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October 1, 2017

 

Traveling To the Village

 

Is it safe?

Spencer MacCallum, who located Juan Quezada and introduced him to the art world, has been in close touch with this area for four decades, and he and Emalie have made Casas Grandes their permanent home for the past eleven years. According to the MacCallums, there has never been in all that time a confirmed act of violence against a visitor, Mexican or American, to this region of Chihuahua, and they are skeptical of such reports from elsewhere. The MacCallums write:

 “We and other residents of the area are bewildered by the State Department and media barrage against tourism that began in 2010. It has done much harm to the local economy, and we can't fathom the motive for it. The cartel violence has very much calmed under the new administration, and the violence was always targeted; we have never had the random violence that occurs in the United States. There are indications, even, that the cartels are protective of tourists.

 “Regarding reports of U.S. citizens having been killed in the border cities, the media never give the full story. It is common all along the border for women to cross into the United States to give birth so the baby will be an American citizen. They return home, the youngster grows up culturally Mexican, gets in trouble with the cartel, and the media report the death of an ‘American citizen.’

 “We don't hesitate to drive to Palomas on the border for dental work and sometimes stay at the attractive Karina Hotel there. Whenever we fly in or out of El Paso, we take the bus to Ciudad Juárez and from there a local bus to El Paso, and vice versa.

 "To repeat, we just don't understand this State Department and media pressure against Mexico. Yes, reading the travel warnings is scary. But no one here feels visitors are in any kind of danger. That said, however, travelers should take ordinary precautions as they would in any part of the world, not leaving electronic items or luggage visible in a car, not walking alone in strange parts of a city at night, not wearing jewelry that would suggest special wealth, etc. And on returning to the United States, remember that this applies equally at home. We hear Mexicans say, ‘What? You're going north of the border? It's dangerous up there!’

 “Full disclosure: We have restored several adobes near the plaza in Casas Grandes and furnished them with local antiques. We make these available for extended-stay rentals to visitors. We are helping this town become a tourist destination.”

 For updates of any sort when planning a trip, we invite calls (520-744-2243). Or you may call the MacCallums on their El Paso line (915-261-0502), which rings in Mexico.

 

 

Calling or Writing

From the United States, call anywhere in the Casas Grandes/Mata Ortiz area by direct dialing 011-52 (for international operator and country code) followed by area code 636 and the number. Thus the Hotel Hacienda in Nuevo Casas Grandes is 011-52-636-694-1048. But note that if you are dialing to a cell phone, it requires a “1” before the area code. If you are within the local area, you need only dial the last 7 digits—unless, again, it’s a cell phone, in which case you must first dial 044-636. For an information operator in Spanish for anywhere in Mexico, dial 040.

Should your party in Mata Ortiz not have a phone, try either of the two casetas. Anyone in Mata Ortiz can be reached through a caseta. Call, ask in Spanish to speak to so-and-so, and someone will carry the message and ask you to call back in 20 minutes. If all goes well, the person you want will have given the kid five pesos for bringing the message and will be at the caseta for your second call. Caseta numbers are: at the north end of the village, in the store catycorner to the back of Juan Quezada’s house, Mari Martínez and Miguel Angel Au (voice/fax 661-7026); and Julio Mora over the arroyo in Porvenir at the south end of the village, voice (011-52) 636-661-7027.

The MacCallums (915-261-0502, sm@look.net) maintain a Mata Ortiz phone list that they will email to anyone on request. The list includes many artists who have moved to Casas Grandes (“Pueblo Viejo”) and Nuevo Casas Grandes seeking better education for their children.

When direct-dialing the other way — from Mexico to the United States — dial 00 and then proceed as if you were in the United States, beginning with 1 and the area code. This costs about 50 cents a minute by a public phone. However, many people have broadband (voice-over-Internet) service in their homes. Spencer and Emi, for example, use Voicepulse.com, which for $21 dollars a month gives them unlimited calling in the United States and Canada plus a Stateside number that rings in Mexico. So if you are staying with such a person, you can call home at no cost.

Cyber cafes are plentiful in Nuevo Casas Grandes, and Casas Grandes (“Pueblo Viejo”) has a good one that charges $15 pesos/hour. Entering town on the newly one-way street, turn right onto Flores Magón (fifth cross street) and go two blocks to Callejón Lopez Mateos. On the near, right corner, María Dolores Lara’s Internet Espacio (voice/fax 636-692-4143) is open weekdays 9-7pm, closed Sundays. She’s very service-oriented.

Postal service in Mexico is slow and not altogether reliable. Don’t send checks in the mail. That said, any potter in the village can be addressed at: Domicilio Conocido, Juan Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua 31861, Mexico. Visitors for an extended period of time often receive mail by opening an account with Mail Forwarding (575-546-7456) at 713 W. Spruce Street, Deming NM 88030. Another option is to open a U.S. Post Office Box in Columbus on the border, 30 miles closer. The MacCallums use Deming, however, because with a phone call they can authorize friends who are passing through Deming to bring their mail to them, and the U.S. Post Office doesn’t give that option.

Wiring funds to Mexico. There are many services for wiring funds for pick-up in Mexico. One of the best  is XOOM.com (https://www.xoom.com/mexico/how-it-works). Sending as much as $3,000 USD costs about $5. Give the reference number to the recipient; that and an ID will enable her or him to pick up the funds at Banorte (636-694-6426), one of Mexico’s principal banks, on the SE corner of the main plaza in Nuevo Casas Grandes. Banorte receives funds from many different wire companies.

 

Getting to Nuevo Casas Grandes

 

        When you don’t have your own car (scroll near bottom for information on your personal vehicle):

 

Rental Car – It is generally cheaper to rent in the United States and drive into Mexico than to rent in Mexico. Many car-rental companies allow their cars to be driven 250 miles into Mexico. If you ask the national office if their cars can be driven into Mexico, they will generally say no. But policy is set by the local offices; so call the national 800 number of the rental company only to get the number of their local office in, say, Tucson or El Paso, which is often not listed. To cross the border, you will need (1) a letter from the rental company authorizing you to drive into Mexico, (2) insurance from the car company, which runs about $30 dollars/day for each day in Mexico, and (3) a vehicle permit which you will get at the border. Your name must appear exactly the same on all your documents, insurance, driver’s license, I.D., etc. So you will need two permits, visitor’s permit (visa) and vehicle permit. Federal police patrolling the highways may ask to see your vehicle permit, and not having it could mean trouble. Besides a fee of about $50 USD for the vehicle permit, you will be required to put up a $200-400 USD refundable deposit (it varies depending on the make and year of the car), which can be on your credit card. If you leave the country by the expiration date and time, your deposit will be refunded; if you are late, it may not.

