Buying Pots at Mata Ortiz
The following was written by Jane Hogle and Ray Talley (Talley Ho). They visited Mata Ortiz in November 2007 and boondocked near the train station while they were there.
For those unfamiliar with Mata Ortiz - It is located near Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua and can easily be reached in one day of driving from the Columbus, NM/Palomas, Chihuahua crossing. See our book Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping for more about Nuevo Casas Grandes and Mata Ortiz.
We used the flat gravel area on the south side of the former train station and had a great night. We had asked several potters about parking there, and all thought it was fine.
More comments: We happened to spend our night on a Sunday. What a hoot! Just as we finished shopping (more on that), a few cars started backing in perpendicular to the train tracks. It was 5pm. Within an hour, there were 20+ cars parked, and it was cruising night! The show went on with every car in town in the parade, until about 8:30, when the police talked to a couple of people in cars, and the traffic died down. By 9, it was totally dead. Very entertaining, and quite the look into a relatively newly prosperous town where EVERYONE drives. We enjoyed it immensely, and felt welcome. By the time it started, everyone knew we were in town and buying pots, and made us feel very welcome. When we say it was quiet, it was very quiet; no dogs, roosters, cars. The sidewalks were, literally, rolled up and put to bed while the rest of the town went to sleep.
Shopping: We went there to buy pots, obviously. We had shopped Casas Grandes 6 years ago before the road to Mata Ortiz was paved. We know how beautiful and expensive the pots are and had a budget set. Forget the budget! The pots are incredibly gorgeous and very affordable. The most expensive place, but not dramatically so, was the Juan Quezada gallery (our parking space for the night was directly across the dirt street), and the most expensive piece was only $300, but prices undoubtedly vary with the quality of pots produced. We found the quality to be quite high, but suspect that the very best pots may be saved for certain large scale "gallery" buyers (founding friends) from known tourist areas such as Puerto Vallarta. Shopping in Mata Ortiz is different than in other small towns. Probably because of their fairly new prosperity, everyone drives, no one, absolutely no one walks. As we walked out of the great ruins of Pacquime, we were accosted by a young woman and asked if we were looking for pots. She had two. Gorgeous of course, and we bought one. We had lunch and drove to Mata Ortiz. As we rolled into town, a tiny one, a girl in a blue pickup accosted us and asked if we were looking for pots. Yes, we'll park, and look, Oh no, follow me to my house! We did, and found one of the only resalers (for lack of a better term) in town. We couldn't walk the 2 blocks, had to follow her! Most of the rest of the potters drove up, parked near us, but not intrusively so, and laid out their wares outside her door. Everything from kid's stuff to some of the finest pots made in Mata Ortiz. Pricing was funny: "It's $100, but I'll take 80" and would take 60 with no hesitation. Even the Juan Quezada gallery did the same. The only place we ran into that did not negotiate prices was the gallery in the old train station. This was a true coop with each person's wares set up in their own space and priced fairly considering what we paid for other pots in homes and on the streets. We assume that since only one member of the coop was there to sell and wrap the pots, that everything went for the prices marked. Prices, surprisingly, were in dollars but pesos were just as welcome. There isn't a bank in Mata Ortiz, or a Pemex, surprising after the cruising night! We recommend Mata Ortiz highly, and fill your dreams with fabulous pots! Surprisingly, for a town that caters to tourists and is reasonably close to the border, very little English was spoken.