Category Archives: Rojelio Silveira

Mata Ortiz, Anglo Influence and Omissions

According to research by Mata Ortiz expert Jim Hills of Tucson, Arizona, indeed several people in the Porvenir neighborhood were making pottery in the 1970s. Porvenir potters Rojelio Silveira, Emeterio Ortiz, Félix Ortiz and Salbador Ortiz all made Mata Ortiz pottery in the early 1970s. In his paper, “Reconstructing a Miracle” in the University of Arizona’s Journal of the Southwest, Hills states, “Spencer MacCallum continually customized his story over the years in an attempt to promote a single narrative, which required omitting, modifying or diluting facts.” The Ortiz and Silveira potters were among those omissions.  Thus, according to Hills, “a blend of well-meaning entrepreneurial strategies, reticence, forgetfulness, imagination, exaggeration and romantic notions of reality have shaped the Mata Ortiz narrative.”

Essentially, two U.S. writers shaped an incomplete history of the Mata Ortiz pottery tradition. In 1993 American Walter Parks wrote a book based on MacCallum’s notes. In the book’s acknowledgements, Parks states,

“Spencer MacCallum was especially generous, opening all of his files to me and reviewing the text.”

Based on new voices and evidence, that history is deficient. It tells only part of the story. Many significant families were excluded from their writings.

THE PIONEERS, MANUEL OLIVAS

DVD COVER“Efforts Made to Rescue the Ceramics of Paquime” by

Julián Alejandro Hernández Chávez

 

“In 1952, in Casas Grandes, Manuel Olivas began to produce low temperature ceramics decorated with the designs from the pieces found at the archaeological sites. His grandmother taught him how to find the clay deposits, how to prepare the clay and fire his pieces the way his family did to produce clay articles. This is how the new traditional Paquimé ceramics were born; after this, the ceramics appeared spontaneously in several communities in the region and the new potters exchanged the information they had. They sold their pieces as utilitarian and decorative objects, first to locals and later to tourists. There was a flurry of activity at the beginning of the seventies [1970s] which was centered on the town of Juan Mata Ortiz where Juan Quezada, Félix Ortiz, Rogelio Silviera and others worked full time as potters.”

Julián Alejandro Hernández of Nuevo Casas Grandes is a preeminent pottery expert focusing on the Casas Grandes and Mata Ortiz pottery traditions. Mr. Hernández has written two books about the art and archaeological ruins of Paquime in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico. He is a working potter, having taught dozens of people about pottery. Hernandez started the first pottery school in Nuevo Casas Grandes. In addition, he is the director of the Francisco Villa Preparatory School.

 

 

Mata Ortiz: Las Historias No Contadas, Parte Dos

LAS HISTORIAS NO CONTADAS DE PAQUIMÉ Y

MATA ORTIZ (PARTE DOS)

                                             Por Ron Goebel y Nancy Andrews

 

“Es momento de incluir más voces y expandir la historia de la tradición alfarería de Mata Ortiz en una representación más completa”.

-Del documental de 2015 “Mata Ortiz: Las Historias No Contadas”

La alfarería en Mata Ortiz surgió como un esfuerzo grupal. La documentación muestra que en Mata Ortiz la tradición alfarería comenzó como un esfuerzo grupal y no con la inspiración de un solo hombre. El profesor Julián Hernández está de acuerdo: “Comenzaron a trabajar con el barro… todos juntos… para lograr mejores habilidades y realizar sus trabajos de alfarería”.

Marisela Ortiz reafirma este esfuerzo grupal cuando habla sobre la década de 1960 y de principios de la década de 1970, los primeros años de su padre en la alfarería. “Sí, mi padre Félix Ortiz fue uno de los primeros que comenzó a trabajar con barro, él y algunos de sus amigos”, destaca. Junto con su hermano, Emeterio, entre los amigos alfareros de Félix se encontraban Rojelio Silveira y Salbador Ortiz, tío del artista contemporáneo Eli Navarrete.

Eli Navarrete recuerda sus propios comienzos, cuando aprendió a fabricar ollas en Barrio Porvenir. “Me juntaba con Félix y su hermano mayor Emeterio. Fueron pioneros con Juan Quezada. Y uno de los primeros en utilizar técnicas nuevas fue mi tío, Salbador Ortiz. Los fines de semana, pasaba tiempo con familiares y amigos y hablábamos sobre encontrar nuevos materiales y herramientas”.

El alfarero pionero de Mata Ortiz, Rojelio Silveira, coincide y afirma que en la década de1960 Salbador Ortiz era uno de los alfareros auténticos del pueblo. En una entrevista de 2012 con el documentalista Richard Ryan de Mata Ortiz, Silveira relata: “Tenía unos 21 años cuando comencé a fabricar ollas. Fue antes de casarme”. Era el año 1965. “Ahí fue cuando hice una olla con dos rostros, una esfinge. Félix [Ortiz] hizo un cuenco pequeño y mi amigo Chava [Salbador Ortiz] hizo una olla pequeña. Así fue cómo empezamos. Comenzó cuando les dije: “Hagamos una olla”. Silveira había sido un saqueador, y también resultó que pudo fabricar una olla él mismo. “Así que dijeron, está bien, intentémoslo, y así lo hicimos. Todos juntos. Félix Ortiz, yo Rojelio Silveira y Salbador Ortiz. Los tres”.

Que Milagro? (What a Miracle?)

Que Milagro?  (What a Miracle?)

Today, July 27, 2016, at the Clay Festival in Silver City, New Mexico, visiting Mata Ortiz artist, Diego Valles, staged a reform of sorts: He credited the MATRIARCHS of Mata Ortiz with being the first potters in their community. At last!

For years, the role pot-making grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers played in the Mata Ortiz region was overlooked, sustaining an American-invented tale that pottery making was re-discovered in Mata Ortiz by a man who had never seen a potter at work. Yes, it was an American-invented myth. A myth of male dominance. A myth spread largely by American men with their own business interests and reputations at stake.

“Our grandmothers made utilitarian pottery out of necessity,” Valles asserted. “Pottery was part of the community.” He went on to say that “Later, in the fifties and sixties, it was a group of potters, the Silveiras and others,” that began what we now call the Mata Ortiz Pottery Movement. Collective sigh. It has finally been said out loud that generations of Mexican men and women are to be credited for Mata Ortiz Pottery.

And, Valles went on to speak about the long-held secret of mid-twentieth century pot hunting around Casas Grandes.  “It’s not shameful,” said Valles. “What would YOU do?” he asked, explaining that people were hungry, black market demand was great for ancient pots, the laws about antiquities were looser and many people did not yet understand the cultural significance of ancient artifacts. Years later, Mexican and American researchers were told to keep quiet about early pot hunting in their papers and presentations.

It’s about a hundred years after female potters were working in Mata Ortiz. It’s sixty-five years after Manuel Olivas learned potting in Casas Grandes from his grandmother, Leonor Parra. It’s sixty years after pot hunters like the pioneer Rojelio Silveira unearthed ancient pots in order to feed their families. It’s over fifty years since Silveira, Félix and Emeterio Ortiz, Juan and Nicolás Quezada and Salbador Ortiz began making pots. Now we can breathe a collective sigh as the silence is broken by a contemporary artist who dares to tell us the truth. Mata Ortiz Pottery is not simply a mythic male miracle. It is the result of a diversity of human brilliance, hard work and collaboration. Que milagro!