The Guardian of the Monarchs (2024) Movie Script

Good morning. Please introduce yourself.
Say your position.
Homero Gmez Gonzlez.
Municipal president
and commissioner of El Rosario,
where the world's
biggest sanctuary is located.
After a two-month journey,
we can see them flying!
Brides of the sun.
The traveler butterfly.
World heritage.
Souls of the dead!
Come visit! It's a world wonder!
Look at them!
Michoacn's Attorney General
issued a warrant
for the disappearance of activist
Homero Gmez Gonzlez.
He was last seen on Monday
attending a meeting
in the village of El Soldado.
But Homero's case is one of 800 activists
who have received death threats.
Today, his family, his village,
and perhaps the butterflies
want to know what exactly happened
to Homero Gmez.
It's one of the most breathtaking
displays on Earth.
But their sanctuary
is on the verge of disappearing.
The monarch butterfly population
has decreased by 22%
compared to last year.
The tall pine and oyamel fir
have been devastated
by the cultivation of profitable
products such as avocado.
1,733 environmental defenders
have been killed in the last ten years.
68% of them are in Latin America.
Mexico had the highest number
of environmental activist murders.
After earning his degree,
my brother was one of the first
professionals here in the community.
He was a good student.
He always got good grades.
And the locals here, the farmers,
they had high hopes for him,
trusting he'd use his skills to help them.
That's when he starts to get involved
in environmental issues
and the monarch butterfly.
They're called sanctuaries because it's
where many butterflies die, millions.
The male dies
when the female butterfly returns
to the USA and Canada to lay its eggs.
And many butterflies die,
whether eaten by birds and rodents
or because of the cold,
physical exhaustion, and frost.
That's why it's been called a sanctuary.
So, he got more and more involved
with the community as advisor.
This is where his story begins, right?
His career.
We watch over our forests every day.
We have more than 1,000 farming plots.
Now we plant trees.
So, this place will always be safe,
but we've got to work
to protect our monarch butterfly,
one of Mexico's natural wonders.
Homero was a joker.
But at the same time,
he was very affectionate.
He'd hug his kids
and tell them how much he loved them.
He was thrilled
when little Homero was born.
When I gave birth, he told me,
"Ask me for anything you want."
And I asked him why.
He said, "I want to thank you
for giving me a son."
We were so happy back then.
We need trees for butterflies to live.
Now, where do butterflies land?
My dad was a happy man.
My earliest memories with him
are going for walks in the forest.
I played with butterflies.
They'd fly so close to me,
I tried to touch them,
but they wouldn't let me.
He'd take pictures of the butterflies
even when they were deep inside trees.
This morning, there are
hundreds of butterflies flying,
because they are forming several colonies
which I came across this morning.
We're going to see them right now.
So, he was a leader of his community,
which is an area of communally-owned land.
It's an area that's very rich in forests.
There's a lot of water there.
The trees grow really quickly.
But it's also a very poor region.
And Homero became responsible
for promoting the protection
of the monarch butterfly sanctuary.
A baby deer sleeping here
in the monarch butterfly woods.
It camouflages with the branch.
And I found it sound asleep.
A baby deer.
It's the season
when fawns are born.
The monarch butterfly sanctuary
in Michoacn
is opening its doors to the public
to welcome thousands of visitors
until March 31.
The state tourism department
noted that 225,000 visitors are expected,
both national and foreign,
in the Rosario
and Sierra Chincua sanctuaries.
They're beautiful.
I'm teary-eyed.
One of the most beautiful things
we've ever seen.
At first, he'd post pictures of himself
with the butterfly
and write explanations on Facebook.
Eventually, he asked me to film him.
Greetings from El Rosario...
In the beginning, he made many mistakes.
He'd say, "Cut. Let's start over."
We even created our own signs.
He'd signal, and I'd start filming.
Today, I'm sharing this place
with a natural wonder,
the monarch butterfly.
Known as the traveler,
the brides of the sun, a world heritage.
We invite you to come see.
We're open daily from 8:00 to 5:00
until the end of March.
He had many books about the monarchs,
their lives, their journey from Canada.
He went to Canada to see the butterflies.
He gathered all this information.
He practically knew everything
there is to know about them.
It's easy to see why people
are so passionate,
so in love, so enthusiastic
about this butterfly,
because it does what we call impossible.
This insect has managed to permeate
many societies, many different groups.
These butterflies are symbols
of the impossible,
of dreams.
There are many references
to the idea of transformation,
resilience, possibility, and the future,
and the notion
of having more than one home.
That's what I hear from the migrant groups
I work with north of the United States.
There is a parallel between the experience
and endurance of this nomad butterfly
and humans on the move.
And at the same time,
the butterfly is seen
as a carrier of the souls of the ancestors
in Central Mexican cultures.
The butterfly brings their relatives
to these Mexican festivities,
which combine ancestral
and modern traditions.
In this context, what's interesting to me
is how it's connected to imaginary worlds.
Thus, this butterfly manages to achieve
what other creatures
wouldn't dare imagine.
Let's start with the egg.
The monarch lays its eggs
under the leaves of the milkweed plant.
This plant also migrated from the south
to the north thousands of years ago.
It's the only host plant
of the monarch butterfly.
The caterpillar forms
what is known as a cocoon or a chrysalis.
The organs which once belonged
to the caterpillar
start turning into wings.
Then it emerges as an adult butterfly,
as a monarch.