 

Around 2013, the Mexican port of entries started requiring that all rental car agreements must contain the vin (vehicle identification number) of the vehicle. The vin number must be machine generated, it cannot be handwritten onto the document. Your editors are aware of at least two incidents where the travelers have not been allowed to enter Mexico with their rental vehicle due to either the lack of the vin on the rental contract or the vin had been handwritten onto the rental agreement.

 

Bus Buses operate frequently between Nuevo Casas Grandes and the three main ports of entry (El Paso TX, Columbus NM, and Douglas AZ).

          From El Paso, TX: Van or taxi service is available in either direction between the El Paso Airport and the bus terminal (central autobuses) in Juárez ($65 USD for 1-3 persons). Call a day ahead (two days is better), and José Rivera (Chuma’s Tours: office 915-859-2455, Cell 915-892-1837, chumatours@yahoo.com —– “Chuma” is José’s nickname) will meet you at your flight or bus or anywhere in El Paso. He’ll stop at the border for you to get your tourist visa, which you will need to show as you board your bus at the terminal in Juárez.

Of the two bus lines in Mexico, Estrella Blanca and Omnibus Mexico, Omnibus has most connections from Juárez, and Estrella from Agua Prieta. Both have good, new equipment. Omnibus departs in either direction between Ciudad Juárez and Nuevo Casas Grandes every couple of hours or so, from 6am to 7pm. For exact departure times, call from El Paso 011-52-656-610-7297 or, from Nuevo Casas Grandes, 694-0502. The trip takes four hours and costs about $25 USD. Estrella Blanca (Ciudad Juárez 011-52-656-629-2232, NCG 636-694-0780) has only two daily runs to and from Juárez, south at 11:00am and north at 4:15pm. Fare is the same.

          If staying over in El Paso, you will find a listing of hotels near the airport with free shuttle service at:  www.airporthotelguide.com/el-paso/airport-hotels.html.

From Columbus, NM:  Except on Sundays, a public-transit bus (575-388-3180) called Corre Camino (Roadrunner) runs three times a day (Sat twice) between Deming and Columbus, going as far as the Family Dollar Store right at the border. Departing the old train station in Deming (1313 N. Country Club Road) at 6:50am, 10:15am, and 2:15pm on weekdays, it picks up passengers at Deming Washland, catty-corner from the library, at 6:53am, 10:21, and 2:21pm (call ahead and the driver will be looking for you). Returning north, it departs the Dollar Store at 8:15am, 11:20, and 3:20 pm. On Saturdays, Corre Camino departs Deming at 8:55am and 1:20pm and, returning, departs the Dollar Store at 10:15am and 2:20pm. The trip is an hour and costs $2.50 USD each way. (Note: Corre Camino also serves Silver City and Lordsburg twice daily.)

Walk across the border into Palomas, get  your tourist visa first door on your right, then turn left and walk a block east to the Omnibus station. Take the Omnibus shuttle to El Entronque (“The Junction”) 20 miles south to connect with the Omnibus from Ciudad Juárez to Nuevo Casas Grandes. The shuttle departs every hour or so, 6am-7pm. Fare is $25 pesos, and from El Entronque to Nuevo Casas Grandes is another $105 pesos.

From Douglas, AZ: Cross the border and taxi or bus to the terminal (central de autobuses) in Agua Prieta. Omnibus departs for Nuevo Casas Grandes at 10:45am, 2:15pm, 3:45, 6, 7:30 and 11:45pm, and in the reverse direction, NCG to Agua Prieta, at 7:40am, 11:45, 2pm, 8:15, 9:45 and 11pm. The trip takes four hours and costs about $25 USD. From Douglas dial (011-52) 633-122-2175, from Nuevo Casas Grandes 694-0502. Estrella Blanca departs NCG for Agua Prieta at 7am, 8, 10, 11, 12, 1:30, 5:30pm, and four night runs. It departs Agua Prieta for NCG at 8am, 8:15, 10:20, 10:30, 11:10, 11:26, 1:15, 4:45pm, and three night runs. The trip is four hours and costs about $25 dollars, same as Omnibus. From Douglas phone (011-52) 633-338-8542, from Nuevo Casas Grandes 694-0780. 

 

Shuttle Van Several shuttle-van companies operate daily between Nuevo Casas Grandes and Phoenix or Albuquerque, with less frequent connections to other cities such as Salt Lake City and Denver. Some pick up and deliver door-to-door. Reserve the van a day or two ahead and be prepared for possibly having to speak in Spanish. Vans don’t serve El Paso, since that would conflict with regularly scheduled bus service; so when flying in or out of El Paso, take city transit or a cab between the airport and the bus terminal in Ciudad Juárez, as described above. But when flying in or out of Phoenix, we overnight there and have the van pick us up about 6:30am. The trip is reasonably priced and takes a little over eight hours. Some hotels near the Phoenix airport are listed at:

www.hotels-rates.com/hotels/locations/Phoenix/AZ/usa/147/

·         Transportes Quezada & Son.  Tucson or Phoenix for $60 dollars, pick-up and delivery door-to-door. In Nuevo Casas Grandes call 694-0151; in Phoenix, call 623-937-9650. The NCG office is at Calle 3 de Junio #906 between Galeana and Carranza in Barrio Villahermosa. The owner, Adán Quezada (Cell USA 623-680-4801) is at the Phoenix office at 6225 W. Cavalier, Glendale AZ 85301 (two blocks north of Bethany Home, between 61st and 63rd Avenues). Heading south, they pick up passengers in Tucson between 9:30-10:30am at the Jack-in-the-Box at Valencia and Interstate 10 (but always arrange for this ahead).

