|This is a beautiful male butterfly|
As I have come to find during my studies here in Mexico, there are a number of reasons for migrating. For some, it is safety from political regimes and violence within the country. For others it is the chance to live, not just survive. After visiting the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary, the winter resting place for over 200,000 monarch butterflies, this past weekend, I have come to find that these migrating butterflies and the poor campesinos of Mexico have a lot in common. The butterflies migrate from the north to mate and provide a safe space for their offspring to flourish. They travel for thousands of miles, in dangerous conditions, to reach their destination. How is this any different from many Mexican families who migrate to the U.S. to provide a better chance of living for their children and wives? Men, women, and children cross the U.S.-Mexican border every day in order to make a life for themselves. It is extremely hot in the day and many die of dehydration. In the evening, it cools off but there are rattlesnakes, scorpions, and other dangerous animals that make sleeping impossible. Not only do they have nature to combat, but they also work with coyotes, experienced guides in crossing the border, who are known for their brutality. Many times women are raped and abused, they stack migrants on top of one another like boards in vehicles, and they demand more and more money from the very people who are migrating to gain some form of capital. It is a dangerous journey, but many continue to make this trip because they feel it is the only way to make any success.
|These clumps of "leaves" are actually butterflies crowding|
together on trees. There are more than 200,000 in this
sanctuary, so there are easily thousands of butterflies
on a single tree.
We climbed the mountain, at the butterfly sanctuary, using horses from local campesinos. The higher we climbed, the quieter it became; I could practically hear the flapping of wings. At the top of the mountain, the butterflies resided on the trees that have been holding their ancestors for hundreds of years. They appeared as leaves on the trees, all bunched together, becoming one community. Just as these butterflies stayed together, migrants who come to the U.S. find others in their community and stick with them, a survival tactic to help improve their chances of finding jobs, learning the language, and understanding the rules of the land. Often families and people from the same small towns (pueblos) migrate to the same city in the U.S. because they have a connection there and feel safer and more comfortable. The young man who allowed me to ride on his horse told me that after he graduated, he planned on joining his brother in the U.S. His mom was not pleased, but he said, "She knows what to expect. No one can make it here and she knows the best thing for me is to join my brother."
|The butterflies were in flight! It sounded like a|
thousand leaves falling from the trees. It was a magical
and powerful moment.
The only similarity I could not find with both of these migrants is that one receives a residing place protected by the country, the other does not. The Mexican migrants continue to be mistreated in the U.S. As a future social worker, this experience opened my eyes to the needs that this particular population has. I know that I must fight for them to have a safe resting place in the U.S. and fight for rights within our country so that they can easily leave when they have done what they need to do, just like the monarch butterflies. They always return to the north. Mexicans do not, not because they don't want to, but because they have no other choice. I hope to change that.
Written by AnnMarie Eliason
Written by AnnMarie Eliason