Postcard from Queretaro, Mexico: A picturesque center sheltered from the affluence of its suburbs

A safe haven in Mexico, Santiago de Queretaro has attracted lucrative businesses and manufacturers to establish headquarters in what formerly were its outskirts. The population has swelled to more than one million, with its affluence attracting the 2013 opening of Antea, the largest mall in Latin America. Chanel, Burberry, Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana – they are all there.

Fortunately, you are sheltered completely from all of this when staying in the historic center of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The heart of the city mercifully remains unscathed by the invasion of fashionable international chains.

The charm of the historic center, as noted by UNESCO, is created by its successful merger of diverse cultures:

The property is unusual in having retained the geometric street plan of the Spanish conquerors side by side with the twisting alleys of the Indian quarters. The Otomi, the Tarasco, the Chichimeca and the Spanish lived together in the town, which is notable for the many ornate civil and religious Baroque monuments, with a skyline that has been defined since the 16th century. The urban layout of is unique for Spanish colonial towns in the Americas in that its town plan was from the start divided into two distinct sections – one rectilinear and intended for Spanish settlers and the other composed of smaller, winding streets where the indigenous population lived.

Postcard from Queretaro, Mexico: Church and Ex-Convent of Santa Rosa de Viterbo

Santa Rosa de Viterbo (1233-1251) donned the simple drab cloak of the Franciscans at an early age, but the interior of the church built in her honor in Queretaro in 1752 is gilded to the hilt. Fresh flowers cover the altar, fitting as Santa Rosa de Viterbo is the patron saint of flower growers and florists. The massive scroll buttresses attached to the façade are decorative, not functional, and are believed unique to this baroque church.

The adjacent convent was closed by the Reform Laws of 1861, and today serves as a center for the study of design and graphic arts.

Attention, monarchs: Please fly south now for your winter vacation.

The migrating butterflies were extremely late and unusually reproductive this year. Migrating butterflies do not typically reproduce. Rather, they save their energy for a spring orgy in Mexico that launches the following year’s first generation of butterflies.

As October gave way to the first day of November and the hottest temperatures in history, Monarchs continued their reproductive activities–dropping eggs, hatching caterpillars and forming chrysalises up until Election Day. Scientists, citizen scientists and casual observers all wondered: what the heck is going on?

Monica Maeckle, Texas Butterfly Ranch

butterfly2The monarchs are worrying me. They are still here, yet they have so far to go. Large ones* flutter in the trees across the yard from my writer’s perch. The small new beds of milkweed along the river in the King William area are covered with them,* and caterpillars still are stripping leaves to bulk up for their conversion into flyers. They don’t seem worried at all.

caterpillarAlways have been amazed that some of these fluttering flimsy-seeming creatures fly all the way from Montreal, Canada, to Michoacán, Mexico. The caterpillar in the photo is a lucky one we spied on a friend’s patio in Queretaro last month. When he sprouts wings, he will have a much shorter journey to the monarchs’ winter haven.

But the ones on the river and outside my window need to hurry southward before a freeze heads this way. We’re not sure we can count on Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy to spring from the pages of Uncle Wiggily to patch frozen wings with marshmallow cream.

In Flight Behavior, author Barbara Kingsolver weaves a tale of climate changes confusing migrating monarchs, causing them to lose their bearings and tragically roost in Appalachia one winter.

Entomologist Dr. Ovid Byron speaking to television journalist, Tina, who says, re: global warming, “Scientists of course are in disagreement about whether this is happening and whether humans have a role.”

He replies: “The Arctic is genuinely collapsing. Scientists used to call these things the canary in the mine. What they say now is, The canary is dead. We are at the top of Niagara Falls, Tina, in a canoe. There is an image for your viewers. We got here by drifting, but we cannot turn around for a lazy paddle back when you finally stop pissing around. We have arrived at the point of an audible roar. Does it strike you as a good time to debate the existence of the falls?”

Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior

*Assuming these are monarchs and not monarch mimickers? My expertise in identifying butterflies is nonexistent.