·         Transportes Lozoya. Originating in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, this daily service to Phoenix, and there connecting to Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Boise, Idaho, stops in Nuevo Casas Grandes at 10:30am and arrives in Phoenix at 6:30pm. Cost is $55 dollars. The owner, Inéz Lozoya (602-253-0843) is at the Phoenix office at 2208 N. 16th Street, between McDowell and Oak. In NCG, Transportes Lozoya stops at and departs from the Central de Autobuses (636-694-2403, open 8:30-5pm) on the east side of Libremiento Gómez Morín about four blocks north of Cinco de Mayo (Libremiento Gómez Morín is the name Tecnológico takes north of Cinco de Mayo.) In Phoenix Lozoya connects immediately with another service to Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Boise, Idaho. This service arrives daily back in Phoenix at 5am, where it connects again immediately with Lozoya for Nuevo Casas Grandes.

·         Transportes Los Hispanos.  Originating in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, this service to Deming, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Farmington and Denver stops at 10am (daily except Tuesday) in Nuevo Casas Grandes at El Chizón, on the east side of Libremiento Gómez Morín about four blocks north of Cinco de Mayo. (Libremiento Gómez Morín is the name Tecnológico takes north of Cinco de Mayo.) Deming $25 USD, Albuquerque $55, Santa Fe $60, Farmington (Fridays, arriving 10pm and returning Saturday 5am) $90, Denver (Wednesdays and Saturdays) $120. Stops in Deming (about 2pm going north and noon going south) at El Valero gas station at Yoya’s Market. For details contact the owner, Luís Gómez (505-250-4049, 505-804-2661), in Albuquerque. In Mexico contact Toño Enríquez (045-659-102-4270, 659-552-4073) or, for reservations, the chofer (659-101-2593). In Albuquerque stops and picks up at Carnicería/Tortillería Cuauhtémoc, on the corner of Fourth and Griego (or call the owner for pickup elsewhere), and in Santa Fe at Carnicería El Paisano at Cerrillos and Camino Consuelo, opposite Walmart.

·         Transportes del Valle. This service originating in Buenaventura, Chihuahua, goes north to Deming, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Denver, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, stopping in Nuevo Casas Grandes at 10:30am and arriving in Denver at 1:00am the following morning. On Tuesdays and Fridays they go south, leaving Denver at 10pm, stopping in Albuquerque about 7:30am, and arriving in Nuevo Casas Grandes at 4pm the following afternoon. They charge $35 to Deming, stopping at the Valero gas station at Yoya’s Market about 2:30 or 3pm (depending on the border crossing) on the way north and, going south, about noon.  In the United States, this company is known as Valley Transport, Inc. (720-323-7195), and in Buenaventura as Transportes del Valle (636-696-0618). Fare to Denver is $120 USD. They stop in Nuevo Casas Grandes at the Central de Autobuses (636-694-2403, open 8:30-5pm) on the east side of Libremiento Gómez Morín about four blocks north of Cinco de Mayo. (Libremiento Gómez Morín is the name Tecnológico takes north of Cinco de Mayo.) This company also offers custom excursions from Denver to Casas Grandes/Mata Ortiz.

·         Transportación Sin Fronteras. This daily service to Deming, Albuquerque and Santa Fe originates in Guerrero stopping in Nuevo Casas Grandes about 10am at Tienda Ocas (Magdalena Rosa 694-3651) in Colonia Villa Hermosa, 1100 Lopez Mateos (corner of Carranza). They arrive Albuquerque 6:30-7pm at 4401 Fourth Street, and an hour later Santa Fe at their office at 1966 Cerrillos Road. Southward, they depart Santa Fe at 7am stopping in Albuquerque an hour later, stopping at 11:45 in Deming at Burger King (and 15 minutes later at Valero gas station at Yoya’s Market), and arriving Nuevo Casas Grandes 3:30-4pm. One-way between NCG and Deming is $35 USD, Albuquerque $50 dollars, Santa Fe $55. For reservations from NCG call 694-3651; from ABQ, 505-577-3672, 505-670-0815; from Santa Fe 505-660-0828. Owner is Martín Iturralde (505-577-3672). Note: This service connects in Albuquerque on Wednesdays and Saturdays with Valley Transport (see immediately above) going to Denver (720-323-7195).

 

Private Plane  - Nuevo Casas Grandes has no scheduled air service, but its airport (codes NCG MMCG) on the northeasterly edge of the city accommodates private planes. Look for a hill east of the runway with a letter on it, and an old, unused terminal painted green with the letters ACG on the roof. Location is latitude 30.397400, longitude -107.875000. Magnetic variation 9.442 degrees E.

Two unlighted runways at 4,850 feet above sea level (ASL), are 6,075 x 65 feet (paved) and 2,350 x 95 feet (grass). The longer is blacktopped over cement and has good white markings. Runways are 310 (31) and 130 (13). Winds generally favor landing and departure on 31. The only taxiway is the turn off to the terminal. In front of the terminal is a good plane tie-down. The facility (“Pista”) is in process of being studied to improve it further. There is a large hangar where, if not occupied, your plane can be stored.

          To arrange to use the pista, call the day before to Lic. Yuriel González, Director de Securidad Pública, on his cell phone (011-52) 1-636-105-2963. Let him know the time you’ll be arriving, and he’ll meet you, inspect the plane, and review your papers. He appears quite service oriented. There may be a charge of $1,000 pesos a day.

 

TrainAMTRAK offers comfortable service three times a week between Los Angeles and El Paso, departing Los Angeles Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10pm (arriving El Paso next day at 3:10pm), and departing El Paso on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 1:47pm (arriving Los Angeles next morning at 5:35am). From Los Angeles, AMTRAK connects south to San Diego and north to San Francisco and Seattle. Rates change depending how full the train is; so reserve as early as possible for significantly lower fares. Either coach or private sleeper compartments for two are available (the latter includes meals). To travel between El Paso and Nuevo Casas Grandes, see paragraphs above. Points east include San Antonio, Houston, and Chicago. Phone AMTRAK (915-545-2247 or 1-800-USARAIL) or visit their website at www.amtrak.com.

 

Now — Getting From Nuevo

Casas Grandes to Mata Ortiz

 

  • Some of the daily shuttle vans offer door-to-door service to Casas Grandes for a small charge or, for an additional charge, to Mata Ortiz.

