Catrinas


In 1913, Mexican print maker Jose Guadalupe Posada sketched the original Catrina, an elegant, upper class skeleton woman in a ball gown to symbolize the emptiness of the upper classes.  Subsequently, Catrinas have come to be a part of El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.  None of this has anything to do with Halloween, absolutely nothing.  People sometimes associate the two erroneously, but only because of the dates when they occur.

This evening I was privileged to be one of the judges of a Catrina contest.  Before the contest occurred, the evening began with some traditional Mexican dancing.

img_2395

 

img_2400

There were also several traditional El Dia de los Muertos  family displays to honor deceased ancestors.  The following was the most elaborate.

img_2399

Finally, the Cartrinas were ready.  Ten young women competed.  The following photo shows the top three, judged for originality, costume, and makeup.

img_2406

The young woman on the left never smiled.  The top makeup impressed everyone.  The skeletal bones you see on the young woman on the right were all painted on and a backbone, etc. was painted on her back as well.  The young lady in the center won the costume portion–a bride in a black veil, elegant, empty.

 

 

Milkweed and Monarchs


IMG_0093

 

 

Because I belong to the local chapter of the Native Plant Society, I notice native plants more, try to learn their names, and even find out if they possess medicinal uses.  We decided to adopt a theme for the year  2014, milkweeds.  Why milkweeds?  They are the primary food for monarch butterflies which are in extreme decline.  Why the decline?  Pesticide and herbicide use plus overwhelming habitat loss, especially along bar ditches and in the area of Mexico to which they migrate annually.  This past winter instead of hundreds of trees in Mexico covered with monarchs, there were only twelve.  Yes, only twelve.  Why do herbicides cause a problem??  When the butterfly larvae eat milkweed sprayed with herbicide, they ingest that herbicide toxin.

Monarchs are an ancient species.  They have been around for over 50 million years.  Monarchs are the only insect species to migrate 2500 miles annually.  Monarchs go through four generations per year.  The first three generations hatch and live up to six weeks.  The fourth continues to live for six or eight months.  They taste with their feet.  Monarchs have special meaning for Mexicans because they arrive in Mexico at the same time as the Day of the Dead.

In the Panhandle of Texas, four common milkweeds grow:  Asclepias tuberosa, Asclepias asperula, Asclepias latifolia, and Asclepias verticillata.  The name Asclepios is derived from the Greek word, Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine and healing.  I find only two of these here where I live, latifolia and asperula.

 

 

IMG_0092

 

 

The top photo and the one immediately above are of asperula, more commonly called antelope horns.  They are important hosts for butterflies.  When discussing butterflies of any species, it is important to note that butterflies require two types of plants, host and nectar.  This plant provides important food for larvae.

At least where I live, the more common–by that I mean it grows anywhere and everywhere, even in the driest caliche soil–is latifolia.  However, I have never seen a monarch on either the blossoms or the leaves.  When in full bloom, latifolia attracts giant (as in several inches long) black and orange wasps which seem incredibly non-agressive.

 

IMG_0140

 

 

IMG_0142

 

 

IMG_0143

 

This poor latifolia specimen barely hangs on next to the hydrant by the barn.

 

If you want to try growing milkweed yourself and you live in the Panhandle, seeds and plants can be purchased from Canyon Edge Plants and Panhandle Greenhouses.  Obtain free seeds from Livemonarch.com.  Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas, also sells seeds.  If you want butterflies, do not use pesticides and herbicides.  Contact me if you want me to publish the “Butterfly Attracting Plant List”.