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.

5 thoughts on “Mata Ortiz, Anglo Influence and Omissions”

  1. It was a group effort in the beginning years. Archaeologists and others (and potters) have stated there was a group working together. It’s nice to see the true story come out. Good work!

    1. Thanks, Adrian. MacCallum did some good work promoting the pottery tradition. But he made up a story. It was like he was a realtor trying to sell a house. A lot of families and people were omitted from the history. Fortunately, that is now changing.

    2. Thanks, Adrian. The Ortiz family, Manuel Olivas, the Silveira family, and the Quezada family worked together in the beginning. Manuel Olivas started in clay in 1951.

    1. The research is fun. The people in Mata Ortiz tell their story. We have a great cinematographer. We talk with our friends in Mata Ortiz and he records their voice for history. Thanks!

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