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Help Me Save the Monarchs

January 2017

by José Andrés

If you’ve been to my Mexican restaurant Oyamel, in Washington, DC, you might understand why I have a special connection to monarch butterflies. Its name comes from a forest located deep in the heart of Mexico that is filled with Oyamel fir trees. Every year, several hundred million migratory monarch butterflies make a journey to this unique and beautiful place located high up in the mountains of Michoacán. The butterflies travel over 2500 miles from Southeastern Canada and the Northeastern United States to seek refuge within the waxy needles of the fir trees, making a quiet “shhh” sound as they flap their wings. And so, when you step inside my Oyamel and see the beautiful mobiles of butterflies twirling from the ceiling, you will appreciate the connection. 

During my many visits to Mexico to learn more about its regions, I became fascinated by this majestic place that’s blanketed in gold every October through March. I fell in love with the story of the monarch butterfly, and was captivated by this astonishing act of nature. Unfortunately, such an enchanting creature has a sad tale to tell. Every year, fewer and fewer of them are arriving to winter in the Oyamel firs. As our agriculture industry grows, and we plow away more and more land for crops and spray harmful pesticides to keep them strong, we’re depleting the monarch’s main source of food, milkweeds, and preventing them from being able to reproduce.

This has more of an impact on our lives that you might imagine, because without pollinators like monarchs and bees, we wouldn’t have so many of the amazing foods we like to eat. Plump, juicy tomatoes to chop up and put in our salads, amazing avocados to dice up and put in a ceviche, or even almonds, melons, cucumbers, or cauliflower. All of these foods will be affected by the decline of the monarchs.  Without them, our food system would almost be lost.

I am proud to announce that my Mexican restaurant Oyamel will be participating in Monarch Butterfly Week this March. We will be partnering with World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Monarch Squad to support the vital work of WWF as they rally one million supporters to come together and help save the migratory monarch butterfly. I hope you will come out to Oyamel between March 13-20 so we can all work together in support of this remarkable and beautiful butterfly.