Rosario. This sanctuary was more tourist orientated because it was easily accessible, even though we still had to walk about two hours and climb over 400 steps. This is the largest and most well known sanctuary, but we were not permitted to get as close to the Monarchs and their roosting areas as we were at Cerro Pelon. The skies were overcast and the air was cooler at El Rosario, therefore the Monarchs were not as active as the previous day. It was still very impressive to see millions of these butterflies, many layers deep, on the branches of the tall oyamel fir trees.

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El Rosario

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Over the years, the farmers and loggers have been allowed to cut the trees from the mountains to use as firewood and building material. The Far East as well as Mexico City has been a very lucrative market for Mexican lumber and as a result the lumber companies have been allowed to clear-cut whole mountains which has changed the micro-climate of the Monarch as well as destroying their habitat in the process. Efforts have now been established to re-educate the local farmers in better land management practices. One such effort that we were able to visit was Alternare Training Center where local farmers are trained in better agricultural skills and in making adobe bricks for building material instead of cutting trees for wood. They are also taught brick-laying and construction skills. The graduates from this training center return to their respective areas to train others.


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One of many clear-cut mountains

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Brick-laying


Another site that we were able to visit was La Cruz Habitat Protection Project. This project is dedicated to forest restoration and the promoting of sustainable forest management in Central Mexico. Jose Luis Alvarez and his employees have planted 2.5 million seedling pine and oyamel fir trees in and around the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and its buffer zone. We enjoyed two nights lodging at the unique 400 year old Hacienda La Cruz. We were served a variety of delicious Mexican cuisine including a casserole made with ostrich meat!


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La Cruz Habitat Protection Project

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Jose Luis Alvarez

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Hacienda La Cruz


We traveled all week by tour bus driven by our resident bus driver and translator, Hugo Torres. We were transported to a variety of interesting areas such as Eduardo Ruiz National Park, several beautiful cathedrals, some ancient Indian pyramids, towns with shopping opportunities and authentic Mexican restaurants. No meal was complete without re-fried beans, Spanish rice and guacamole. We even had avocado ice cream.


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Hugo Torres

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Eduardo Ruiz National Park

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Indian pyramids

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We were able to do some shopping and exploring in the city of Morelia, the capital of the State of Michoacan. We enjoyed our last meal together as a group at the La Casa del Portal Restaurant. Our lodging that night was the beautiful Hotel de la Soledad in the center of Morelia. Unfortunately we had to get up at 3:00 AM and catch our bus to the airport at 4:00 AM. We had a 6:30 AM flight back to Houston, Texas.


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Dance Group in Morelia

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La Casa del Portal Restaurant

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Hotel de la Soledad