My mind was turned toward providing employment to the people living near the monarch sanctuaries, so they would not need to poach trees from the monarch’s overwintering grounds in order to make a living. I wondered whether hand painted monarch rocks were already available in Mexico, and whether the market for souvenirs was already saturated. I contacted the owner of the local B&B, near one of the monarch sanctuaries I would be visiting. I asked her how much competition there was in monarch souvenirs. “The tourists complain there there are not enough souvenirs, and the people complain that there is not enough work” I found that interesting, and exciting. I then consulted with Monarch Watch representative, Debbie Jackson. She sent me a photo like the one below, showing the stalls of souvenirs that can be found at some of the sanctuaries. There was not much variety, and certainly, no rocks. The selection was mainly t-shirts, mugs and other ceramics, cheap trinkets and plastic monarchs, and labour intensive pine needle baskets and embroidery.
EUREKA! I had it! The perfect souvenir! It is close to the people’s hearts, could be painted by anyone, including the physically or mentally challenged, could be sold for less than $10, or even $5, would not break or take up much room in a suitcase, needs minimal equipment and can be sold even without a table or booth! I began to dream, and then I took action. I had plans to visit the sanctuaries in February, with a group of Facebook friends. I organized a workshop after dinner one evening, to inspire the locals to become artists and entrepreneurs, and to teach them how to paint the rocks. Never mind that I had never painted one, and don’t have an artistic bone in my body. No one would ever know. I went to the craft store and learned what kind of paint, brushes and sealer to use. I watched for discount coupons. During the following months, I made countless trips, always finding yet another craft they might like to work on. Wood burning, drawing, stamping, making coasters, fridge magnets, broaches, embroidery, greeting cards. I started to order things online, spending my charity budget many times over. But I was on a mission to change the economy in the Monarch Biosphere.
These are they typical items found at souvenir stands near the monarch sanctuaries.
Later this week: Taking the Souvenir Rock Project to Mexico.