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January 1, 2018


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On this page we invite guest editorials and letters. Go to the Home Page and click on “Editorial Archives,” for past discussions of a range of interesting subjects. Also included is news of significance and short advertisements.



The Heather Foundation Occasional Newsletter Series, Part 5 of 5

Newsletter No. 7, July 1, 1982, 8 pp.


(This installment concludes the five part series. Go to the Editorial Archives page to read Parts 1-4 and for background on the source of this material.)


. . . For some time I had felt that Juan’s empirically-based technology had been growing faster that I could keep up with it. Now I told him that I thought I should learn pottery myself in order to be able to explain it better. He agreed and offered to teach me from the beginning. The first step, he said, would be for me to dig and prepare some clay.


We went out the next morning to a dry wash in the lower part of the mountain and dug out a quantity of red clay, one of the four principal clays Juan is now using to produce red, white, black, or yellow pottery--his preference being the last. In the afternoon, Juan showed me how to prepare it by washing instead of grinding it with a mano and metate (corn-grinding stone) as he used to do and Felix Ortiz still does. Washing was a happy innovation, since grinding produces dust and clay dust is a health hazard.


. . . To wash the clay, we filled one of several wash tubs with the raw clay material added water, and after stirring with a stick, poured the clay-laden water into another tub. What we spilled on the ground looked like bright red splashes of barn paint. We repeated this several times until nothing remained in the bottom of the tub but clean rock and gravel, which we threw away. We then carefully poured the water from the other tubs back into the first and from one to the other, adding a little fresh water as needed to wash the black, silty residue that remained in the bottom each time. We now let the water stand overnight, covering it with a cloth anchored by heavy rocks to keep out the dirt that might be kicked up by the dogs or the children or carried by the wind.

By morning the clay had settled. We poured off the clear water with care so as not to lose much of the sediment--which was this time the clay itself. Then we stirred and poured the liquid clay into a great plaster bowl. Juan had cast this bowl some months earlier on the hemispherical end-piece of a large propane tank, intending it for a base-mold to build his largest pot ever. As soon as the plaster had drawn out the excess water, we rolled the clay in plastic sheeting to age—“ferment,” as Juan calls it—for a few weeks until ready to use. This would be my own clay, but until it was ready, I would use Juan’s.


Now we went to dig two other clays, the white and the yellow. It was late morning when we took the Datsun truck up a tortuous trail into the mountain for the white clay. Ten-year-old Juan “Junior” had discovered this clay early last year while attending to cattle with his father on the mountain. So that it won’t be wasted by other who might dig it carelessly, not appreciating its value, Juan keeps the deposit hidden. When it takes the clay, he replaces an equal amount of earth and rock in the hole so that no depression will be visible on the surface of the ground. This time we had to remove some two feet of alternating layers of flat stones and earth before reaching the clay.


Juan said he never would have looked for clay in such as area where there were no sedimentary deposits. In fact, he said, the qualities of this clay were so different from those of any he had worked before, that he wondered if it might  be not clay at all but some other substance that could be used in a similar way. It was the only clay he had never been able to bring close to its melting point in open-air firing.


. . .  After a late lunch, we set out westward from Mata Ortiz and went the greater part of the way across the plain toward the mountains on the other side of the valley.  . . .  Now, from several places in the wall of a shollow, dry arroyo, we dug Juan’s favorite clay that fires into a fine yellow. . . .


The next morning I made my first jar, using Juan’s white clay. When it came time for decorating it, my mind went numb, even though I had been looking at Casas Grandes and Palanganas designs for years. I realized then how little I really understood this design tradition and decided that on subsequent pots I might learn more by copying the best examples I could find of other people’s work. Juan agreed, and so my second piece, a small bowl made of Juan’s yellow clay, I decorated with a classic Casas Grandes motif.