A monarch that is born in Canada
will try to find a lake
to benefit from the wind currents
that will help propel it
and make its flight easier.
They'll cross what we know as the Midwest.
In the desert, they may face difficulties.
This is a hard time for the butterfly
because it's been flying for many days.
It'll come across infrastructure
such as bridges, which can be complicated.
The struggle through that last stretch
in Mexico is grueling,
partly because there is no water,
and partly because plants are scarce.
There's no more milkweed and less nectar.
Punctual to their expected arrival date,
monarch butterflies fly over
the oyamel forests of Michoacn.
The first swarms
arrive from southern Canada,
crossing the United States
all the way to Mexico.
They arrive
in the monarch butterfly reserve
and head to the exact oyamel forest
where their ancestors came from.
And there, they take a break.
They're tired.
They've been flying for months,
many thousands of kilometers,
possibly with no water or food.
The butterfly
will take a reproductive break,
which we know as colonies.
They wouldn't survive on their own
because of the weather conditions.
We've been open since November 19.
It's been a very successful season.
Crowds are coming.
Yesterday, we had 1,300 visitors.
1,000 the day before.
People are coming. We're doing great.
We expect 180,000 tourists this season.
The communities take care of their forests
because it's their home.
They make use of their forests,
it's their livelihood,
like other species do.
When there is a change in local use
due to external demands,
it opens the door
to other items and beings
that may be harmful to human communities
and to the forest,
or in this case, to the butterflies.
Michoacn is rich in natural resources.
It has all climates.
But the east is especially rich in timber.
It's rich in minerals too.
In Michoacn alone, we've identified
at least 14 criminal groups.
Those are the ones on record.
Mencho Special Forces!
The Correas.
The Pjaros de la Sierra.
The New Michoacn Family.
The Viagras.
United Cartels.
And two big large-scale crime groups,
Jalisco New Generation Cartel
and the Sinaloa Cartel,
who have local allies.
We're talking about trafficking
ranging from weapons to drugs.
A significant portion of cartel income
comes from manufacturing methamphetamines
and setting up meth labs.
Michoacn is important to drug cartels
because it's part of the drug-trafficking
routes to the north.
Different groups control these routes.
It's the docking point
for drug shipments
coming from South America.
And then these shipments
must travel by land to get to the border.
Damn it!
Michoacn has become increasingly violent,
as the 22% increase
in intentional homicides shows.
this violence is far from over.
This caused the cartels to split.
In turn, their main criminal activity,
drug trafficking,
evolved into a broader criminal portfolio,
such as extortion, kidnapping,
and illegal logging,
mainly for export.
Homero would say
that our forests are a goldmine.
A 30-meter pine tree
can sell for 18,000 pesos.
We've arrested people in the act,
cutting down the trees,
stealing some trees.
We closed the sanctuary
to demand help from the authorities.
Instead, they cover for them.
And we're proud to stand watch
because our forests are preserved.
It also helps in demanding attention
from the government.
Since there's less noise at night,
it's easier to hear a chainsaw
or someone chopping a tree.
Rifles, machetes,
that's all we take to the forest.
We know we're at risk.
Their advantage was knowing the woods
like the back of their hand.
They'd just grab them
and hand them over to the authorities.
- Show your face, man.
- Face up!
- He's your boss, man.
- Get him up.
The locals,
armed with nothing but their courage
and God knows what else,
confiscated the timber.
When he found all the trees
they'd already cut down on the ground,
he pressed charges.
But what those people told him was,
"See you when we get out."
He said many times
at our community meetings,
"Brothers, let's keep defending
our interests in the woods,
here in our sanctuary."
"Even if someone gets killed,
they can't kill us all."
Something he once told me
that still resonates in my mind
was that organized crime's next step
would be to take over
the natural resources.
He said they'd take control
of the water, the forest.
And they certainly did.
That's what we're going through now.
Organized crime operates similarly
almost everywhere.
You see a convoy
of 20, 30 armed men in trucks,
driving by with chainsaws,
heading towards the woods.
One truck after another
comes down from the hills with the timber.
They were after the core area.
The core area is an untouchable zone.
It's the home of the monarch butterfly.
Once the forest is cleared, they burn it.
This land erodes,
and they change how it's used.
It's unsuitable to plant pine trees.
It can be used for growing
whatever else you want,
which is usually avocado.
And this is how organized crime groups
earn additional income,
by promoting avocado production
in areas they exploited illegally
and took away from someone.
Nowadays, many organized crime groups
own hectares of avocado plantations.
In the last decade,
the demand for avocado has led
to an expansion into the natural reserve.
It's challenging to contain this shift
from protected forest
to avocado monocropping.
I don't mean a shift to avocado crops
would necessarily affect the butterfly,
but what we have now does
because it also requires a lot of water.
So, they start creating agricultural plots
and stealing the groundwater.
This water comes
from the monarch butterfly forests
and affects both human and non-human
communities, including the butterfly.
Homero was worried
because every other day,
there was yet another forest fire.
He'd say,
"The drug traffickers hit us."
"They're gonna start charging us
for everything, even for our forests."
And he said that, as long as he was alive,
he wouldn't allow organized crime
to penetrate the community.
They all know each other.
If you live there and file a complaint,
they find out
and come after you no matter what,
after you or your family.
"I have a serious problem
which I don't think
I'll be able to solve."
Those were his words.
El Rosario Sanctuary has been abandoned.
Homero Gmez pointed out
that a lack of safety
reduced the number of visitors
by almost 70%.
