Mata Ortiz: Untold Stories Part Three



By Ron Goebel and Nancy Andrews

Likewise, young artists today are quick to credit the community with their achievements and to share their successes with colleagues. Award-winning potter Héctor Gallegos Junior goes so far as to credit the land itself, along with his parents, for his inspiration and accomplishments. “All of our materials,” he explains, “come from our land, so it is very important to me. Most of our lands have been cultivated for many generations by my family. Apart from pottery, most people live off their land. Because of my love of nature, I began doing the animals and insects of northern Mexico in my pottery.” Gallegos goes on to illustrate his devotion to the community of Mata Ortiz. “When we travel to exhibitions, we show our work, but we also talk about the community. We don’t just promote ourselves. We promote the whole community. For example, Group of Seven is a new civil association of artists that supports local students with scholarships.” Award-winning potter Diego Valles believes, “In Mata Ortiz, we are really a community of artists. I think because of that, we have no limits.”

“Revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship. History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, and new perspectives gained by the passage of time.” James McPherson

Indeed, contemporary Mata Ortiz potters understand the boundless opportunities for those who have innovative design ideas and the discipline to execute them. Ambitious twenty-four year old Iván Martínez, a Mata Oriz native and marketing student at the Technological University of Paquimé, recounts his 2014 success. “That year I had the privilege of going to Tonolá, Jalisco,” says Martínez. “I was not accustomed to going to pottery competitions. That year, I got enough courage to enter a piece. To my surprise, my piece won second place at the national level. Thanks to the prize, I am motivated to keep going.” His sister, nineteen-year-old award winner Viviana Martínez, also a university student, credits brother Iván with her own disciplined motivation. “My parents, my brother Iván and my friends keep me innovative. When I go to school and tell my friends how well it’s going for me, they are surprised because of how many prizes I’ve won. My friends say how proud they are of me,” she says.

Modern technology now contributes to the wide range of  possibilities for marketing pottery and therefore making a living in art. Prize-winning Mata Ortiz potter Carla Martínez says that about thirty percent of the young artists in the village are connected to the internet and use email, Facebook and other social media to communicate with potential buyers. Award winner Elvira Bugarini Cota is one of those marketing online. Says Bugarini, “Our new clients are through the internet. We have internet clients who call from Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen and Acapulco. Yes, the internet has helped us. Because of it we’ve been able to reach people from many places who didn’t know our work before, people from France, Spain, people we didn’t know could be interested in us. The internet has served us well. I’m proud of what we have accomplished.”

In 2013, Bugarini’s sister, Laura Bugarini Cota, won first place in the national pottery competition in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Elvira Bugarini emphasiszes that, “From 2013 on, we have seen more interest in our work from people in Mexico. We’re seeing that people in Mexico are interested in making our work well known nationally.” Regarding the win, Laura Bugarini reflects, “This was the greatest honor that I’ve had. I received the award at Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. I received it from the hands of President Peña Nieto. It’s a very big honor for everybody, for me and for all the potters here who work in clay. The award is for all of us.”

So, in the twenty-first century we see that Mata Ortiz pottery is  recognized in Mexico and beyond. The tradition that began centuries ago with the potters at Paquimé, pots that were replicated in the 1950s by Manuel Olivas under the tutelage of his grandmother, Leonor Parra, art that was recreated in the 1960s by Félix Ortiz, Salbador Ortiz and Rojelio Silveira and others, work that became even more extensive with the genius of Juan and Nicolas Quezada, is now receiving widespread national and international recognition. That recognition allows the potters of Mata Ortiz to continue making a living in art, and it allows them to share their good fortune with others. As Porvenir master potter Macario Ortiz says, “The sun shines for everybody.”

3 thoughts on “Mata Ortiz: Untold Stories Part Three”

  1. This latest blog by Ron Goebel and Nancy Andrews is what I have always felt about Mata Ortiz and its pottery. It isn’t about one person who innovated, or by one person who promoted it, but it is about the land, its people, and historical context. We are getting closer to what actually happened in the region with pottery making…it is about everyone and everything! History is like that; tangled, complex and beautiful, and from this comes historical “truth.”

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jim.
      History is a continuing dialogue. There really is no single “truth” about past events. A genuine history constantly evolves. Thanks to the people and their culture in the area around Mata Ortiz and Nuevo Casas Grandes, we are seeing an amazing set of successes in the world of pottery.

  2. I recently discovered these interesting blogs. Thank you. It has been many years since my visits to Mata Ortiz. It is heartening to see that Mata Ortiz is a living tradition and not just a time capsule of the 1970s when we tourists first came en masse. Continue to “humanize” the artists and celebrate today’s Mata for those of us no longer traveling much. Hope this inspires many new visitors with fresh eyes.

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