Once into that second piece, I found myself spending more time and deliberate care on it than anything I can remember in my life. What anguish, trying to paint in a controlled way with Juan’s brushes made of hair cut from the children’s heads. But I learned more about Juan’s techniques in a few days of actually using clays and slips that I had in six years as a spectator, and for all its imperfections, I felt a great sense of satisfaction with that little bowl.





The question of safety traveling in Mexico directly affects the potters and the Mexican economy. We’ve digested the following article about travel in Baja California (www.bajainsider.com/baja-california-travel/mexico-travel-warning.htm) because it’s so applicable to Chihuahua. Many are coming to the conclusion that the State Department’s travel warnings about Mexico are spurious, issued for political reasons, perhaps in an effort to have the billions of dollars normally spent by tourists in Mexico spent instead in the USA to help bolster a faltering economy — a drop in the ocean! In May, the people of Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco), Sonora, where many Arizonans go to enjoy the beach, protested by buying full-page ads in the Phoenix and Tucson newspapers headed, “The Reality Of Rocky Point.” Presidents of fifteen homeowner associations in Rocky Point signed the ads refuting the travel advisory and saying life there had been and was entirely normal and safe.



Travel Warning in Perspective


Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year. This includes tens of thousands who cross the border every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico. Common-sense precautions such as avoiding areas where criminal activity might occur can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.


How Safe is Mexico?


Check out these interesting statistics: http://www.banderasnews.com/1308/to-amar-how-safe-is-mexico.htm?utm_source=What%60s+Up+San+Carlos+Newsletter&utm_campaign=77446261af-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_99ddc0bdc3-77446261af-70504749#.UjB50RM3r4w.facebook


Are Americans safer in Mexico than at home?

This is Robert Reid’s title for his Lonely Planet blog which includes the intriguing statement that there is “… statistical evidence that Americans are less likely to face violence on average in Mexico than at home …” Reid provides the numbers and links to official sources to back up his statement. It’s an interesting read:



The Bridgemons’ perspective: We have been traveling across Mexico since 1966 and have nothing but great experiences to relate. Since 1996 we have traveled to and from Mata Ortiz without incident more than 180 times. In fact, we actually relax once we get south of the border. In 2009 we drove 5,000 miles visiting back country areas and large cities in central Mexico and had a wonderful experience.


Of course, there are no guarantees in life. We think of ourselves as safe in Tucson, but anything can happen as witnessed by the mass shooting here involving Gabby Giffords. We have close friends that missed being there only because they were slowed by traffic.


You must use common sense when you travel. There are places you wouldn’t visit and things you wouldn’t do at home – don’t do them in Mexico either. We choose to do what we love and not sit home in fear.


Our trip this past week (August 19, 2011) exemplifies our experiences. We were hunting for the ruins of an old Luis Terrazas hacienda two hours south of Mata Ortiz. We asked for information in the small town’s mayoral office. The staff talked among themselves, called others, and finally found some information for us. A police car then led us to the site 15 minutes away. That night we had dinner in Madera before visiting archaeological sites in Huapoca Canyon west of the town. The waitress and owner of the restaurant talked to us and then presented us with maps and a new tourism DVD about the area – for free! With this trip being typical for us, you will understand why we relax in Mexico.


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20th Annual Mata Ortiz Pottery Concurso (Competition)


The presentation of awards for the concurso took place adjacent to the old Mata Ortiz train station on October 8, 2017. Congratulations to all the winners. This year special recognition was given to 17 “pioneers” of the ceramic movement. The pottery was again displayed in the train station. See our Facebook page to view photographs of the first place winners.


