…and the regular ol’ Casas Grandes…

July 22, 2010

We made it only so far down the road, before stopping in Casas Grandes to check out some of the old town scene.  While circling around the park in the center of town we were met by Spencer, who said his wife and him had seen us on the road and he wanted to personally welcome us to Casas Grandes,  hoping with his encouragement we’d take some time to explore it.  As it turns out, Spencer was quite involved with putting Mata Ortiz on the map, having purchased two of Juan Quesada’s unsigned pots in a thrift store back in 1976.  Enamored by them, he sought out to find the artist behind them, eventually finding Quesada in Mata Ortiz.  From there they became friends and Spencer helped Juan’s pottery and Juan travel throughout the world, giving pottery seminars and the likes.  Spencer took us to a compound he is renovating and showed us some of the most impressive wood work I had ever seen.  Made by a local artist, all of the tables and chairs were made from fallen timber and still held their original form in some sense.

From there we visited Paquime, a maze-like settlement of adobe structures from which Casas Grandes  (Big Houses)gets its name.  It once was the largest trading settlement in Northern Mexico before being ransacked by the Apaches, so the belief goes.  We took time, at Spencer’s recommendation, to check out the museum there as well.  I really enjoyed looking at all the jewelry made of shells and bones, so intricate and unique in their colors and antiquity.  Further along we took another detour through Colonial Juarez, a settlement of Mormons tucked away in a lush valley.  There we met Fred who was out cruising on his bike.  He gave us as impromptu tour of the area…which consisted mainly of us riding up to the highest lookout point/massive Mormon church grounds and picking some apples.  Fred’s English was excellent and it was fun to practice my very frustrating a very poor Spanish with him.  From him we got the real scoop of what it’s like to grow up in a Mormon run area, while remaining on the outside in terms of religion and culture.

It was a beautiful evening as the sun set and we camped in a field not too far from Mata Ortiz, planning on visiting the town and its potters in the morning.

One of the many roadside shrines we see along the way. Some are elaborate, towering off the ground with brightly painted bricks, while others are more simple, made only of recycled metal and stone. They are usually filled with pictures, candles and other various offerings...

The washroom in Spencer's beautifully renovated compound. We made plans that once the trip is finite in a few years, I would possibly come back here to take a bath...

One of the rooms in the compound. Notice the intricate table and wooden bowl in the center, hard carved and polished. Interestingly, the brass bed in the back may have slept both Pancho Villa and Madero at separate times...

Some pottery shards discovered by archeologists staying at the compound. They say the area is slim pickings due to years of vandalism at the sites...

A view of Paquime, the ancient maze-like adobe settlement...

Fred, our buddy who showed us around Colonial Juarez...


One Response to “…and the regular ol’ Casas Grandes…”

  1. What a time you’re having! What wonderful photos! We do hope you’ll be coming back in a couple of years for that bath. I was sorry not to see you the next day, as there was a very special sight for you to see that slipped my mind. A new little church here replicates that of the local Franciscan mission that was destroyed in the Pueblo Indian revolt of 1680. A local artist who trained in Italy and painted chapels in Italy came home to care for her aged mother, fell in love with her natal town again and decided to live here the rest of her life. Seeing the church, she volunteered to paint a wrap-around mural covering all the walls, the whole interior, with clouds, angels, saints, so that coming into the church one would have the feeling of having entered into heaven. She completed it three months ago. Now we’re thinking of chamber music concerts in that setting. Well, that will wait — but now you know you must come back. We’ll be looking down the road for you. Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy the photos on our other website (www.CenterforCasasGrandesStudies.com) made by our current artist-in-residence, Raechel Running, outstanding photographer.
    Glorious good luck to you in your travels! Please keep us on your list to follow your adventures.
    Spencer and Emalie (“Emi”) MacCallum.

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