Peterborough artwork ‘migrating’ to International Monarch Butterfly Festival in Zitácuaro, Mexico

Zitácuaro government has invited Monarch Ultra organizers Carlotta James, Rodney Fuentes, and Gunther Schubert to participate in November 25-27 festival

Four of the 16 pieces of monarch butterfly-themed artwork created and donated by Peterborough-area artists that will accompany Monarch Ultra organizers Carlotta James, Rodney Fuentes, and Gunther Schubert on their trip to Zitácuaro, Mexico for the International Monarch Butterfly Festival from November 25 to 27, 2022. (kawarthaNOW collage of photos from Love For The Boro / Instagram)
Four of the 16 pieces of monarch butterfly-themed artwork created and donated by Peterborough-area artists that will accompany Monarch Ultra organizers Carlotta James, Rodney Fuentes, and Gunther Schubert on their trip to Zitácuaro, Mexico for the International Monarch Butterfly Festival from November 25 to 27, 2022. (kawarthaNOW collage of photos from Love For The Boro / Instagram)

Like the monarch butterfly itself, a collection of artwork depicting the threatened pollinator is migrating from Peterborough to Mexico this week, along with three Peterborough residents who have made it their mission to raise awareness of the plight of the monarch butterfly.

Carlotta James, Rodney Fuentes, and Gunther Schubert, of the Peterborough-based conservation and ultra marathon organization the Monarch Ultra, have been invited to attend the International Monarch Butterfly Festival in Zitácuaro, Mexico from November 25 to 27.

The trio (along with Clay Williams) organized the inaugural Monarch Ultra Relay Run in 2019, which saw 46 ultra marathon runner follow the 4,300-kilometre migratory path of monarch butterflies from Peterborough to Macheros in Mexico over the span of seven weeks. Another run in 2021 saw 58 runners participating in a 1,800-kilometre journey through southwestern Ontario. Both runs helped raise awareness of the migratory monarch butterfly, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared endangered this past July.

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In September, the Monarch Ultra invited a delegation from the city of Zitácuaro in Mexico — located in the foothills of the over-wintering habitat of monarch butterflies and near to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a world heritage site — to the “Zitacuaro Summit” at Market Hall Performing Arts Centre in downtown Peterborough. As part of the event, local artists were invited to create and donate monarch-inspired art for a “Migration of Art” exhibit that was displayed at the Market Hall.

The Mexican delegation, including Zitácuaro Mayor Juan Antonio Ixtláhuac who was to deliver the keynote address, cancelled at the last minute due to security issues at home. The Zitacuaro government subsequently invited a Monarch Ultra delegation to attend the International Monarch Butterfly Festival and share their experiences as activists for the protection of this endangered species, and will cover all of their expenses including flights, accommodation, and food.

“Participating in the international festival will strengthen our cause for monarch conservation and create new opportunities for collaboration between Peterborough and Zitácuaro,” says Monarch Ultra cofounder Carlotta James. “Monarch butterflies are bringing together two communities on a shared journey towards greater environmental awareness and action.”

Monarch Ultra co-founder Carlotta James and organizer Gunther Schubert  visiting El Galán Ecotourism Park in Guanajuato, Mexico in 2019 with local environmentalist  Gustavo Zaro. (Photo courtesy of Carlotta James)
Monarch Ultra co-founder Carlotta James and organizer Gunther Schubert visiting El Galán Ecotourism Park in Guanajuato, Mexico in 2019 with local environmentalist Gustavo Zaro. (Photo courtesy of Carlotta James)

Indigenous groups in Zitácuaro have planted over 200,000 trees in the the forest sanctuaries to provide additional habitat for the migrating monarch butterflies. The Peterborough delegation will learn more about environmental action in Zitácuaro and how cities in North America can work together to protect monarch butterflies.

In addition to participating in the festival along with James and Schubert, Fuentes — who is directing a documentary film about the Monarch Ultra Relay Run — will visit the forest sanctuaries to film millions of monarch butterflies in their overwintering home.

“We want to learn from the Zitácuaro community and how best we can also contribute to protecting monarch butterflies and all pollinators that are crucial to the health of our ecosystem,” James says. “We believe that environmental action at the local and international level is essential to building stronger, more connected communities. Through this festival, I hope we can continue to be a champion for the monarchs so that future generations can witness the beautiful patterned creature of the skies.”

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Taking place in Zitácuaro, the International Monarch Butterfly Festival will include Indigenous ceremonies, traditional dances, and presentations by representatives of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve as well as by the Peterborough delegates, who will also be bringing 16 pieces of art from the “Migration of Art” exhibit.

According to the Zitácuaro government, the goal of the International Monarch Butterfly Festival is to create cultural, educational, and ecological opportunities that promote international dialogue for the protection of the monarch migration.

To learn more about the Monarch Ultra, visit www.themonarchultra.com.

Monarch Ultra co-founders Rodney Fuentes and Carlotta James filming for the upcoming Monarch Ultra documentary in Peterborough in 2021. While he is attending the  International Monarch Butterfly Festival in Zitácuaro, Mexico with James and Gunther Schubert, Fuentes  will visit the forest sanctuaries to film millions of monarch butterflies in their overwintering home for the documentary film he is directing about the Monarch Ultra Relay Run. (Photo: Carlotta James)
Monarch Ultra co-founders Rodney Fuentes and Carlotta James filming for the upcoming Monarch Ultra documentary in Peterborough in 2021. While he is attending the International Monarch Butterfly Festival in Zitácuaro, Mexico with James and Gunther Schubert, Fuentes will visit the forest sanctuaries to film millions of monarch butterflies in their overwintering home for the documentary film he is directing about the Monarch Ultra Relay Run. (Photo: Carlotta James)