We don't allow logging.
We risk our lives.
And instead of listening to us
or assisting us, we're repressed.
Homero became his own promotional agency.
He'd talk as easily
to local or national media
as to international organizations.
He knew that, through the press,
with the international spotlight
from state and nationwide media,
he could have a bigger impact.
The monarch butterfly sanctuary
is painfully threatened
by the illegal logging
of up to 500 trees per day.
Every year, prime-time news broadcasts
report the arrival
of the monarch butterfly.
But in doing so, they'd also shed light
on the dark side of the story,
the deforestation
of the biosphere reserve.
They'd interview Homero regularly.
There were threats of illegal logging,
but the townsfolk got together
and stopped it.
After that, we've detained people.
He'd inform us about things,
"They've arrived."
And we'd see how the homicide rate
increased in the region,
the kidnappings, abductions.
He would say this off camera
because he was careful.
Pressure by the media
and Homero's social activism
pushed the authorities to crack down
on organized crime members.
It forced them to carry out operations,
conduct investigations,
and seize illegal logging shipments.
The drug cartels in the region
began getting uncomfortable
because he'd draw attention
to the reserve.
In his effort to find sustenance
for himself, his family, his communities,
which saw him as a leader,
he collided with organized crime groups.
In Michoacn,
organized crime seeks political power.
For some reason,
they need and want to be
the political structure
that controls everything.
They want to be
like Pablo Escobar.
This state's most recent governors,
at least the last four or five,
have had a direct connection
to organized crime.
We will solve the safety problem!
We'll govern Michoacn!
And we'll make Michoacn
one of Mexico's safest states!
Thank you.
Activists and politicians in Michoacn
have been making accusations
in the local press
against Silvano Aureoles.
Silvano Aureoles spent millions
in building seven bunkers
during his administration.
Silvano was caught supporting
the Knights Templar Cartel.
Apparently, Dulce,
head of the Knights Templar,
gave him two million dollars
a couple of days ago.
They're saying that they gave you
two million dollars.
I'm telling you, Ciro.
I'm open to an investigation.
I was very determined
to put these things in order.
I strengthened the state's capabilities.
However, at the local level,
are completely defenselessness.
These criminal groups start roaming around
and putting pressure on them
for their business.
What is the business
of these criminal groups?
Drug trafficking
and illegal logging.
Participating in illegal logging
is a huge business.
It's very attractive.
I'd even venture to say,
now more than back then,
exploiting timber illegally
is more profitable than growing marijuana.
Homero and the people of El Rosario
confronted them
in order to safeguard their community.
You can see
in the region's neighboring communities
how their forests have been depleted.
But El Rosario preserved theirs. Why?
Thanks to Homero's tenacity
and courage in confronting them.
There were even gunfights.
And on the other hand,
he and I had our disagreements.
Although I agreed with his cause,
there was resistance
because he felt that we were encroaching
on his political territory.
This is a great opportunity.
We can tell our neighbor
that he can plant trees
because he will receive a monthly income.
The governor could say whatever he liked
in his press conferences,
but the truth is he didn't care
about the monarch butterfly
and our eastern forests.
Homero would also say,
"Although he's my friend, he's ignored me.
I don't get answers."
Governor Silvano made a promise,
but he never honored it.
We've never seen any of them around here.
We make sure no one cuts down the trees.
We risk our lives.
The saying goes that being the drunk
is not the same as being the bartender.
So, I mean,
it's not the same to be on the side
of those who protest, who demand,
as it is to be on the government's side,
where you must make decisions
from an official standpoint.
He'd angrily complain
I was not doing what was necessary
to help as much as they wanted me to.
He took the money.
The 4,5 million pesos are gone.
There's no money to pay people,
no resources.
- People can't work this way.
- One at a time.
Otherwise, it'll be an endless list.
So, we went to protest against Silvano.
Let's look for solutions.
Let's forget the past.
We thought Silvano was his friend.
In the end, we realized he wasn't.
Film this, for the record.
And that's when they grabbed Homero
and arrested him.
"If they don't set him free,
we'll gather the people."
"If we're 250 people,
a thousand will come."
Everyone come this way!
- Turn here.
- Come this way.
Turn this way!
They let him go, we all came back.
We got to El Rosario around 3:00 a.m.
But we made it back with him.
So, in the monarch butterfly reserve,
we have a powder keg
with political groups in conflict,
criminal organizations vying for control,
and a rival who challenged them,
who cornered them,
who made the problem visible,
and who offered
an alternative political movement.
It's historic. The butterflies
have never arrived so late.
This is the result of climate change.
Northern countries endanger the monarch.
They use pesticides indiscriminately
and huge belts of transgenic corn,
also killing the trees.
That's where the problem lies,
a problem called Monsanto.
He always fought for us
and always wanted to be our mayor.
He ran for office.
Our governor has made changes
in tourism and culture,
which they never did in the past.
There are still people
who are only here for a photo.
They want to be close to the governor,
but when we look for their help,
they turn their backs.
I'm glad the governor is making changes.
My brother got into politics
mostly because of his activism or love
for nature and the monarch butterfly.
But in reality,
my brother wasn't the kind of man
who was interested in power.
He did it as social work.
It was about friendship,
about helping the people,
because he did many things.
And people from El Rosario know this,
that's why they love him.
Because during the time he was there,
great things were accomplished
that I believe will not be repeated.
When my dad ran for office,
he was kidnapped.
It was to pressure him
and make it clear that he couldn't win.
