April 27, 2021
The night was not calm. The wind blew pretty much all night. There were also some big gusts of wind that blew through the night. The only thing good about the wind, is while the wind blew, the dogs and roosters were quiet. About 3:30 am, everyone else came out of their rooms to move their rigs from under the trees to the open parking lot. We didn’t move at that point because we were parked next to a building and not directly under the trees. But around 5:30 am, there were several huge gusts of wind, so I decide to get out of bed and back our van about 50 feet into the open parking lot. After that, I just got dressed and tried to nap in the van seat.
At this point, we have our entire expedition team together. Frenchie, our leader, lives in New Mexico and has been traveling to Mexico his entire life. He also lead last year’s Baja trip. Tino, from California and Jeff and Wendy, who live in their RV, where part of the Baja group. We also have Gus, who is from California, but now lives in Mexico. We also have Chris who lives in Arkansas and JC, who lives near Bisbee, AZ. This gives us seven vehicles in our group. This seems like the perfect size for the expedition.
We had a great breakfast at the hotel. They served fresh tortillas, huevos, frijoles, papas and fruitas. The first activity for the day was a pottery demonstration from the Rosa Loya family. They live just over the fence from the hotel and Frenchie has known them for years.
Mata Ortiz is known around the world as the a center for pottery in the style of the ancient Mogollon pots found at the ruins in Casas Grandes. In 1976 an anthropologist worked with a local artist to create the pottery industry in Mata Ortiz. Today, many families in Mata Ortiz create pottery that is sold world-wide. The quality is quite high and prices at the US galleries can be 3 times the cost of buying it in town from the families.
We had our demonstration from the Rosa Loya family. Most of the artist specialize in just one portion of the pottery process, from mining the clay and preparing the raw materials, to creating the pots (ollas) or painting the designs. Rosa’s family does the entire process. Her son-in-law showed how he makes the thin walled ollas while Rosa demonstrated the painting of the unique designs. The designs are so delicate, that she uses a home-made brush made with a Bic pen and three hairs from her granddaughter neckline.
The designs are unique and are painted with “slip” made from different clay’s to get the appropriate color. After the ollas are formed and shaped, they are sanded and painted. Next the ollas are polished using a hard stone with soap used as a lubricant which seals in the color. The final step is to fire the ollas. If everything is not perfect, the pot may crack or even explode in the firing process. Upon firing the ollas and the painted design will change colors to give the ollas the final look.
They were very gracious in sharing their home and the process they use to make the pots. Eva wanted to buy the matrimony pot, but they did not have one completed. So, Rosa will paint the custom design, that Eva chose, and have the pot ready for us when we return through Mata Oritz in 3-4 weeks from now. The matrimony pots are unique with two spouts to signify marriage.
After our time with Rosa and her family we loaded up and drove back to Casas Grandes for gas and to visit the Paquime ruins. However, the ruins were closed, so we will visit them on the way back through the area. We were able to get gas and then started our drive south, into the mountains. We drove 40-50 miles to El Willy to camp for the night. El Willy is named after the Williams Ranch, that was started by a Mormon rancher in the late 1800s. There are only 32 families in the village, so it is quite small.
We stayed at a campground ran by Lupe and Dora, Americans from El Paso, that built the lodge and campground on the land were Dora was born. We also met Randall and Susan, who live in Tuscon, but have a home in Mata Ortiz. They are on their 205th trip to this part of Mexico. They are very informed on the history of this area and the Mexican Revolution. Randall has written a book that talks about the pottery, the settlement of the Mormon communities and the revolution. They spent some time telling us about this area of Mexico.
After setting up camp, Eva and I took a long walk through the town looking for the trail that would take us down to the river. We never found the path, but we did have a dog follow us back to camp.
It had been a very windy day, but up in the mountains at 6500’, the wind was not as strong and by sundown it had calmed down. We spent the evening around the campfire.