Back in 2001, the Ugly Otter (and his Beautiful Wife) had an opportunity to board a special chartered bus to make a pottery buying trip to the village of Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Mexico. No, we don't drive our personal cars into Mexico. Never. But, the bus trip sounded safe enough.
At this time, we lived in Sierra Vista, AZ, the home of Fort Huachuca, which was, and still is, an active Military Fort. (Fort Huachuca is the home of the famous Buffalo Soldiers). We obtained our visas at a small Mexican village right across the border from Bisbee, AZ, called Naco, Sonora, MX. This was just a few days after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Towers, in 2001. We boarded the bus, along with 4 or 5 friends we knew, and about a dozen strangers, who all had the same idea of buying pottery in Mata Ortiz. Off we went headed for Casas Grande, Mexico on route #2, where we would spend the night before going on to Mata Ortiz. The trip was thru a nice mountain range, the road was narrow, but paved, and had little traffic as we went thru a narrow pass, and on into Casas Grande.
The next morning, we proceeded on to Mata Ortiz by way of a dirt road for about 20 miles on which we had to ford a small stream with the bus. No bridge. We spent the morning visiting with the now famous Juan Quezada and his wife and other relatives. We were invited into Juan's home, and had a nice visit with those very friendly people. He gave us a demonstration of "firing" some pottery. We could not afford any of Juan's pottery, as it sold for around $25,000 dollars each and he didn't have any available anyway. He took orders, with the consent of the buyer, that it may be a year before he could deliver the item!
We did, however, manage to buy some of his sister's pottery, along with several other neighbor's pottery in this small village. We had a great time, and the villagers welcomed us and our dollars. About noon, we had to board the bus for the trip back to Sierra Vista, AZ., having enough time to make the 250 mile trip easily enough before it got too late.
About half way to the border, we were stopped by Mexican Soldiers. They had a conference with us, and told us that a gang of Banditos were waiting for our bus in that narrow pass we had come thru the day before. They told us to take another, longer route home, by way of another border crossing at Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico, just south of Columbus, New Mexico. We started toward Palomas knowing we would arrive home pretty late.
We arrived at the border crossing in Palomas a little before midnight, and found out that the crossing was closed for the night. We would have to wait, on the bus, until next morning. Or so we thought. Fortunately, one of the "strangers" in our group was the Commanding General of Fort Huachuca! We had not known who he was until now. He was traveling incognito for obvious reasons. Well, he got on a phone to someone, somewhere, and in about 10 minutes the border was open, and we were allowed to enter the U.S.! It pays to travel with a General Officer. We finally made it back to Sierra Vista around 3:00 A.M., feeling fortunate to be home and safe.
We made one other trip to Mata Ortiz, in 2007. We and a friend of ours
took a tour bus trip to Copper Canyon, way down in Mexico. On the way back
home, the bus took a side trip to Mata Ortiz. In the six years between visits,
the Village had noticeably changed for the better. Obviously, their pottery
making was helping the local economy. Which was good - the people there are
hard workers and deserved the improvements. To see our selection of this
pottery, press this link: See The Pottery
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