The first time I visited the Cerro Pelon Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, I was stunned by the natural beauty of its entry and by how excluded the people living there were from the benefits of butterfly tourism. Organized tour groups in big tour buses swooped down on Macheros in the month of February, but no one stayed overnight in this scenic village that lacked basic services. Macheros-native Joel Moreno and I set about to change this situation. In 2012, we converted the house he’d built in the middle of town into a 3-room hostel with a shared bathroom. Over the course of five seasons, we reinvested our profits into expansion and improvement. Currently our B&B boasts 14 rooms with en suite bathrooms, a rooftop deck, a swimming pool and jacuzzi, a meeting hall/yoga studio and a spacious new restaurant. More people visit for longer periods of time and take advantage of our growing menu of activities.
While I organize tours to all four of the monarch butterfly sanctuaries, I also invented an activity for people who want to spend a day in the village learning more about how people make a living in rural Mexico. My Cottage Industry Tours are a way to include more of my neighbors in the benefits of butterfly tourism: families are compensated for their participation. Guests Dennis and Tammy Decker produced this short video about the experience:
We now book out for much of the November-March butterfly season. Earnings from this short season are enough to sustain Joel and I and a skeleton crew of workers year round. But as soon as the tourists leave, a lot of the guys who work with us to take tourists up the mountain dust off their chainsaws and set about harvesting trees to sell for construction. For the sake of the monarchs’ winter home, we desperately need year-round ecotourism. Our facilities offer a comfortable space for workshops and retreats, there are miles of hiking and horseback riding trails right outside our door, more than a 100 bird species frequent our forests and fields, and come July and August the woods fill with colorful fungi to forage or just admire. Currently I have an alternative Easter celebration, a Mindful Aging Workshop and a Women’s Writing Retreat slated for 2021. I’d love to hear your ideas for activities and projects that would allow me to share our incredible natural beauty with you while creating sustainable employment for more Macheros residents.