Things That Matter

Conservationists At Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Reserve Are Being Murdered And Investigators Aren’t Sure Why

Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Reserve is one of the world’s most famous wildlife hotspots. Hundreds of thousands come each year to view the annual migration of millions of beautiful butterflies that call Mexico’s Michoacan state home during the winter.

However, this iconic and majestic habitat for one of the world’s most endangered animals is now the backdrop for a dramatic murder mystery that is unfolding in international headlines. Two conservationists have been discovered dead just days apart and investigators still aren’t sure why.

A second victim has been pronounced killed by authorities in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly reserve.

Credit: Alan Ortega / Getty

One of the world’s most beautiful wildlife spots is now the backdrop for a dramatic double murder after two nature activists are discovered dead at Mexico’s El Rosario monarch butterfly sanctuary.

The deaths of Homero Gomez Gonzalez, manager of the butterfly reserve, and Raul Hernandez Romero, a tour guide at the sanctuary, have sent shockwaves across the world of wildlife conservation.

Hernandez Romero’s body was discovered on Saturday near the highest point of the mountainous sanctuary, which sits 9,000 feet above sea level in the state of Michoacan, about 130 miles west of Mexico City, according to a statement from the Michoacan state prosecutor’s office. Hernandez Romero’s family reported him missing on Friday, officials said.

The new victim was found just days after the first victim’s body was found after being missing for 16 days.

Credit: Alan Ortega / Getty

Authorities discovered his body about three days after the Hernandez Romero’s body was found in a pond near the Central Mexico town of El Soldado, prosecutors said.

An autopsy performed in the presence of State Human Rights Commission representatives determined Gomez Gonzalez died from “mechanical asphyxiation” after suffering head trauma and being submerged in water.

Gomez Gonzalez, whose family reported him missing two weeks ago, was one of the region’s most prominent conservation activists and a vocal defender of the monarch butterflies. He had launched a campaign against illegal logging that threatens the butterflies nesting grounds.

Although petty crime and theft is common in these parts of Mexico, authorities don’t believe this to be the case in Gonzalez’s death. He was found with about $9,000 pesos (or about $500 USD) on him when his body was discovered.

Mexico’s Monarch butterfly preserve is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Each winter, millions of monarch butterflies make their home at the El Rosario reserve in Mexico — one of the best places in the world to see them. Local guides lead tourists up the mountainside on foot and horseback to where the monarchs cluster in fir and pine trees. Their bright orange wings flit amid the mild weather of Michoacán, and signs ask for silence as visitors enter the nesting areas.

The El Rosario sanctuary is part of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which was enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, calling the overwintering concentration of butterflies there “a superlative natural phenomenon.” It noted that more than half of overwintering colonies of the monarch butterfly’s eastern population are found in these specific areas of Mexico.

But the same forests that draw butterflies to migrate thousands of miles each winter are under threat from illegal logging and clandestine avocado farms.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Officials in the state of Michoacán said they were unsure if the two deaths were linked – or related to the men’s work in the butterfly reserve. The state has seen a rising tide of violence in recent years, and the region around the monarch butterfly reserve has been rife with illegal logging, despite a ban imposed to protect the monarchs, which winter in the pine- and fir-covered hills.

Some illegal clearcutting is also carried out to allow for the planting of avocado orchards – one of Mexico’s most lucrative crops and an important part of Michoacán’s economy.

The deaths again called attention to the disturbing trend in Mexico of environmental defenders being killed as they come into conflict with developers or local crime groups, who often have political and police protection.

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Mexican Politician Accused Of Rape Vows To Block Elections Unless He’s Allowed To Run

Things That Matter

Mexican Politician Accused Of Rape Vows To Block Elections Unless He’s Allowed To Run

FRANCISCO ROBLES/AFP via Getty Images

It’s an election year in Mexico and that means that things are heating up as candidates fight for the top spot. At the same time, Mexico is experiencing a burgeoning fight for women’s rights that demands accountability and justice. Despite all the marches and protests and civil disobedience by hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, it remains to be seen how much change will happen and when. 

Case in point: Félix Salgado, a candidate for governor of Guerrero who has been accused of rape and sexual assault but maintains the support of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO). Now, after being disqualified from the race because of undisclosed campaign finances, the candidate is vowing to block any elections from taking place unless he is allowed to continue his campaign. 

A disqualified candidate is vowing to block elections unless he’s allowed to run.

Félix Salgado was running to be governor of the Mexican state of Guerrero when he was faced with allegations of rape and sexual assault. The commission that selects party candidates allowed him to remain in the race and he continues to maintain the support of President AMLO – who is of the same political party, Morena. 

However, in late March, election regulators ordered that Salgado be taken off the ballot due to a failure to report campaign spending, according to the AP. Mexico’s electoral court ordered the Federal Electoral Institute (FEI) to reconsider their decision last week. Salgado is already threatening to throw the election process into chaos.

“If we are on the ballot, there will be elections,” Salgado told supporters in Guerrero after leading a caravan of protestors to the FEI’s office in Mexico City on Sunday. “If we are not on the ballot, there will not be any elections,” Salgado said.

The AP notes that Salgado is not making an empty threat. Guerrero is an embattled state overrun with violence and drug gangs and many elections have been previously disrupted. Past governors have been forced out of office before finishing their terms. Salgado was previously filmed getting into a confrontation with police in 2000.

It was just weeks ago that the ruling party allowed Salgado’s candidacy to move forward.

In mid-March, Morena confirmed that Félix Salgado would be its candidate for governor in Guerrero after completing a new selection process in which the former senator was reportedly pitted against four women.

Morena polled citizens in Guerrero last weekend to determine levels of support for five different possible candidates, according to media reports. Among the four women who were included in the process were Acapulco Mayor Adela Román and Senator Nestora Salgado.

Félix Salgado was the clear winner of the survey, even coming out on top when those polled were asked to opine on the potential candidates’ respect for the rights of women. He also prevailed in all other categories including honesty and knowledge of the municipality in which the poll respondents lived.

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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