Missed chatting with friends and neighbors about the films you saw at this year’s Providence Children’s Film Festival? Join us for a Zoom discussion! This evening, anytime between 5:30-7:00 pm and share. Link is https://zoom.us/j/93126124781
All this school vacation week, the Providence Children’s Film Festival is airing an outstanding collection of wonderfully educational and interesting films for families and kids of all ages. Tickets are only $12.50 per film for the entire family. Or you can do as I did and buy a pass, which allows for viewing all films all week long. Beauty on the Wing is playing through Saturday and I will be part of a Q and A at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. Please vote for BotWing after watching the film. Thank you!
At this moment I am currently watching The Last Lightkeepers. This is a film I have been especially super excited to see largely because I think here in Gloucester we should form a Friends of Gloucester Lighthouses Association. Our lighthouses are in increasingly deplorable condition. I would like very much for we in Gloucester to follow in the footsteps of Rockort’s Paul St. Germain and the Thacher Island Association in restoring our lighthouses and the surrounding grounds.
The Last Lightkeepers – This stunning documentary explores lighthouses across New England (including in Rhode Island) and the sadly decaying condition of many of them. Many abandoned lighthouses haven’t been tended to in decades or since they were replaced by updated tools of navigation. Director Rob Apse captures the beauty of these American sentinels that once defined a nation’s coastline. The Last Lightkeepers highlights stories of individuals currently fighting to preserve these structures while capturing their folklore before the lights go dim forever.
Scene from Beauty on the Wing – Standing atop Cerro Pelón and looking down into a valley of exploding Monarchs
For further reading and some terrific background information, see the following article, published by the NRDC in early February of this year. Scenes from Beauty on the Wing were filmed at the stunning forest at the Cerro Pelón Monarch Butterfly sanctuary.
For a Family in Mexico, a Mission to Protect Monarchs
Siblings Joel, Anayeli, and Patricio Moreno see the future of their community and that of the butterflies that migrate annually to the local Cerro Pelón forest as being intimately connected.
If there’s something that the Moreno family agrees on, it’s that monarch butterflies changed their lives. And not just their own but the lives of most in Macheros, Mexico. The agricultural village of 400 people—whose name translates to “stables” in Spanish, because of the 100 horses that also make their home here—sits at the entrance to Cerro Pelón, one of four sanctuaries in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, established by the federal government in 1986.
It started when Melquiades Moreno de Jesus secured a job as a forest ranger, or guardabosque, in 1982. Six years earlier, National Geographic had run a feature on monarch migration, bringing international attention to the butterflies’ overwintering sites in the mountainous oyamel fir forests some 80 miles west of Mexico City—though locals had discovered the colonies long before outsiders descended on the area. Soon after that publication, the State of Mexico’s Commission of Natural Parks and Wildlife (Comisión Estatal de Parques Naturales y de la Fauna, or CEPANAF) established the local forest ranger positions, employing men from Macheros to patrol the part of the sanctuary that’s in the state of Mexico. (Part of the butterfly reserve also lies in the state of Michoacán.) CEPANAF hired Melquiades several years later and he stayed on, monitoring the butterflies and deterring illegal loggers, for more than three decades.
The village of Macheros; Cerro Pelón is the tallest peak on the right. Ellen Sharp Photo
“When my dad got the job as a forest ranger, it changed our lives,” says Joel Moreno Rojas, the fourth-born of Melquiades’s 10 children. His father’s steady income brought the family out of poverty and afforded the children the chance to go to school. It also instilled a sense of local pride and inspired his family’s commitment to caring for the natural wonder at their doorstep.
Among the Moreno siblings, three have continued their father’s legacy: Joel, Anayeli, and sixth-born Patricio (“Pato”). Pato took over Melquiades’s forest ranger position after his dad’s retirement in 2014. When the monarchs are roosting in Cerro Pelón, roughly from November to March, he spends many days near the overwintering colonies, monitoring them and asking visitors not to disturb the impressive clusters. The butterflies, which have migrated thousands of miles from the eastern part of the United States, are drawn to the oyamel canopy—which provides insulation and keeps out the elements—for their winter rest. “I love it,” says the father of two. “It’s the most marvellous thing that could have happened in my life to have a job like this.”
Pato Moreno at work in Cerro Pelón after a rainstorm. Ellen Sharp Photo
Being among hundreds of thousands of butterflies sparks such an intense emotional reaction that the Moreno siblings say it is impossible to name. When they do find the words, they describe experiencing the monarchs as powerful, beautiful, and emotional. Joel has seen visitors drop to their knees and pray or break out in tears when they first see the butterflies, who some locals believe are the souls of their ancestors, since the migrating monarchs arrive in Macheros right around the first of November, el Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.
“As Mexicans, we should all be proud of the butterflies,” Pato continues. “I’d like everyone to understand the value of the forest, because it helps us and it helps the butterflies.”