 

  • Taxis (called sitios) will take you to Casas Grandes (“Pueblo Viejo”) for $70 pesos to the plaza or $100 pesos to the Museum. To Mata Ortiz they charge $400 pesos one way or $650 pesos round trip, plus a sometimes negotiable $150 pesos an hour for waiting (15 minutes no charge). Three of Nuevo Casas Grandes’ six taxi stands are close by the old plaza (“la Plaza Chica”) and the old train station—which is now remodeled into an attractive cultural center for classes, exhibits, and an art/crafts store.

 

  • Vans with driver can be arranged at the following places:

 

    • Agave Lindo Tours (USA 520-838-9729, or Mex Cell 044-636-103-6004) will assist in perfect English in planning all aspects of your local visit including, if desired, arranging for a 14-person van and driver for $150 USD per day. Ask for Diana Acosta, owner.  dianahsd[at]gmail.com

 

    • Viajes American Tours, Avenida Hidalgo #601-B, Nuevo Casas Grandes (next street west of the Motel Piñon), operate a red trolley and offer a variety of moderately priced tours of the local area including Nuevo Casas Grandes, Paquimé, Colonia Juárez and Mata Ortiz. Contact Norma Delia Solis by phone (694-0111 or 694-4888), preferably in Spanish, or by email in English at americantours@paquime.com.mx   (For more details or language assistance, contact Spencer MacCallum at 636-692-4402 or sm@look.net.)

 

Attractions on the Way Down

 

Arriving from Texas, New Mexico or Colorado, the most direct place to cross is at Columbus/Palomas. This may also be the preferred route from Arizona and points west for those who wish to avoid the mountains, scenic though they are.

 

If you choose Columbus, an ideal way to enter Mexico, time allowing, is to complete all of your paperwork across the border in Palomas in the afternoon or evening, overnight there at the Hotel Karina (011-52-656-666-0895) or, returning to Columbus, at Martha’s Bed & Breakfast (575-531-2467, involves stairs); the Hacienda de Villa Motel (575-531-1000); or the RV facility at Pancho Villa State Park (575-531-2711), and in the morning get an early start west along the American side of the border to Hachita and from there south to the crossing at Antelope Wells/Berrendo. Mexican vehicle permits are not issued here, but you will already have yours from Palomas. This is 60 miles longer, but absolutely no traffic, great scenery, and good roads. (An eight-mile, unpaved stretch on the Mexican side from Antelope Wells is excellent in dry weather but becomes somewhat muddy when it rains.) Some who have managed to get on the road by, say, 6:30am report sighting a variety of wildlife. Possibilities include eagles and other birds, several kinds of hawks, javelinas, two kinds of antelope, coyotes, foxes, prairie dogs, badgers and, if lucky, a mountain lion.

 

If your schedule doesn’t allow the diversion to Antelope Wells and you cross at Palomas, you will have an easy two-and-a-half hours to Nuevo Casas Grandes and, by driving straight through with no turns, to Casas Grandes. The mileages are:

 

Palomas -> El Entronque                   21

El Entronque -> Ascensión                36

Ascensión -> Janos                            20

Janos -> Casas Grandes          40     Total 117 miles

 

COLUMBUS, NM  features the Pancho Villa State Park with 65 RV spaces, tenting sites, two comfort stations with hot showers, and a first-rate exhibit hall (9-4pm daily, admission $5 dollars per vehicle) filled with vintage vehicles and military artifacts from the 1916 era of Pancho Villa's attack on Camp Furlong and the village of Columbus. Contact John Read (575-531-2711), Park Manager, Pancho Villa State Park, Highway 9 and Highway 11, Columbus, NM 88029.

 

 On crossing the border into Palomas and completing your paperwork (visitor’s permit and vehicle permit), celebrate (if you are not the driver) with a frozen Margarita at The Pink Store. The Pink Store (866-474-4299, pinkstoremexico[at]gmail.com), one block in on the left, offers an exceptional setting and one of the best selections of Mexican crafts in northern Mexico.

 

 Across from the Pink Store, note a dramatic, large bronze statue of Pancho Villa charging on horseback. Supposedly the statue was first placed facing north, but Americans objected. Then it faced south, but Mexicans objected. So today it faces east.

 

 Twenty miles farther, at El Entronque (The Junction), you will come to a T and should turn right onto the Juárez highway, so named because it runs from Ciudad Juárez to Colonia Juárez, the Mormon colony ten miles beyond Casas Grandes. El Entronque is a truck stop with many small restaurants. If a bit hungry at this point, all are good for such as gorditas and burritos.

 

 Another 36 miles brings you to ASCENSIÓN, then 20 more miles to JANOS, once the Spanish-Colonial administrative center for the region. On the left before entering town, at Km 200, stop at Rancho La Guadalupana for a tour of the Don Cuco Sotol distillery in the geodesic-dome structure next door. Sotol is the traditional drink of Chihuahua, just now becoming popular in the United States. Owner Celso Jáquez (Cell 636-111-8807), bilingual and a good friend of ours, will welcome you. Hotel Janos (636-693-5180), next on the same side and also Celso’s, is recommended as well. A couple of blocks off to the right after passing the junction to Agua Prieta/Douglas AZ is a mission church, Misión de Nuestra Seňora de la Soledad de los Indios Janos, built in 1580, destroyed in 1680 during the Great Pueblo Revolt, reestablished in 1717, and now being restored. This is a recommended stop. The original Spanish archives dating from 1717 are preserved in the Salón de Actos nearby. They contain a treasure trove of as-yet-unanalyzed historical data

 

Twelve miles south of Janos, you can turn left (east) and proceed some ten miles on an unpaved road to visit the Mennonite settlement of CAPULÍN along the Casas Grandes River. Mennonite cheese is famous throughout Mexico. Here you can see it being made. Two cheese factories (queserías) are open Mon-Sat 9-2pm, although the cheese-making itself is over by 10am. You can buy the cheese by the brick or by the wheel. But note that U.S. Customs limits importation to two bricks or one wheel per person. If wrapped in paper so it can breathe, it keeps for days without refrigeration.

 

A book by Ron Bridgemon et al, The Magnetism of Mata Ortiz, contains a guide to interesting sights from Janos to Mata Ortiz and westward to the Cueva de la Olla and the Sierra Madres. The guide also contains the cultural history of local inhabitants as well as a history of the Mexican Revolution in the region. The definitive history of the Mata Ortiz pottery phenomenon is Walter P. Parks’ The Miracle of Mata Ortiz (2nd edition 2013). These two books are the classic books on the area.