They said he had to make
his people vote for someone else
or to tell them not to vote.
They threatened him by saying
that if he won the mayoral election,
they would go after him
and his entire family.
They wanted
to negotiate.
They demanded he stop protesting
and let them do their illegal logging.
They released my father at dawn.
The following day was election day.
They spent all that Saturday
convincing people not to vote.
At that time, there were rumors
about two abducted people.
Everything was closed
because someone was found murdered.
This area had
the highest kidnapping rate at the time.
Community members were abducted
and found dead the next day.
During election season,
candidates would be killed.
He'd spend a lot of time
next to the windows.
If a car drove by, he'd look out
to see if they were coming to get him
because he was already worried.
I was kidnapped by the groups
that were operating here in Michoacn,
but that didn't keep us from fighting.
JANUARY 13, 2020
That morning, he told me to wait for him,
that he wouldn't take long
at this meeting.
After the meeting,
he was gonna drop me off at school.
He received one call after another.
I guess they were asking him
if he'd go to the town's horse races.
The person calling him was Elizabeth,
the municipal trustee.
He left the meeting
to take my nephew Homero to the bus.
He called me and said,
"Tell Homero Junior I'm on my way,
but grab me a shirt
because I have no time to change."
It was the town fair's last day.
He said he was going to the horse races.
There were big politicians at the fair,
and they were waiting for him.
So, I sent Homero Junior
with his shirt on a hanger.
We were talking. He asked me about
my classes next semester.
I told him about the subjects.
And then, we suddenly stopped talking.
Then I took the bus.
It was the last time I saw him.
Homero would go to the local horse tracks.
Leaders invited him.
It was
both a social and business gathering.
They're off!
He appeared in a picture on Facebook
with other people.
So I thought, "He's having a good time."
It was around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.,
and I couldn't sleep.
It was four o'clock in the morning,
and he hadn't come home.
I said, "Where is he?"
My mom called me
and asked if I'd heard from him
because she couldn't reach him.
So, I started calling the police.
There was no trace of my dad or his car.
I was the first one
to go out looking for him.
I had a bad feeling.
When I arrived at the location
where the event had taken place,
the first thing I saw was his car.
But he wasn't there.
So when I saw that,
I didn't like it at all.
Something was wrong.
I called Elizabeth,
who was one
of Ocampo's municipal trustees.
And she said,
"Your dad was with government officials."
With Octavio Ocampo,
who was a deputy at that time,
with Councilwoman Karina Alvarado.
She said I should call her.
So I called her.
She said that when they left the fair,
my dad was still there.
I spent the entire day
terrified and worried sick calling my dad.
The phone would ring, but no one answered.
It was January 14,
around 4:00 p.m., when someone
finally answered my dad's phone.
It was a man.
He said that my father
had left his phone and his tablet
at a taco stand.
He said that he took the phone home.
My dad never forgot his phone,
because it was tourist season
and they'd be calling him there.
I asked the man if he knew anything.
He said my dad
had walked out of their sight.
I went back home
and my entire family was there.
And they told me
my dad was nowhere to be found.
I said, "I'll go look for him."
We went to the Attorney General's Office.
They suggested we wait
before filing a report.
So we filed the formal complaint
the next day.
They called it "virtual kidnapping."
They explained to us that this happens
when you're threatened over the phone.
They take the victim somewhere,
like a hotel
or maybe a church,
and then coerce the victim's relatives.
They said he could be anywhere.
When they filed the report,
the authorities reacted
with complete indifference,
as if underestimating the case.
They kept saying
it was a virtual kidnapping,
he was out there, and they were on it.
What we see
is induced apathy by the authorities
in order to coexist with criminal groups.
I did an interview.
I said harsh things.
I announced my brother's disappearance
and the attorney general's negligence
in not acting.
The article was on the front page.
It was an editorial decision.
It was headline news.
International organizations
were joining our plea
by at least spreading the word,
pressuring the government
to start looking for Homero.
It was important news in every aspect.
Furthermore, it was January,
and the butterflies hadn't left.
Michoacn's Attorney General
issued a bulletin
for the disappearance
of activist Homero Gmez Gonzlez.
The State Commission for Human Rights
urged authorities
to intensify the search for Homero Gmez.
After that, everything was set in motion.
State officials got in touch with us,
people from the UN, the media.
I got calls from locals and friends.
The next day at 8:00 in the morning,
300 people gathered to look for him.
Then it'll be one team on this side
and another on the other.
And we'll all end
at the bottom of the hill.
Let's hope we're successful.
Did you already look here?
The hole all the way down there is where
we found the man that was kidnapped.
Someone could be there.
- Maybe.
- Further down.
Those brigades were made up
of locals and townsfolk
who volunteered to join the search.
- There's an opening on that side.
- Okay.
It was impressive.
When we got there,
all these people were waiting for us.
We were divided into groups.
Gmez Gonzlez, chairman
of the board of directors of El Rosario,
where the largest
monarch butterfly sanctuary is located,
was last seen on Monday evening
after leaving a meeting...
He disappeared from Ocampo on January 13.
There is still no indication
of his whereabouts.
We began the search
at the point where he was last seen.
It was a strategic search.
From there, we expanded our search
to other areas.
Someone called me.
"You know we have your husband?"
Rebeca called me and said
she received a call asking for a ransom.
I said, "I want to see him."
They sent me a picture
with Homero on his knees
and other men behind him
dressed as soldiers
and pointing guns at Homero's head.
