Sunday, May 06, 2007

The ballad of Juan Quezada

From May17-20, I will be traveling in the province of Chihuahua in Northern Mexico with a group led by archaeologists of the Arizona State Museum. We'll be visiting the ruins at Casas Grandes – I’ve put up a picture of the aerial view of the site – and also the village of Mata Ortiz, known for its pottery (example in the picture).

The tradition of pottery in the region dates back at least to the 13th century, when the Native Americans there built the Casas Grandes structures. With the decline of this culture, however, the tradition lost its impetus. But Juan Quezada of Mata Ortiz has dramatically revitalized it in the last few decades. Nearly 40 years ago, Quezada, as a poor farm boy, found centuries-old complete pots in a cave high in the mountains. He managed to replicate these pots through a process of trial and error, which took many years. Today not only is Quezada internationally known, the village of Mata Ortiz teems with artisans who have learned pottery skills from him.

PBS Frontline has a short 7-minute documentary on Juan Quezada and other artisans of Mata Ortiz. Macarena Hernández, the reporter in the video, begins by describing the rugged terrain of Chihuahua rather romantically as the "the land of magic and myth". The general tone of the documentary is dramatic and reverential. What I do like though is the ballad that runs in the background - the ballad or corrido sung in praise of Juan Quezada. That’s what gives this post its title.

As with all the travel I do, my hope is that there will be something I can write about Casas Grandes and Mata Ortiz. But then again, nothing might come of it!


jim said...

If you seek other information about Juan Quezada and the amazing pottery of Mata Ortiz, you're invited to visit

for an overview.



Iris said...

Have fun, Hari! Bring back more stories!

Hari said...

Thanks, Iris, for dropping by! I sure will be looking for stories :)

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