 

NUEVO CASAS GRANDES locally called “Nuevo.”

 

·         Nuevo boasts one very good Mata Ortiz ceramics gallery, operated by Manuel Hernández Villalobos (Cell 044-636-107-0082). Manuel offers a good selection at reasonable prices, and many traders buy from him. Immediately on entering the city, look for his sign on the right, across from the Hotel Trébol and before the Algremi Restaurant. Turn right (10th Street) and then into the driveway of the second house on the right.  mata_ortiz_pottery(at)msn.com

 

·         Farther in town on the right, at the Hotel Hacienda, the city’s major hotel, the jewelry shop El Castillo de los Cuarzos (Quartz Castle — 694-9670) carries tasteful silver jewelry made in Taxco by the local Barrera brothers incorporating attractive shards of Mata Ortiz pottery that did not survive the firing.

 

·         Friends (107-0057), across from the Chevrolet agency at 1600 Avenida Juárez, the street you are on, is the newest hit in town. It’s the place to be for the younger set, with more than 20 flavors of Italian gelato ice cream prepared on-site, striking décor, and plenty of tables for families to enjoy pizza and visiting while the teens hang out with billiards and other games. Incidentally, the best hamburgers in the area are at Mc’s in the next block south.

 

·          Also don’t overlook the ice creams, fruit drinks, and fruit-ice-on-a-stick at any of several La Reina de Michoacán stores, one of which you’ll pass on the southeast corner of the main plaza. They are clean, safe, and decidedly a treat.

 

·         Some visitors will enjoy a peek into the enormous brick oven where pan dulces are baked in the traditional way, put in and retrieved on a long wooden paddle, at the Panadería La Guadalupana, 813 Avenida Hidalgo, one block west of the Motel Piñón and half-a-block north. The oldest bakery in town, it was founded 70 years ago by the father of the present owner, Luís Antonio Rodríguez Salgado. From more than 50 varieties of pan dulce, select your favorites to take back to your hotel to enjoy with coffee or traditional Mexican hot chocolate.

 

·         Turn left (east) at the south side of the main plaza and go five blocks on Cinco de Mayo, the town’s main business street, to find on your left the new Alsuper store. Alsuper is a new and unbelievable supermarket with every imaginable kind of product and produce. And El Pollo Feliz, next door, serves tasty chicken.

 

·         Birders may want to visit Laguna Fierro, a large, man-made lake developed more than a century ago by the Mormons, that attracts aquatic birds. Continue east on Cinco de Mayo to the last stoplight, then two blocks south on Tecnológico to Calle 2 de Abril, where you’ll see a sign. Go left (east) for about three miles to the lake. In late November, white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) sometimes arrive with the annual Canada Geese migration and stay several weeks. A flock of iridescent Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) visited last year, and there are many smaller birds.

 

·         Back to the main plaza and continuing south on Avenida Juárez, a curiosidades shop at #14 on the left, almost at the end of the first block, is worth a look for its hundreds of miscellaneous small craft items intended for a Mexican clientele. Outside it says Cerrajería, because they also make keys.

 

·         Old-fashioned oilcloth in bright colors, now scarce and costly when it can be found at all in the United States, is sold at Madrigal de la Luz. Turn left (east) on 16 de septiembre after the curiosidades shop and go to the end of the block on your right. Spanish for oilcloth is hule [oó-lay]. Also look at their intriguing miniatures of traditional kitchen items used in making corsages for bridal showers.

 

·         Farther east, across the tracks, is the old plaza, and on the right, the old train station which has been redeveloped into a cultural center. Here the Casa de Artesanías, (694-0050 Ext 199) exhibits and sells crafts and paintings by local artists. (Weekdays 9-3 and 4-5, Saturdays 9-3)

 

·          Passing the old plaza, on the right, is a traditional saddlemaker, Talabartería El Ranchero, open 9-7 daily. He makes more than just saddles. He does everything in leather. Would you like a quality leather watch band, bag, wallet, belt? This is where to go; he’ll make one for you, any color, within the day.

 

·          Getting back again onto Avenida Juárez, heading south, as you pass the Pemex on the edge of town towards Casas Grandes, La Teporaka (694-5558), marked by a large standing figure of an Indian, carries a selection of regional crafts including Tarahumara drums.

 

·         A bit farther, on your left, you will see along the old train tracks a highly popular, tree-lined, 1.2-mile jogging path with parking at the near end.

 

·         Two open-air markets are held Saturday morning and one on Sunday. Although such markets in this part of Mexico are weak on arts and crafts, they are well recommended for people-watching. Vendors start setting up about 5am and are ready for business by 7. On any Saturday, go east from Avenida Tecnológico on Avenida Carranza, which is marked by a planted median. Turn right at the fourth street beyond the end of the median and go two blocks south to the Plaza de la Reforma (this is the smaller of the three markets).

The other Saturday market is not far away. Follow Carranza back to Tecnológico, go south one light to Zapata and then one more street to Victoria (unfortunately it’s not marked) at the corner of the Francisco Villa Preparatory School, then a block west to the large, bustling market on the Plaza Deportiva.

The third and largest market is Sunday morning. Go as if you were going to the Plaza de la Reforma, above. On your right, several blocks before the planted median of Carranza ends, you will see the Plaza de la Villahermosa. This market is specially noted for colorful fruit concoctions, elotes (corn on the cob), and other regional street foods. Such foods are generally quite safe to eat, as is also tap water to drink. The famous Mexican stomach upsets are usually encountered in central, southern, and coastal Mexico, not in this northern plateau country, which is much like the American Southwest in that regard. 

 

CASAS GRANDES (Est. 1661) Three miles beyond Nuevo Casas Grandes, locally called “El Pueblo Viejo”—or just the “El Pueblo.

 

·         Casas Grandes is the home of Spencer and Emi MacCallum, who founded this web site and are generous with their knowledge about the area. All traffic enters the pueblo westward on a one-way street (an innovation that hopefully will change). The second stop sign is Avenida Victoria, and the MacCallums are on the far left corner of the intersection. Their block juts five feet into the street you are on, narrowing it accordingly; so from the left-hand lane you cross directly into their drive. The house is marked by some large pines behind a long, vine-covered fence. Stop and say hello. Spencer and Emi will enjoy giving you some orientation to the region.