They said Homero was okay,
that they'd return him.
They said they took him
to teach him a lesson or something.
They said if we paid,
Homero would be back by noon.
We were desperate,
so we thought we should pay.
My mom went out to make the deposit.
Throughout the journey,
they kept calling her,
saying they were following her,
urging her to deposit the money
because they were watching us closely.
They asked her for 100,000 pesos,
but she ended up depositing 50,000.
The next day, they called her back.
My Uncle Amado told us to catch up
with him at the prosecutor's office.
We were terrified.
They kept calling
to say they were following us.
And the prosecutor told me,
"Don't give them the money."
Crying, I told him,
"But they're gonna kill him."
The case was transferred
to the specialized kidnapping unit.
We began using phone tracking techniques.
The calls Homero's family were receiving
were traced to a prison in Tamaulipas.
It's been two weeks since environmentalist
Homero Gmez was taken.
Unfortunately, Homero's family
has fallen victim to extortion
by false kidnappers.
There's no clue
on the activist's whereabouts.
That line of investigation is closed,
and it's handed over to the homicide unit,
which I represent.
We'd continue the investigation.
However, kidnapping has been ruled out.
I have faith that we will find him,
but I hope we find him alive.
It's a delicate matter.
Very unfortunate and painful.
No matter what the governor says,
even when he claims he'd give
his own life for this man to appear,
the fact is he disappeared,
and the fact is that illegal sawmills
are still operating in Michoacn.
Some people said that they knew
where he was being held.
We looked there but found nothing.
The police questioned those people,
but they wouldn't talk.
They were afraid.
In Michoacn, state police took control
of security in Ocampo and Angangueo,
since 53 police officers
from those municipalities
are being investigated
for the disappearance of Homero Gmez,
activist of the monarch butterfly.
The municipal police
was supposed to be in charge of security
at the horse race.
So, the first ones interrogated
were the municipality's police force.
The thing is, we have
a long history here in Michoacn
of cases of forced disappearances
committed by municipal police.
Michoacn's Minister of Public Security
reported that all members
of the municipal police in Ocampo
have been detained for an investigation
due to their alleged ties
with criminal organizations.
Most of them said
they didn't cover the event.
The three or four officers
that did cover the event
declared that they left early.
Usually, when criminal groups
execute a high-impact event like this,
they make arrangements.
They coordinate with local authorities.
First, because the family will react.
Second, to make sure
the kidnappers can take the victim
with no police roadblocks.
This allows between 30 and 45 minutes
for the kidnappers
or the murderers to escape
and avoid triggering security measures.
JANUARY 29, 2020
We were summoned to
the Regional District Attorney's Office.
I was returning home, and suddenly,
a forensics patrol car sped right by me.
I grabbed my phone and turned it on.
The first thing I saw
was the news saying
that a body was found
close to the place
where my father had disappeared.
On January 29, 2020, I received a call,
during which
I was asked to come to El Soldado,
close to where Homero was last seen.
They said they found a body,
presumably Homero's.
I went alone.
I didn't want to alarm my family.
As it turned out, when I arrived,
the police and investigators
were already there.
Make way for the emergency services.
They let me get a little closer
to the well.
They called it a "pot of water."
It was deep, about six meters or more.
He was face down.
They said we had to wait for the coroner
in order for the body to be retrieved
so I could identify it.
I felt scared, anguished.
I felt sadness, anger, rage,
so many emotions.
That makes it feel
like your body is floating.
I thought it might be him
because of his pants.
I remembered
he was wearing pants like that.
I said, "That's him."
They wouldn't let me get too close.
They asked me if it was him
and then pulled me away.
It feels like a strong blow.
I didn't know how to react.
And as I walked away,
my first thought was,
"How am I going to tell my family?"
Amado called me.
- I asked, "Are you sure?"
- He said, "Yes."
I hugged my mom very tight.
And I said, "That's it."
At that moment,
she understood.
When they told me
they had found him in the well,
I just held the Bible in my arms
and said, "Thank You."
Because I'd been told
that many people are taken
and you never see them again.
Not even their bodies,
neither dead nor alive.
Back then I told God,
"Thank You for giving me a body to bury
and a place to bring him flowers."
I sent a reporter just for the day.
He went with another group of reporters.
He came back that same morning,
because we didn't have a way
to report on the case properly.
Strange vans with armed men
were guarding the area.
For us Michoacn journalists,
now more than ever,
Michoacn is a zone of silence
because organized crime
in that area retaliates
immediately against our colleagues.
They don't mess around.
After 16 days of searching,
Mexican authorities
found the body
of environmental activist Homero Gmez.
Environmental and human rights advocates
in Mexico
claim to be living in constant risk.
Not only did our family lose a loved one,
the whole world,
the monarch butterflies, and the forests
lost a great protector.
Due to his activism, Homero Gmez
was receiving death threats.
He disappeared on January 13th.
In Michoacn, an alleged drowning
was the cause of death of the activist
and protector of the monarch butterfly.
According to Michoacn's Attorney General,
Homero Gmez's body was found
in a water well used for agriculture.
So far, in the initial
external examination of the body
with a time of death
that goes back two to three weeks...
MICHOACN ATTORNEY GENERAL external injuries were observed.
Facial and nail cyanosis are present,
characteristics typical
of asphyxiation from drowning.
On behalf of the state's
Attorney General's Office...
I was upset
by what the attorney general said.
He said my dad's death was accidental
and that he had drowned.
how do you explain that my dad
had more lesions?
