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“Crysalis”: the story of Blanca Huertas, a woman of science

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“Crysalis”: the story of Blanca Huertas, a woman of science

“Crysalis” is the name of the documentary that pays homage to Blanca Huertas, a Colombian entomologist (studio of insects), specialized in lepidopterology (butterflies), who is currently the curator of the world‘s largest and oldest collection of butterflies in the Natural History Museum of London, in the United Kingdom, which has five million copies.

But how did this woman who was born in Bogotá develop such a passion for butterflies that led her to one of the most important museums in the world? The answer is in “Crisálida”, an audiovisual co-produced by Señal Colombia and Telepacífico, which premieres on both channels today.

“My work at the Natural History Museum in London includes the dissemination of science. But it is also important that I have been labeled a role model for girls and for people who want to be scientists. It is important to show the work of women in science and that of other scientists who work not only outside the country, but also in Colombia. That the media highlight the work of scientists contributes to the development of this discipline”, says Blanca Huertas.

Directed by Jorge Andrés Silva Velandia, this feature film shows from the testimony of Huertas the passion for biology, as well as the facilities or challenges that a person in Colombia has to dedicate himself to science.

Likewise, during the 52 minutes of the project, what is biology is explored and what facilities or challenges a person in Colombia has to dedicate themselves to science. Family and teachers are essential to stimulate interest.

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At this point, “Crisálida” is complemented by the example of Lina Moreno Marín, a research student who lives in Ibagué (Tolima) and has a special liking for butterflies.

“When there is someone who says ‘science is my thing’, it’s time to push them, it doesn’t matter if it’s a career that, suddenly, economically is not the best,” says Blanca Huertas, who in this co-production of Señal Colombia and Telepacífico also makes an account of her studies in Colombia, of what brought her to London, of her work at the Natural History Museum and the difficulties she had to overcome as a migrant.

Open doors

Huertas, who is also vice president of the Linnean Society of London, defines herself as “a Colombian, Latina woman, working in the United Kingdom, where we are a minority. My contribution by opening those doors is that other people with other characteristics of ethnicity, gender, culture, or who are mothers, have opportunities”.

“For me it is important to be able to demonstrate that, despite certain limitations, such as when we leave our country and do not speak another language, we can have the same role or the same importance as those who have had privileges and advantages. So, at the level of inclusion and gender, it is very important to highlight the work of people who have come forward, of all the Colombian scientists who are working and who are not the standard model in terms of gender or ethnicity”, he adds.

“It has been a great pride to have been honored in this way, in this documentary. I am very grateful to all the people involved in the project, especially because it highlights the work of various scientists who leave the country to do science. Also because it shows the power of women in science,” she said.

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The butterflies, of course, are central to the discourse of the production. That is why it is explained that Colombia is the country with the largest number of registered butterfly species and that this record was proven thanks to the work of many researchers. Butterflies are currently part of the country’s bioeconomy, as important for tourism as are birds, moors and orchids.

“On planet Earth there are approximately 20,000 classes or species and subspecies of butterflies. In Colombia we have a great diversity of butterflies and we have reached, according to the latest studies we have done with several colleagues, almost 4000 of these species; That means that Colombia is the country with the greatest diversity of butterfly species on the entire planet”, he affirms.

“Crisálida” also recognizes scientists working in Colombia and abroad, as well as encouragement for young people who want to dedicate themselves to biology and science.

“It is very important to highlight the work of many people who have come forward and not only me, but all the scientists who are making a great effort. Of course, people should know that not everything is successful, not everything is perfect, we are also human beings who can make mistakes. I want to encourage children who want to do science to know that there are opportunities,” said the scientist.

He also highlighted that Colombia is one of the countries with the greatest diversity of species in Latin America: “The diversity of butterflies is so great that we house more than 40% of all those that exist on planet Earth. They are very fragile species, they have a different life cycle, they can easily perceive changes in the environment; However, the greatest pressure and cause of their extinction is the fragmentation of the forests: when we cut down the trees, when we destroy the primary forests, the species simply disappear.

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