 

·         Attractions in El Pueblo include most prominently the prehistoric ruins of Paquimé (1200-1450 AD), once the largest and most complex community in the Puebloan world, and the adjacent Museum of Northern Cultures (692-4140), one of the best archaeological-site museums in North America. Designed by Mario Schetinan, the museum has won international prizes for its harmonious integration with the site. It is also a cultural center and hosts many art shows, concerts and other cultural events. To reach the Museum, turn left (south) on Allende, the fourth cross-street as you enter town (next street after the MacCallums’) and drive to the end. Admission to the Museum and the ruins is $57 pesos, children free. Hours 10-5pm, closed Mondays.

 

·         Outside the outer entrance to the Museum is a shop, Artesanías Típicas de Paquimé, run by Lupe Ontiveros and his wife, Flor Olivas (daughter of the late, well-known potter Manuel Olivas), offering less expensive pottery, some of it with designs more reminiscent of the archaeological patterns of Paquimé.

 

·         In the near neighborhood of the Museum is the Galería de las Guacamayas. Salmon colored with a distinctive key-hole-shaped door, it is visible in the distance to the left as you exit the Museum outer gate. This is a bed-and-breakfast by reservation, art gallery by appointment, and home of Mayté Luján. Constructed using the same rammed-earth building method as the prehistoric ruins, this gallery has the best selection anywhere of high-end Mata Ortiz pottery. Serious collectors contact Mayté Luján at 636-692-4144.  maytelujan[at]msn.com

 

·         The town plaza features in the portico of the Presidencia a fine mural by Mexican artist Alonso Enríques depicting the life of Paquimé 700 years ago. There are also on the plaza some shops vending local crafts, and a bootmaker. Artesanías Pueblo Viejo on the northeast corner  is famous for its large glass container of sotol (Chihuahua’s traditional tequila-like drink) with a huge rattlesnake coiled in it. At a dollar a drink, it is said to have curative powers for anything that ails you.

 

·         Casas Grandes has good restaurants (all closed Mondays as is the Museum) either on the plaza or an easy walk. Mar y Sol on the plaza offers ice creams, hamburgers, tacos, and burritos, etc (try their chile-relleno burrito!). Nuestra Casa (692-4062), two blocks west in the direction of Mata Ortiz, is open 8-4pm and offers good service and regional food (they’ll open for breakfast at 7am if asked the day before). Three blocks farther on the left is La Finca de Don Cruz (692-4343). Yellow and surrounded by green pines, it has not only good cuisine, but an attractive large, private meeting room.

 

·         Near the plaza, the MacCallums have restored several historic adobes and furnished them with local antiques as part of an effort to conserve some of the old aspect of the town. To help carry the project, they offer extended-stay rentals and sometimes accommodate shorter-term guests. One house, La Casa del Nopal, resembles a small hacienda. With wireless Internet, library/lecture room, and overflow space nearby, it lends itself to small business retreats, academic conferences, and workshops. Another of the adobes has a large, semi-subterranean, secret room from the mid-nineteenth century, built to hide women and children when the Apaches attacked. Each of these old adobes gives a bit of the feeling of walking into the nineteenth century, and someone usually can give a free, informal tour. Call Spencer and Emi on their El Paso line (915-261-0502) which rings in Mexico, or on their local line (636-692-4402), or email them at sm[at]look.net.

 

·         Three miles north of the pueblo is the Ojo Vareleño. This is an attractively landscaped private park, rustic French in feeling, with picnic facilities and a series of four swimming pools and a wading pool set among hundreds of shade trees. The source of water is a warm artesian spring that in prehistoric times supplied Paquimé and later the Franciscan mission, and today irrigates the plaza and gardens in the older part of the pueblo. The park is open from 9 to dark daily except Monday, from Easter week (Semana Santa) through mid-to-late September, and is highly recommended. Family oriented, beer only. $30 pesos per person admission. Some RV dry-camping with electrical connection is available. The proprietor, Antonio Varela (694-5608, Cell 044-636-699-5948), is at the site.

To get there, turn right at the second stop on entering the Pueblo from Nuevo Casas Grandes (the MacCallum’s house is on that corner). Proceed 1.5 miles on Avenida Victoria, then left on an unpaved road another 1.5 miles to the end. This large property of eight hundred acres (privado, not ejido) and including the spring is for sale, incidentally, and offers unique development possibilities.

 

·         Still farther north on Avenida Victoria, another mile beyond the point of turning off to go to the Ojo Vareleño and just visible off to your right, is the adobe ruin of the Convento San Antonio de Padua. This Spanish Franciscan mission was built in 1663 but was destroyed soon after in the Pueblo Indian revolt of 1680. A replica of the mission church (see three paragraphs below) with wonderful murals covering all of the interior is well worth a visit, especially with the ruin freshly in mind.

 

·         Returning to the old church plaza in the center of town, take Calle Libertad south from the fountain three miles (turning right at the little church about half way there) to the renovated Hacienda El Refugio. The Hacienda is owned by Robert Whetten (695-0099), who generally gives permission to visit. If unable to reach him, Manuel, the caretaker, may show you through. (Beep your car horn and ring the bell at the entrance gate, and be sure to tip him for his trouble). The entrance gate alone is worth the trip. Built in Spanish Colonial style, it is remarkable for its massive walls, inside of which is a stairwell leading up to a bell and an ancient stone sundial.

Note that a few blocks after you turned south at the fountain, Calle Libertad angled into Calle Ojinaga. This was a part of the historic Inland Camino Real system from Mexico City to what is now Taos, New Mexico. The Camino Real split at Chihuahua City to connect with Casas Grandes, the mission of San Antonio de Padua, and Janos, the Spanish administrative center, before joining up again at El Paso.

 

·         From the south side of the main plaza, now go west two blocks and then right a block in order to turn west again on the main road in the direction of Mata Ortiz. (This maneuvering is because of a new, one-way street pattern in town.) You will shortly see on your left the yellow La finca de don Cruz Restaurant surrounded by pines. A couple of blocks farther on and across the street is a large, new building set back a hundred feet from the highway. This is the jewelry and lapidary workshop of Armando Designs (692-9970, Cell 044-636-699-0747). Here the Barrera brothers cut and polish local semi-precious stones and sell their own and Mata Ortiz jewelry. Visitors are welcome to tour the workshop Mon-Fri 7-4pm and Saturday 7-noon, closed Sunday. Groups of ten or more can call a day ahead for a special set-up and demonstration. Recommended.

