07 Dec, 2015 | Lila Andrea Monasterios Esteves
Have you ever seen a colony of butterflies travelling? Or more specifically, have you witnessed their journey through the trees covering the lowlands of eastern Bolivia, filling the lush green canopy with all shades of contrasting colors? A fluttering mass of butterflies travelling together can flood the landscape with slight movements, making it seem to dance like nature’s most perfect flash mob. With the whistling wind as music, pollination in the wild can be one of the most sublime scenes Mother Earth can offer.
Chiquitania, in the eastern plains of Bolivia, is one of the most beautiful places to see butterflies, and if travelling by train you can see them up close. Or, if you visit the mountains of Tucabaca, you can take in butterflies that resemble flying flowers, reminding us of the power of nature.
Closer to the creature comforts of the city of Santa Cruz, however, the Güembé Biocenter is home to the largest mariposario in Bolivia. There you can experience the evolution of the butterfly, from egg to death, and witness different species in their natural habitat. Inside this huge natural space, colourful flowers enhance the view and fill the ambience with a sense of life. Above soar the butterflies, big and small, solid coloured and multicoloured, some flying as if hunting pollen, some in silence upon meeting with flowers. It is a place where one easily forgets about the good or bad things. Here, one is filled with the natural feeling of love for so much beauty in the air.
There are more than 3,000 species of butterflies in Bolivia. Among them is one of the most exotic and beautiful – and therefore the most expensive – in the world: the prepona. The xenágora, a member of the prepona family, is most beloved for its spots in the form of eyes that look like a three-dimensional picture. A prepona male in the European market can cost about US $400.00 while the female reaches $ 2,000.00. Although the most expensive butterflies are from India, Bolivian butterflies are among the best paid in the entomological world.
A trip to the mariposario is a quick reminder that a butterfly can inspire in many ways. The flapping of its wings, according to chaos theory, can cause a storm across the world, in what is called the butterfly effect. The Greeks thought that butterflies carried the soul between life and death, representing the last breath taken on earth. Others believe black butterflies are harbingers of death. And across cultures, butterflies remain near-mythical creatures serving as symbols of beauty for their light flight.
The butterfly is also a very strong spiritual symbol; it represents the need to accept death to be reborn. A butterfly is a caterpillar first, and then becomes a cocoon, locking itself in its world to finally release itself as a beautiful butterfly with wings to fly away. This is the representation of the resignation of one world, being reborn into another, a representation of freedom, of liberation, of rebirth.
One of the characteristics of life in Santa Cruz is how relaxed everything can be. Waking up early is just fine, as long as you do not neglect the late-afternoon coffee. A light life, in the sense of knowing how to enjoy the moment without arguments to argue, people take their chairs to the streets, gathering with neighbours for a bit of lazy fraternisation. Being in the mariposario at the Güembé Biocenter can offer the same sensibility. It provides an opportunity to maintain a state of being in harmony with the world.
The butterflies here, flying gracefully and showing beauty in their colours and shapes, no matter how strange, exotic, expensive, small or large, provide spiritual inspiration, a condition closely related to love. And that is what life is about, to love and heal oneself, to live in harmony, with friendship, with courage to leave the past and to dare to live a more powerful life.
Resting at the west of the city on the road to Porongo, Güembé Biocenter also provides pools, walking, lakes, islands, an orchid nursery, an aviary and a beautiful gazebo where one can feel the power of the wind and become part of the landscape. This place, built with the right energy, invites you to enjoy a special kind of life represented by the butterflies – one in harmony with oneself, and with others.
Photo Credit: Rodrigo Urzagasti