BRIEF HISTORY OF THE VILLAGE OF JUAN MATA ORTIZ
The village of Juan Mata Ortiz surfaced in the early
part of the 20th century as Pearson, named after its developer, American industrialist Fred S. Pearson. By 1909, it becomes the site of a lumber and railroad emporium, and home to the largest sawmill in Central America.
Historically, the area had been inhabited by indigenous people from the Pre-Columbian Paquime Civilization dating from 1150-1300 AD and home to a highly evolved pottery tradition known as Casas Grandes pottery. (Ancient pottery remains and vessels have been excavated and found by the villagers over the years, in the surrounding hills, mounds and mesas that border the village).
The development of Pearson attracted unemployed Mexicans from the surrounding regions, and Chinese immigrants from as far away as California, to work at the sawmill and on the construction of the railroad. These activities resulted in the growth of a village settlement that today numbers 300-400 families.
The outbreak of the Mexican Revolution severely disrupted the Chihuahua region, causing the sawmill to fail and the railroad to be damaged. The people of Mata Ortiz struggled to survive and turned to subsistence farming and ranching.
By 1925 the village became Juan Mata Ortiz and obtained community land grant status from the Mexican government. Many community members also excavated ancient earthenware vessels, which they sold to dealers and collectors to help supplement their meager incomes. As the caches of pre-historic earthenware vessels dried up, villagers learned to
make and copy the ancient Paquime pottery designs. With this began the birth of the modern pottery tradition in Mata Ortiz.
By the early 1970s a number of families in the village became skilled at creating and producing their own traditional, signed artisanal pottery of high quality, using and improving on the traditional technology used by the ancient Pre-Hispanic inhabitants of the region.
Today the potters of Mata Ortiz continue to expand and excel in their work receiving both national and international recognition and awards for the excellence of their fine ceramics.