 

·         Across the highway from Armando Designs, drive several blocks south on an unpaved street to a large, new plaza/recreational park and  Catholic church, La Iglesia de Nuestro Señor de la Divina Misericordia (Church of Our Lord of Divine Mercy). This replicates the 17th-century church of the ruined Convento San Antonio de Padua north of the pueblo and shows Chihuahua’s original style of church architecture in the tradition of the adobe churches of New Mexico with their long, narrow nave. (The reason for the long, narrow nave is that the builders were limited by the trees they could get to span it, and then, to accommodate enough people, they had to lengthen it.) Over all the interior of the church is a remarkable, wrap-around mural by a local artist, Grisel Ortiz, who trained in Italy and painted chapels there. This church is highly recommended. Call the MacCallums on their El Paso line (915-261-0502) which rings in Mexico, or locally at 692-4402, as they have a key from the padre and are always glad to show this artwork to visitors.

 

·         Returning to the highway and continuing west, two galleries are worth visiting before leaving town. Both offer pottery-making classes and free demonstrations by appointment. Look on the left (south) side of the highway for the Domínguez Gallery (692-4609), a green house marked by tall cedars along a white fence. Here master potters César and Gaby Domínguez show their work and that of other Mata Ortiz artists. They also offer classes in all aspects of pottery making. A block farther on the left, almost the last structure as you leave town, next to a bright yellow store and marked by a sign, is the Casa de Ollas (692-4042), home of the late Manuel Olivas family of potters. This gallery features lower-cost yet often quite attractive pottery, some of it of a more archaeological style reminiscent of Paquimé.

 

·         A number of excellent pottery artists moved from Mata Ortiz to Casas Grandes for better education for their children. These include César and Gaby Domínguez (692-4609) just mentioned; the late Nicolás Quezada’s sons José (636-100-7859) and Leonel (636-101-7546); Jesús Antonio Núñez, son Javier and daughter Lourdes (692-4331), two blocks west of the church of La Divina Misericordia and then half a block right (north), marked by a spherical water tank ingeniously painted like a Mata Ortiz pot; and Elí and César Navarrete (Cell 044-636-115-4518), on the right side of Avenida Victoria opposite the Abarrotes Mayra grocery store, 1.1 miles north of the MacCallums’ house at the second stop sign on entering town from Nuevo Casas Grandes

 

·         Local industry: Some may like to see people of this area making sun-dried adobes as a cottage industry or firing soft brick in adobe kilns; fish farming; turkey ranching (one of the largest operations in North America); cheese making; growing and packing apples and peaches; raising hydroponic tomatoes; growing 70% of the chilis sold in Hatch, New Mexico, touted as the chili capital of the world; making saddles and boots; working semi-precious stone and crafting silver jewelry; building furniture; etc. For information, contact the MacCallums on their El Paso line (915-261-0502) which rings in Mexico or, locally, at 692-4402, or by email at sm[at]look.net.

 

·         Teresita González Batista, a Tarahumara (Rarámuri) Indian and mother of three, lives and works in Casas Grandes so that her children will get a better education. She will create a traditional Tarahumara woman’s outfit for a child or adult. Let Teresita take you shopping to Nuevo Casas Grandes to pick out your flowered material, and she’ll measure you and produce an outfit in a day or two. Contact the MacCallums on their El Paso line (915-261-0502) which rings in Mexico or, locally, at 692-4402, or by email at sm[at]look.net.

 

·         Driving beyond Casas Grandes toward Mata Ortiz, anyone interested in fine wood art in natural forms in the genre of George Nakashima should not miss a visit to Roberto Hernández’ workshop (cell 636-114-5530) in Colonia Cuauhtémoc. Spencer MacCallum calls Roberto, who was mentored by the late renowned Sam Maloof on several visits to Mata Ortiz, the “Juan Quezada of wood.” From kilometer marker 17 on the Mata Ortiz road, set your odometer and take the paved road that angles back toward Colonia Juárez. At one mile, turn right onto a dirt road and go about a quarter-mile to the end. The last house on the right is Roberto’s workshop, El Nogal Negro (black walnut). Emi MacCallum used a small inheitance from her mother to assemble two years of Roberto’s best work for a one-man show at the Museum at Paquimé in Casas Grandes. The show was a knockout. The MacCallums now display many of these pieces at La Casa del Nopal. A DVD video produced by Ron Bridgemon, Jr. showing Roberto at work (see videos on Mata Ortiz listed at the end of the section “Publications”).

 

Regaining the road to Mata Ortiz and continuing another mile and a half, turn left onto a paved road to the historic Hacienda de San Diego, just visible in the distance. If you arrange ahead (Cell 044-044-636-117-2291), the bilingual Acosta family occupying and stabilizing this historic hacienda will serve groups a meal for $10 USD per person in the ballroom or large kitchen. Sara Ramírez de Acosta is famous for her desserts and provides cooking classes at the Hacienda. A daughter, Diana, entrepreneur extraordinaire, arranges tours and guides groups throughout the area (Agave Lindo Tours, USA 520-838-9729, Local Cell 636-103-6004, dianahsd[at]gmail.com). Add a dollar per person to the meal and enjoy a tour of this historic hacienda, one of 23 in Chihuahua once owned by Luís Terrazas, then one of the wealthiest men in the world. Francisco I. Madero was proclaimed president of Mexico here, and Pancho Villa for a time made it his headquarters. 

 

MATA ORTIZ at Last

 

People often make their first trip to Mata Ortiz for the art pottery — then return often as possible for the friends they find they have made. For the pottery, a strategy on your first trip is just to walk around the village and let things happen. People will offer you pottery in the streets and invite you into their homes to see other pieces or perhaps to see their methods of forming, painting, or firing pottery. Most potters show their work in their home, but several galleries display a variety of potters’ work. A good way to start is by visiting the galleries, say, of Jorge Quintana or Mauro Quezada. Take time to study the styles, make note of a pot that particularly speaks to you, ask someone where that person lives, and you’re on your way. The rest of the day will just happen. Here are some of the main galleries:

 

Jorge Quintana’s store and gallery has fine pottery, Oaxaca weavings and other Mexican crafts—and bathrooms. Make the last left turn before the end of the paved highway on entering town, and it will be the equivalent of two blocks on your right.

