A super generation of monarchs led by their fearless leader, Beaucup, migrate to Mexico.
Maria stood on a hill above her village nestled high in the Michoacan mountains of Mexico. Adobe houses spread across the valley floor in a rainbow of vibrant colors: lime green, turquoise, pale yellow, pink, and chalk white. Almost all had red-tiled roofs. Bright, colorful flowers adorned most of their front porches. Over the past few years, Angangueo's newer homes crept up the mountain's west slope.
In the middle of town, the Inmaculada Concepcion Church rose high above all the red roofs. Here lay the heart of the city, and the dusty streets that led to it were not unlike the veins of a body. Villagers could see the towering steeple from anywhere in the valley.
Even higher than the church steeple lay the town's cemetery. In the middle of a quiet field, a short rock wall outlined its rectangular shape and a white wooden gate provided entrance. Slanted trees with twisted trunks rose up over the graves. Maria stood by one of those graves. Her white cotton dress contrasted the solemn dark gray headstones, and a shawl concealed her black hair. She loosely held a simple bouquet of dahlias.
Nine months earlier, Maria experienced the saddest day of her life. She had just prepared chilaquiles and eggs for her family. “Breakfast is ready,” she said, dishing up the plates. Her husband, Miguel, and two of their three daughters — Rachel, the oldest, and Amparo, the youngest — entered the small kitchen and approached the counter.
Maria exited the room down the narrow hallway to her son's bedroom. She stood just outside the door. “Diego, breakfast is ready.” As she returned to the kitchen, the six-year-old child did not move. He was a remarkable boy, full of curiosity and candor, but ever since birth he experienced health issues off and on. As of late, Diego had been very tired.
Miguel, Rachel, and Amparo now sat at the table. Maria dished up her plate and the third daughter, Nora, entered the kitchen.
“Good morning, sleepy,” said her father.
“Morning,” replied Nora, yawning.
“Diego!” Maria called out loudly.
Maria set Nora's plate down beside her and returned to the bedroom. Amparo picked up her fork but the father thumped his fist twice on the table. “We will wait for prayer,” he said, exaggerating his sternness. Amparo placed the fork back down. Then Maria's scream hurtled down the hallway into the kitchen, and Miguel's heart sank to the floor. “Wait here, girls,” he said. His chair slid across the wood floor and made a screech that stabbed the air. The daughters looked at each other, frightened. Miguel hurried through the short hall into the room where he found his wife kneeling by the side of the bed. Maria was weeping.
“I don't think he's breathing, Miguel.”
Miguel felt for a pulse and placed his arm around his wife and stammered, “No, Lord, no, no … not our little boy.”
One by one the three girls inched their way into the bedroom, and the family wept together.
That tragic dawn began the long mournful process for the Prado family. They agonized Diego's loss for months, and Maria visited the Inmaculada Concepcion church many times to consult with Father Padilla.
On her very first visit Father Padilla had said, “Diego is now in God's hands.”
“He was always in God's hands,” whispered the mother.
Maria placed the bouquet of flowers on Diego's grave. Over the past several months, she had come to better terms with the loss of her son. One matter, though, still remained to ensure the sanctity of his soul — the return of the monarch butterflies. For centuries, the orange and black creatures descended upon their village representing the souls of departed loved ones. The sacred oyamel forest on the outskirts of the village provide the ideal wintering grounds. Situated high in the mountains, the temperature suits the monarch hibernation, and the oyamel fir trees form a thick canopy for protection.
Like clockwork, the butterflies usually arrive by November 1. This is fitting since the date coincides with The Day Of The Dead celebration. On All Saints' Day, or the Day of the Little Angels, the spirits of departed children return for twenty-four hours. On November 2 or All Souls' Day, the spirits of departed adults do the same. For Maria, it was especially important this year the monarchs arrive by November 1. Her husband, Miguel, walked up beside her, and they shared a prayer for it to be so.