Premio a la Excelencia - Award of Excellence

          Ramiro Veloz Casas


          Olivia Dominguez Renteria

White Polychrome

1.    Angela Estrella Silveira Hernandez

2.    Sabino Villalba Hernandez

3.    Mirna Ramona Hernandez Lucero

3.  Ana Luisa Veloz Casas

Black burnished with graphite with or without design

1.    Angel Cesar Bugarrini Soto

2.    Jose Manuel Martinez Lopez

3.    Antonia Ivonne Olivas Tena

Figures or Sculptures

1.    Veronica Silveira Sandoval

2.    Nicolas Ortiz Ortega

3.    Juan Carlos Villalba Hernandez

Traditional Color, with or without design

1.   Efren Quezada Olivas                                                             

2.   Silvia Edelmira Silveira Sandoval

3.   Luis Carlos Villa Ortiz


1.    Claudia Ledezma Loya

2.    Abraham Rodriguez Mora

3.    Hector Gallegos Martinez

Non-Traditional Color, with or without desgn

1.      Cesar Elias Dominguez Nuñez

2.   Oscar Javier Gonzalez Camacho


1.   Karla Martínez Vargas

2.       Maria Del Carmen Tena Gonzalez

3.   Esmerald Martines Heras 

New Properties

1.    Trinidad Silveira Sandoval

2.    Celia Ivon Veloz Saenz

3.    Lorezno Elias Peña Pacheco

Young Artist

Reyna Crisol Garibay Silveira



La Junta 2017


About 65 attended the 21st Gathering (La Junta) of the Friends of Mata Ortiz held October 5-8, 2017. On Thursday the 5th, 20 spent the day hiking in the Sierra Madre Mountains near El Willy, Cueva de la Ollas, and Cuesta Blanca, while others explored the village. Friday started with pottery demonstrations at three venues in the village. In the afternoon, many toured the murals of Casas Grandes, and then attended a yard sale at the MacCallums before a wonderful fiesta at Casas Nopal. The Saturday morning presentations included the Battle of Casas Grandes, the Cumbre Bypass, C.H. Cooper’s encounters with revolutionaries, departed potters Nicolas Quesada & Félix Ortiz, young potters Esmeralda & Karina Martinez Heras, and the interpretation of Paquimé designs. The afternoon featured roping and barrel racing demonstrations that were followed with a beautiful evening and dinner along the Palanganas at the Stover home. Sunday morning was the now traditional pisole brunch in Porvenir and then the special treat of the concurco (pottery competition) at the train station. While this was the 20th concurso, it was the first held during La Junta.


Jim Bruemmer, 1934-2016


The Mata Ortiz community lost a longtime friend with the passing of Jim Bruemmer on December 6, 2016. Jim started visiting the village in the late 1980s. Besides being a very active trader of the pottery, Jim introduced numerous people to Mata Ortiz, many who became active friends of the village themselves. Jim is survived by his wife Dian, son and two daughters, and four grandchildren. His knowledge, personality, and humor will be missed by the potters and many of us who enjoyed many a fine hour with him in front of the fireplace in the Posada de las Ollas.


La Junta 2016


More than 80 came to the village October 7-9, 2016, to attend the twentieth annual Gathering (La Junta) of the Friends of Mata Ortiz. A field trip, pottery demonstrations and exhibitions, fiestas, and topical presentations were all a part of the event. The Saturday morning talks were held at the Museum of Northern Cultures at Paquimé and included presentations on the history of trader Tito Carillo, exploration of the Piedras Verdes River, establishing a pottery collection, the pottery of Luis & Abraham Rodriguez, and understanding the symbolism of Paquimé pottery designs. A happy hour was hosted by Carmela Wallace at her beautifully restored hacienda and dinners were hosted by the MacCallums’ Casa Nopal in Casas Grandes and by the Stovers’ in their Mata Ortiz home along the Palanganas River. Pictures of the Gathering can be viewed on the Calendar’s Facebook page. Make plans to join the group next year.