According to the autopsy that was done,
he'd actually suffered trauma
to the head.
We assume that the blow to the head
was caused when he fell.
However, I can assure you
that the cause of death
was not due to the blow.
So far, there is no evidence
indicating that his death
was caused by an act of violence.
So, the most solid hypothesis
you have so far
is that Homero fell on January 13th
and his body was floating around
until January the 29th?
JANUARY 13, 14, 15
JANUARY 16, 17, 18
JANUARY 19, 20, 21, 22
JANUARY 23, 24, 25, 26
JANUARY 27, 28
From a forensic perspective,
you can tell if a person was murdered
or if they died from a fall.
By that time, the body
should have shown signs of decomposition.
It would've had a monstrous appearance,
bulging eyes, hair loss, skin detachment,
practically unrecognizable.
He didn't even look wrinkled
or disfigured.
His hands looked slightly wrinkled,
like when you submerge
your hands in cold water.
I said they'd just thrown him there
because he looked intact.
Even his clothes looked fine.
They looked clean.
They didn't even look messed up.
It's a very cold place,
where temperatures at night
can drop to below freezing,
especially in the winter.
The body was starting to decompose,
but due to the climatic conditions,
it was preserved,
and decomposition didn't occur.
The prosecution's version
of how Homero's body was found,
the Forensic Medical Service's report
on the cause of death,
even mentioned bronchoaspiration.
The attorney general dismissed the idea
that it could've been a homicide.
It left us with a sense of frustration.
How could the death of someone
as important as him
be reduced to a four-minute briefing?
We knew everything, how we'd found him,
and nothing matched
what the attorney general said.
A lot of us sustain the theory
it wasn't an accident.
It wasn't an accident. It was a murder.
The location where the body was found
contradicts any alternative version.
We'd say, "They didn't look in the place
where Homero was last seen."
This is the most relevant information
to be able to say,
"How could Homero have been
in that location for 16 days,
and they failed to search there?"
That well where he was found
his brother Juan and I had searched there.
And there was nothing.
If we consider
the geographic and weather conditions
at the site where the body was found,
it's suspicious to find a body
in that condition after 15 days.
The corpse was still fresh.
It couldn't have been preserved
for 15 days under those conditions.
It's practically impossible.
everything indicates that he'd been
in the water a very short time.
A very short time.
That's why we think maybe
someone held him captive somewhere.
And when they felt all that pressure
from the government and the public,
maybe they went and dumped him there
to mislead them.
People told us that in the well
where my father's body was found
early that morning,
the well was surrounded by vehicles.
That they'd come to unload things there.
When people in the community
told the family that Homero
was being held in El Soldado,
it must've been
because the area's residents
know that some safe houses
are in El Soldado.
In other words, people are kidnapped,
taken away, and left there.
And the community knows
when captured people go in and come out.
Sometimes they're members
of rival cartels.
Sometimes they're leaders,
as in the case of Homero.
Sometimes they're people
kidnapped for a ransom.
And everyone knows who they are,
how many they are, where they're located.
That's why people had information
about Homero's whereabouts,
and the authorities weren't looking here
and searched elsewhere.
But they knew full well.
As a coroner, as a forensic doctor,
as a scientist in this field,
I see a poor investigation.
The Attorney General's Office is reporting
according to the data
that has been verified so far.
Thank you.
If it wasn't complicity
by direct involvement,
it was complicity by omission.
SPECIALIZED UNIAll signs point to it being deliberate.
But to confirm that, an extensive
investigation is still needed.
This death-by-drowning case
is similar to other activist cases.
Abisai Prez Romero was found dead
in the municipality of Tula de Allende
in Hidalgo.
He documented pollution in Tula.
According to the autopsy,
no signs of violence were seen.
In Chiapas, environmentalist
and caretaker of a howler monkey reserve,
Jos Luis lvarez,
was found dead
by the Emiliano Zapata Highway,
near Calatrava.
Adn Vez Lira, environmental defender,
was murdered.
He had carried out significant work
to protect the ecosystems
in the central coast of Veracruz.
The Human Rights Commission
regrets the murder
of Margarito Daz Gonzlez,
environmental defender
and advocate for the sacred sites
of the Wixrica community.
They murdered Samir Flores,
Nahuatl activist in Morelos
against the thermoelectric plant
in Huexca.
Samir didn't die!
The government killed him!
We are allowing environmental activists
to be murdered with impunity in Mexico.
The attorney general reported
that environmental activist Homero Gmez
was found dead.
Initial reports say
there are no signs of violence.
The attorney general is not excluding
the possibility that he drowned.
They gave us his belongings.
He had money
and his documents in his trousers.
But when I asked the agent
handling the case for the car keys,
he said he didn't have car keys.
I asked,
"Why didn't you investigate this?"
"They took his cellphones.
They probably also took the car keys."
I was pissed off.
Days went by, and they said,
"We finally found the car keys."
"They were buried there all along."
In the evidence picture,
the car keys are dry,
supposedly dragged out by the machine
without dirt or stains.
The keys were handed over
as they were found.
They weren't tampered with,
because when collecting evidence,
the forensic experts
do everything with gloves,
following protocol
to prevent contamination.
Then they asked me to take the car back
because they'd forgotten to take pictures.
I had to take it back
for them to take pictures
to have proof of how they found it.
It made no sense, since I'd been
using the car for about a week
to get around and continue the search.
They took pictures of the car
as if it had just been found.
