The butterfly is a symbol of freedom. from NO PAPERS NO FEAR

Posted: September 24, 2012 in for your reflection, Real Food For Thought, resistance, Solidarity

.Ernesto Yerena - No Papers No Fear


Many people asked us during the ride where the symbol of the butterfly came from and what it means.

We send you this to explain, to call for all migrant rights groups to claim it as a symbol for all of us, and to call for artists to continue to create and share more at

The butterfly is a symbol of freedom as old as the glyphs in Cesar Maxit’s “Migrant” poster.

It became the symbol of our tour organically, naturally. As we travelled, it kept showing up in new ways.  In Memphis we received a care package from Juliana in Phoenix with butterfly pins for each of us to wear, next to our hearts, for strength, even when we were carted off to jail.

.No Papers. No Fear. by Julio Salgado

When we confronted Kris Kobach in Birmingham, we released real butterflies with us. We demanded our inclusion at a hearing about us and we shamed him with our presence and overshadowed him with our testimony.

We embraced it from the beginning.  When Deejay Portugal brought his sketchbook to make-over Priscilla, the 1972 bus that arrived in Phoenix and would become our home for the next six weeks, we all rolled up our sleeves to transform her just like a catepillar becoming a monarch. [Watch the video here]

As we set out to change the world, each of us were changed ourselves.  We had to lose our fear. To take control of our destiny we had to embark on a hard path. We had to learn from each other, build community with each other, and trace the steps of those who have come before us fighting for freedom. As individuals and as a community, we took steps to fly free like the monarch; free from fear, free from intimidation.

The power we found in the symbol of the monarch is one that we think is universal. It does not belong to us, it belongs to all of us. And it becomes more powerful as more communities embrace it.   

We invite migrant rights groups globally to adopt it as our symbol; of freedom, of grace, of the right to migrate.

And we ask that artists continue to create new ways to express our struggle with the butterfly at the center.  But like those artists who have contributed so far and as we risked everything on the ride for no personal gain, let us lift up and unite under this common symbol to win everything for everyone and nothing for ourselves.


The Ride for Justice is what gave us wings but it is upon returning home that we’re beginning to take flight. Leading efforts to turn back SB1070 in Arizona, pushing against the polimigra, and strengthening our own communities to celebrate the power we hold within.

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