Amerind Museum Tour


The Amerind Museum (Dragoon, AZ) and Mexico’s INAH combined to form the Joint Casas Grandes Expedition (JCGE) that performed the excavations of the Paquime site from 1958 to 1961. The Amerind sponsored the first Mata Ortiz concurso (pottery competition) in 1978 and conducted numerous tours to the region until 2005. Finally, in November of 2016, the Amerind led another tour to Paquime and Mata Ortiz. The tour was led by archaeologist Dr. Paul Minnis and Ron and Sue Bridgemon. Director Christine Szuter and Associate Curator Annie Larkin of the Amerind and Marshall and Cathy Giesy provided support. Dr. Minnis led the group of 24 on a tour of the Paquime ruins and museum. The Amerind group had lunch in Mata Ortiz, attended demonstrations at the home of Hector Gaellgos Jr. & Laura Bugarini, visited the Valley of the Caves, Hacienda de San Diego, and the exconvento in Casas Grandes, and then toured the Don Cuco distillery in Janos. Pictures of the tour can be viewed on the Calendar’s Facebook page.


Consolación Quezada   1933-2016


It is with great sadness we have to announce the passing of Consolación Quezada de Corona. Consolación is the oldest of Juan Quezada’s siblings and the mother of Mauro and Dora Quezada. As the matriarch of the Quezada family, she will be greatly missed by the family as well as many American visitors. Her passing marks the end of an era.


Tito Carrillo   1936-2016


We are also sorry to report that Tito Carrillo, Mata Ortiz trader and long time friend of the village, moved on to a better place on April 23, 2016. Tito had been traveling to the village and promoting the pottery across the country since the early 1980s. Thanks to Ron & Vicki Sullivan, Tito was able to celebrate his last two birthdays in his beloved Mata Ortiz during the Gathering of the Friends of Mata Ortiz. The people of Mata Ortiz and many of us have lost a wonderful friend who will not be forgotten. The Calendar’s Facebook page shares photos of the Don. His obituary in the Arizona Daily Star is linked here: https://shar.es/1egig7.


A mass was held in Mata Ortiz on June 17th and his ashes were spread in the village by his son Pablo on Father’s Day.



19th Annual Mata Ortiz Pottery Concurso (Competition)


The presentation of awards for the concurso took place adjacent to the old Mata Ortiz train station on April 1, 2016. Congratulations to all the winners. The governor of Chihuahua attended the proceedings this year. The ceramics were again displayed in the train station. Prize money awarded this year totally about $20,000 US.

See our Facebook page to view photographs of the first place winners.


Premio a la Excelencia - Award of Excellence

          Hector Gallegos Martinez


          Laura Bugarini Cota

White Polychrome

4.    Lorenzo Elias Peña Pacheco

5.    Tati Eleno Ortiz Lopez

6.    Diego Gerardo Valles Trevizo

7.    Ana Luisa Veloz Casas

Black burnished with graphite with or without design

4.    Edgar Ivan Martines Lopez

5.    Lazaro Ozuna Silveira

6.    Maria Graciela Martinez Quezada

7.    Guadalupe Lucero Sandoval

Figures or Sculptures

4.    Norma Fabiola Silveira Hernández

5.    Juan Carlos Villalba Hernandez

6.    Sabino Villalba Hernandez

7.    Susana Sandra Lopez Aldavaz

Traditional Color, with or without design

4.   Gregorio Silveira Hernandez                                                             

5.   Rodrigo Perez Tena

6.   Mirna Ramona Hernandez Lucero

4.  Taurina Baca Tena                                          


4.    Angel Antonio Guerrero Trillo

5.    Ramiro Veloz Casas

6.    Jesus Octavio Silveira Hernandez

7.    Humberto Eleuterio Piña Quintana

Non-Traditional Color, with or without desgn

3.      Fabian David Ortiz Ortega

4.   Oscar Ortega Arrieta

5.      Sulma Orozco Rios

6.      Rosa Elena Renteria Heras


4.   Karla Martínez Vargas

5.   Guadalupe Guillen Guillen

6.       Maria Del Carmen Tena Gonzalez

7.      Yadira Silveira Sandoval 

Honorable Mention

4.    Jose Manuel Martinez Lopez

5.    Olivia Dominguez Renteria

6.    Luis Armando Rodriguez Mora





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