And those are the photos
they have as evidence.
We were in close contact with a source
we had at the Attorney General's Office.
From the very beginning, we saw
a lot of manipulation in Homero's case
because there were things
that were simply unbelievable.
I wanted the public officials
that were with my dad to be investigated.
They told us that someone
had his iPad and his phone.
We said, "They have them, don't they?"
The individual with his phone
had the nerve to charge the battery
and answer a call.
And as a result, the prosecution
found out where the phone was.
At first, we suspected
this group of public officials.
The young man with his belongings
was their close associate.
He said my brother left his things behind,
and he took them
so they wouldn't get lost.
He said he didn't see my brother anymore,
so he took them home.
My name is Elizabeth Guzmn Vilchis.
I'm from Ocampo Municipality.
I felt guilty and kept telling myself,
"If you hadn't called him to invite him,
he wouldn't have gone,
and none of this would've happened."
But, at the end of the day,
you never know.
Several politician colleagues were there.
One of them was Karina Alvarado.
Also, Octavio Ocampo Crdoba,
who was a deputy at the time.
My name is Octavio Ocampo.
I knew him through public life.
Homero was also a politician,
in addition to being an environmentalist
and forest protector.
Horse races are very popular.
These are public events.
We had the chance
to greet him at that event.
All we did was shake hands.
I probably left
at around six in the evening.
It wasn't even dark yet.
We said our goodbyes.
I went home, and he stayed there.
Our encounter was so brief,
I didn't even know
someone had taken his belongings.
We spent approximately
two hours with Homero,
along with all the others I mentioned.
First, Octavio Ocampo started singing.
I can't remember which song.
The rest of us danced.
Then Homero and Octavio
started singing another song.
In the photographs, you can see
that he had his iPad and phone
with him the whole time.
He didn't even leave
his devices behind to dance.
My colleagues argued that he left
or forgot his devices at a drink stand.
It's weird. If we're all together,
and I see that you leave something behind,
I'd give it to you right away, right?
Why would I take it with me?
Karina was the one who took them,
and in turn,
she gave them to her photographer.
We have some information about it,
but not enough to open an investigation.
About six months later,
I ran into a colleague
at the Attorney General's Office.
She'd been at the event.
She said, "Guess what?
They killed Karina's photographer
after all this happened."
from the investigation unit told me,
"Something's troubling us."
"Karina and Deputy Octavio filed
for a writ of protection. Why didn't you?"
"Why would I do that?
I didn't do anything wrong."
I'm a lawyer, and I saw no benefit
in filing for protection,
because after all,
I had no responsibility in this.
We know that the people
who were with Homero
obtained legal protection to avoid
being investigated or interrogated.
Could you tell us what happened?
That is their right.
And we respect the decisions
made by the authorities.
I've never filed for a writ of protection.
I've never had the need to do so.
This time, I didn't need to either.
I don't understand
why they filed for protection
if they had nothing to do with it,
unless they did have
something to do with it.
I can firmly say it's impossible.
This colleague who was there,
she's a wholesome woman.
She had nothing to do with this.
The other colleague who was there too,
I don't know if he was
a deputy or mayor at the time.
He's a wholesome young man,
with no ulterior motives.
Whether they were involved or not,
I mean, that would be...
I can't confirm that.
But I'm pretty convinced
there's nothing there.
When Silvano became governor,
Octavio Ocampo was a deputy.
Silvano, Octavio Ocampo,
and Karina Alvarado were always together.
Why did Karina's friend
have Homero's stuff?
Why did Karina and Octavio Ocampo
file for a writ of protection?
Up to this point, they're not suspects.
I just wanted them to give their testimony
of what had happened
because they were the last people
who were with him.
Not because I thought
or think they're guilty,
but because I believe
they might have information
that could lead to the arrest
of the people who actually did it.
Homero was a very important figure
who condemned illegal logging
as one of the main causes
of damage to the reserve,
home of the monarch butterfly.
The symbol was established
by the Free Trade Agreement at the time...
It was no accident.
Someone not only wanted to eliminate him,
but also wanted to send a message
to any other social leader
who dares to protect
the trees and the communities.
I heard that the attorney general
was going to investigate
my uncles Amado and Juan.
They said it was odd that they were
so concerned about the case,
that perhaps they were involved.
So they were going to investigate them.
Michoacn's Attorney General's Office
often engages in judicial harassment
against the relatives of a murdered victim
to deter, hinder, and prevent them
from asking uncomfortable questions.
This is not the first time
Michoacn's Attorney General
has resorted to this tactic
of turning the investigation
against the victims
in order to make them withdraw
and stop media coverage of the case,
and ultimately, stop any pressure
from being put on authorities.
I decided to stop pushing
for further investigation out of fear
because, as the investigations progress,
you don't know what you're getting into.
Your family is always exposed.
That's why, to a large extent,
we decided not to demand an investigation
for the sake of peace.
As you can see, there are eight volumes.
Well, you may see a pile of paper,
but the work we carried out is here.
And in these files,
there is nothing
to suggest that Homero,
up to this point,
died a violent death.
Up until now, all we have
is scientific evidence
that proves that Homero died
from mechanical asphyxiation
via submersion.
Meaning he drowned.
The authorities' version
not only doesn't make sense,
but is even dismissive,
to the point of being humiliating
to the intelligence of the media,
the readers, and Homero's memory itself.
