Homero Gómez Gonzalez was one of the best-known guardians of the monarch butterfly in Mexico. In January, his body was found in a well. Three days later, another guide at a monarch butterfly reserve was also found dead.

"A MARVEL"

Homero often had his arms wide open. In the videos from his reserve, he'd stand in a golden hurricane of wings, inviting tourists from around the world to come see this "maravilla" of the butterflies. This "marvel" of nature. 

He drew a lot of attention to himself, and could come across as a "buccaneering self-promoter". There was resentment around his lack of transparency as former leader of the El Rosario community ejido: a traditional Mexican collectivist arrangement where residents share ownership of the land and its bounty. He had also asked the nearby town of Angangueo for payments in return for water they received from clear mountain streams that survive only because the forests are protected.

“In this system, it’s easy for a leader to become abusive with the community’s income...I don’t know why he was killed, but because of the non-transparent management of the ejido he had a lot of enemies.”

Anonymous Michoacán conservationist

Photo credit: Washington Post

“A lot of the communal land owners fear that with his death, the forests are finished.”

Amado Gómez, Homero's brother

This story is not just about the tragic, unjust loss of two men, but what they stood and worked for: a habitable world that values nature and life over corruption, exploitation and destruction.

What will the forests, the community, look like when the butterflies return in November on the Day of the Dead? Will they recognise it?