Ten thousand years ago, a young girl named Pillpintu wandered around the area of her new home (what is now the State of Michoacán in Mexico). Her family and friends had travelled north for many moons from a land far away (Peru).
As she began to explore, she decided to climb the nearby mountain. Suddenly she was surrounded by a flutter of monarch butterflies.
She ran down hill to her mother and exclaimed, “Mama, come quick, I have discovered that orange flowers can fly in our new home!”
Her mother, aunts and sisters followed her up the mountain.
“I don’t think those are flowers,” said Mama. “They look like some kind of beautiful flying bug. I wonder what their name is.”
Soon, the whole village hurried up the mountain to see Pillpintu’s discovery.
The village chief, who also happened to be Pillpintu’s grandmother, declared “We will call these creatures pillpintus, after the person who discovered them!”
That is why, in the Quechua language, this is the word for butterfly.
Pillpintu’s story was inspired by reading about Monarch Butterflies and their yearly migration.
Dr. Lincoln Brower “illuminated the story of the monarch” declared a recent NY Times obituary of this noted scientist.
Dr. Fred Urquhart, another American academic, “discovered the location of the monarch overwintering sites in Mexico, after pursuing migrating monarchs for nearly 40 years.”
These articles spurred me to consider the word “discover” thus leading me to do research. I found that Brower and Urquhart were the subjects of a 1978 People Magazine story: “Butterfly Biologists Are Aflutter (and a-Feudin’) Over a Royal Hangout.”
This article is more like it:
“Catalina Trail, then known as Cathy Aguado, was the woman on the cover of National Geographic in 1976
She and her partner Ken Brugger (working with Urquhart) would be the first Westerners to walk among and make sense of the millions of Monarch butterflies roosting in the Oyamel trees of the Michoacan forest in Cerro Pelón, about 120 miles east of her birthplace.
Their ‘discovery’– and I use the quotation marks deliberately, since native people knew of the overwintering sites for centuries before Westerners pieced the migration puzzle together–occurred on January 2, 1975. She was 25 years old.”
Journey North Discovery article
Butterfly Biologists Are Aflutter (and a-Feudin’) Over a Royal Hangout, People Magazine.
More on Cathy Brugger – https://texasbutterflyranch.com/2012/07/10/founder-of-the-monarch-butterfly-roosting-sites-in-mexico-lives-a-quiet-life-in-austin-texas/
Lincoln Brower, 86, Champion of Monarch Butterfly, NY Times.
Fred Urquhart Obit. Monarch Watch.
Flight of the Butterflies, movie about Dr. Fred Urquhart
Ancient Origins of the Mexican Plaza : From Primordial Sea to Public Space by Logan Wagner, Hal Box, and Susan Kline Morehead
Monarchs in a Changing World: Biology and Conservation of an Iconic Butterfly by Oberhauser, Karen S.; Nail, Kelly R.