They do this so regional DAs
don't issue arrest warrants
against illegal loggers,
and so that hitmen
and criminal leaders are released,
and to protect the state police
that participate in guarding convoys
of illegally harvested timber.
The authorities need to get involved.
And we are talking about
regional DAs and the state police.
And for this to happen,
there must be an understanding
with the heads of state government.
I have no evidence,
but I've no doubt in my mind
that Homero's murder was ordered
by members of organized crime
because he was attracting
the presence of federal authorities
and media attention
to an area where they wanted
to hide their illicit activities
under a veil of darkness.
Andrs, can you explain to us if you know
who these people
that are illegally logging are?
I can't answer that.
I just can't.
Do you think that if you answer,
you're putting your life at risk?
My life and the lives of my colleagues.
The loggers, the avocado growers,
and the transportation businesses
are controlled by organized crime.
Locals must pay them
a share of their earnings
to be allowed to work.
If any of them fail to comply,
what they've been doing until now,
people get killed.
Not only within the state,
but also within the municipality.
Violence continues unabated in Mexico.
Omar Colina Lanis,
secretary of Ocampo, Michoacn,
and his father were shot dead
in the municipality of Zitcuaro.
Their bodies were found inside a vehicle
with gunshot wounds.
Michoacn's Attorney General
is conducting
the investigations on the case.
Regarding the case
of the Biosphere Reserve
and the murder of Homero,
it was like a butterfly effect.
Take, for example, the Super Bowl.
A Super Bowl fan
buys a hot dog or a hamburger,
with avocado.
This avocado, to reach the United States,
had to pass through fake customs controls
ignored by the authorities.
This avocado was produced in Michoacn,
in areas controlled by organized crime,
which, before producing avocado,
had deforested an area
by illegally logging precious woods,
which in turn were defended by villagers.
In this case, like Homero.
We must break the chain at some point.
I don't know
if it's in the US or in Mexico,
or if it's with the intervention
of federal authorities.
Something is going wrong somewhere.
I think everything is going wrong
in Michoacn.
Or as an acquaintance of mine used to say,
"Everything that could go wrong
in Michoacn went even worse."
Michoacn loses almost 70,000 hectares
of forest every year.
A third of them are in this region
in eastern Michoacn.
And the truth is that it happens
right under our noses.
Forty years after one of the most
wonderful discoveries on the planet,
the monarch butterfly migration
is in danger.
The monarch butterfly population
has declined by between 22% and 72%
over the past decade.
Scientists blame climate change,
pesticides, and illegal logging.
It's a fact that the monarch butterfly
could disappear, never to come back.
We will continue our fight.
Our advantage
is that in order to get to the reserve,
they must drive through the village.
And in the village, we stand guard.
Even if they kill us all, we'll stop them.
We'll protect this place
with all our might.
Just as our comrade Homero
used to protect it,
we will continue his legacy.
For us as a family,
it wasn't an accident.
Where are we headed
if there's no authority
for these cases?
When we arrived with Homero,
the place was full of people,
friends, family,
members of various communities
waiting for him.
When I saw the hearse approaching,
I had this sensation I can't explain,
but my eyes filled with tears.
And I felt so sad knowing
my dad was in the hearse.
I meant to take him
in the same hearse we brought him in.
But the people didn't want that.
The people wanted to carry the coffin.
And people from everywhere
started to approach.
We all surrounded him.
And he was taken one last time
to the place where he was photographed
with his butterfly wings.
We can feel it! Homero is present!
Here, there, Homero will protect us!
I couldn't believe it.
In the same place where I had recently
taken a picture of him,
looking so happy with his arms wide open,
he was now in that same place,
which looked totally different.
He worked tirelessly
to preserve our forests.
We searched tirelessly for him.
We want his family to know
that they are not alone.
All his people are here.
We're all here.
Thank you all.
So sad.
I knew, from that moment,
how much we were going to miss him.
I even cried.
NOVEMBER 2, 2022
On the Day of the Dead,
we traditionally go to the cemetery
to place a wreath on the grave
and decorate the grave
with flowers and other things.
Unto the ages of ages, amen.
Mary, mother of grace and mother of mercy...
In life and death, pray for us.
Sacred Heart of Jesus...
In thee I trust.
Otom and Mazahua beliefs
already referred to them
as the souls of the dead.
Homero later called them
"brides of the sun."
The butterflies are coming down for water.
Later, they'll be looking for flowers.
The travelers, the harvesters,
the brides of the sun...
The souls of the dead.
I believe my dad comes back
with the butterflies.
That's why I like to go to the sanctuary
and immerse myself
among the butterflies alone.
I feel as if he's there with me.
And together we're watching
all that scenery,
waiting for the sunlight to touch them
and see how all the butterflies
flutter around.
I start to recall all those moments
and talk to him
as if he were there with me
but recalling the past.
- What do butterflies breathe?
- Oxygen.
Exactly. We need trees
for butterflies to be able to live.
Now, where do butterflies land?
At times, I laugh alone
because I feel like I'm talking to my dad.
Flying, flying high.
All day long.
I may not become
the new Guardian of the Monarchs,
but I do want to follow
in my father's footsteps.
It's what he taught me.
I wish to continue with all of this,
not to leave it at that.
To make his legacy live on
and grow even bigger.
I'm not afraid, because my dad always said
that whatever we do,
we must do it without fear.
I am determined to do this.
Thank you.
Let's see what information
you cherry-pick.
Silvano made a promise,
but he never honored it.
None of them ever come around.
We make sure no one cuts down trees.