CHICAGO — More than a dozen images of butterflies adorn the facade of Claudia Galeno-Sanchez’s home in the Pilsen neighborhood. There are monarch butterflies spreading their wings and many other colorful butterflies dotted in between. The small house stands out from the tall buildings on the block.

It’s filled with milkweed plants and other flowers that have helped raise monarch butterflies for nearly five years. Galeno-Sanchez, her husband and two children decided to start a butterfly sanctuary after learning they could help raise and preserve the city’s beloved species.

Although Galeno-Sanchez knew monarch butterflies were endangered, she began to sob when she learned that the International Union for Conservation of Nature had added the migratory monarch to its “red list” of endangered species and had classified it as “endangered” – two steps from extinct.

“They remind me of my childhood,” she said, her voice cracking. “It hurts me that my children cannot see and experience their beauty. They are like a miracle.

Each year, flocks of the iconic monarch butterfly migrate north after wintering in the mountains of central Mexico. They then travel to southern Canada before returning to Mexico at the end of the summer.

According to the group, the insect’s population in North America has declined between 22% and 72% over 10 years, depending on the method of measurement. But despite the steep decline over the past decade, the United States has not listed the butterflies under the Endangered Species Act.

“We have to do what we can to preserve the butterflies,” Galeno-Sanchez said. The native of Puebla, Mexico grew up around the majestic black and orange insect. For her, butterflies represent the beauty of migration and family.

Helping to raise awareness of how other Chicago-area families can also help save monarchs has become a priority in Galeno-Sanchez’s life. What started as a family project has grown into a strong group led by women in the community who educate and encourage others to start butterfly gardens in their homes by hosting informative insect workshops and donating milkweed – a plant on which the caterpillars depend.

She named the group Women for Green Spaces, and since its inception in 2021, Galeno-Sanchez has partnered with several other butterfly lovers and organizations in the area to create gardens to benefit pollinators. This summer, the group created a milkweed garden at the Orozco Community Academy and another at the Whittier Dual Language School.

With the news that the butterfly is now endangered, she said she is committed to expanding their work by partnering with Chicago Public Schools to use their spaces to plant milkweed and create gardens. of butterflies in the city.

The group was solidified as an arm of Working Family Solidarity, an organization that works with working communities to encourage policy change for just work environments.

“This is one of our biggest projects: to fight for equitable development in terms of access to green spaces for all families in all neighborhoods, including the propagation of ‘mariposarios’ – butterfly sanctuaries – for help save one of our most important pollinators,” said Executive Director Leone José Bicchieri.

The group receives funding to hold workshops and other activities from Enrique E. Figueroa’s Gente Chicana/SOYmos Chicanos Art Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. and some of their main partners include the Field Museum and the Chicago Botanic Garden. The two donate the plants which Galeno-Sanchez then distributes to those who visit their sanctuary or when the group holds workshops.

Abigail Derby-Lewis, director of the conservation tools program at the Field Museum, said the work the Galeno-Sanchez family is doing to create a habit for monarch butterflies and other pollinators to thrive reflects the work people have done. across Mexico, the United States and Canada since learning of the endangered monarchs.

“People have such a deep love for this species and there’s a lot going on in the ground that needs to continue,” Derby-Lewis said.

The Field Museum also provided Galeano with educational resources and connected the group to a wider network of monarch conservation links.

Derby-Lewis said the recent IUCN report highlights and elevates the work that needs to be done to save monarchs.

In 2015, Derby-Lewis led a museum project that concluded that “the collective impact of many of these small actions of installing native milkweed and flowers and creating this pollinator habitat in these different metropolitan landscapes – like cemeteries, schoolyards, parks and boardwalks and boulevards – all of these things really add up for monarchs and other pollinators.

Galeno-Sanchez said monarchs are dear to her heart as she can identify with the butterfly as they migrate long distances across countries.

“Just like me, coming from Mexico. and like so many other Mexicans here,” she said. “But the monarch can cross borders more easily than us.”

Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.

Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.