 

Juan Quezada’s home and gallery across from the old train station is identified by a large sign.

 

Mauro Quezada’s home and gallery: From Juan’s house, take the street toward the river as far as it will go and turn right. Mauro and wife Martha’s is the second house on the left, with an attractive iron fence right after Juan’s elder sister Consolación Quezada’s house with two tall pines. They always have a good selection of artists’ work, moderately priced.

 

Galería Lila Silveira in Porvenir, the southernmost barrio of Mata Ortiz across the arroyo, is worth a visit. The Silveiras, who studied with Juan Quezada, carry pots by others without mark-up as a help to the neighborhood. Find them by taking the slant road to the right beyond Macario Ortiz’ two-story house.

 

Returning from Mata Ortiz, turn left where you earlier may have turned to go to Roberto Hernandez’ workshop, and drive through the historic Mormon colony of Colonia Juárez, birthplace of George Romney, governor of Michigan and 1968 United States presidential candidate. If hungry at this point, the Chila-kill Restaurant (ask anyone where it is; most people speak English) offers the best food in town. Besides the beautifully sited new Mormon temple, one of 12 in Mexico, points of interest include the Academia Juárez, a church-owned, bilingual and bicultural prep school founded in 1897 whose reputation draws students from as far away as Mexico City and Salt Lake City; a restored meeting house north of the one-way bridge soon to open to the public as a museum of Mormon history; and the Club de Golf Moctezuma, a golf course with two water traps and perfectly kept greens. The Club is open to the public year-round and asks only a $10 dollar green fee (call John Hatch on his USA line (480-704-4596) which rings in Mexico or, locally, at 695-0111). Philip Taylor (695-0149) and John Hatch are available to give informative talks to tour groups on the Mormon colonies in Mexico.

 

Other Places to Visit

 

·      La Cueva de la Olla, a cliff-dwelling site named for its large, wattle-and-daub granary shaped somewhat like a pot, is a popular excursion into the Sierras west of Mata Ortiz. Be sure to allow time to visit other small sites in the immediate vicinity. Recommended not only for its archaeology but for the natural beauty of the area. Not recommended without a guide. Contact Diana Acosta (US: 520-838-9729 or Cell 636-103-6004, dianahsd[at]gmail.com), Agave Lindo Tours.

 

·         Temazcal - Just before the town of Madero, about eight miles from Casas Grandes, is an attractive complex of Aztec-style steam baths (capacity 10-15 persons), mud baths, massage, swimming pools, and camping facilities consisting of a large tipi ($300 pesos/night) and cabaña ($450 pesos/night). The entire complex is available for $2500 pesos/day. Pools open 9am-7pm daily, other facilities by appointment. To reach Madero from Casas Grandes, go as if you were going to Nuevo Casas Grandes, but instead of rounding the big curve to the north, continue straight (east) and cross the tracks. After 5.2 miles, look for a small sign on the right, just one mile before rounding the curve into Madero. Contact Francisco Javier Soto, owner (Cell 044-636-100-7027, fjavier_98@yahoo.com).  

 

·         Also near Madero is the most important rock-art site in the region, Arroyo de los Monos. This is a half-day excursion and involves an easy hike. A high-clearance vehicle is advisable. For $5 USD per person, the owners will guide you to the site or arrange for someone to do so. Contact Claudia García (Cell 636-102-7041) at Calle Principal #410 in Madero, a green house in the third block of the main street, on the left side.

 

Staying Over in the Area

 

Nuevo Casas Grandes

 

Besides the many hotels in Nuevo Casas Grandes, a city of some 70,000 population, good accommodations are available in Casas Grandes (“Pueblo Viejo”), Colonia Juárez, and Mata Ortiz. Listed in the order in which you come to them on entering Nuevo Casas Grandes are:

 

Hotel Trébol Inn  694-7889, first on the left and the newest in town

Motel Casas Grandes  694-4844, a bit farther on the right

Hotel Hacienda 694-1048, the city’s most luxurious digs

Hotel Villa Colonial 694-3520; turn left (east) two blocks before the        Hotel Piñón and cross the tracks

Hotel Piñón 694-0655, on the right a few blocks before the plaza,   traditionally the archaeologists’ digs

Hotel Paquimé 694-4620, on your right, first block before the plaza

Hotel California 694-1110, a block east of the main plaza, fronting

the tracks, a traditional Mexican commercial hotel

 

RV parking:

 

Pistoleros Restaurant is not an RV park but a restaurant with a large parking yard, walled and with a night security guard, that can accommodate up to 30 or 40 caravanning RVs. RVers are welcome to dry-camp here without charge. Just after the Pemex station as you exit Nuevo Casas Grandes towards Casas Grandes, look for the Pistoleros sign and turn right (west) a quarter mile on an unpaved road. Good steaks, interesting Old-West decor, and some of their greens are organic, raised hydroponically on the site. Contact David Baca (694-2964), owner.

 

Ojo Vareleño in the old pueblo of Casas Grandes (see description earlier) is an attractive RV option for dry camping from Semana Santa (Easter Week) through late September. Contact Antonio Varela (636-694-5608, Cell 044-636-699-5948, Spanish), proprietor.

 

Among many good places to eat in Nuevo Casas Grandes are the following, again as you enter town from the north:

 

 

Málmedy (Cells 044-636-121-9751, 112-7246) Belgian cuisine, on

your right, across from and beyond the Pemex station, a brick Victorian house with gingerbread porch and garden. Best to call ahead, and they'll prepare something delightful. (1-9pm, closed Tuesdays). Alvin Gentges, owner

El Rincón Oriental (Cell 044-636-104-0284), a popular sushi cafe

across from the Motel Casas Grandes (12 - 8:30pm, closed

Mondays).

Cielito Lindo (694-6846) an intimate, attractive restaurant next to

the Motel Piñón.

Nutrivida (694-8750) behind the Motel Piñón at 609 Hidalgo

is a delightful vegetarian restaurant for light meals.

Highly recommended. Your hostess will be Esther Carrillo.

Constantino’s (694-1005) Traditional with the archaeologists, a

landmark on the northeast corner of the main plaza blending Mexican and Greek cuisine.

Dinno’s  (694-3554) nearby at Av. Obregón and Jesús Urueta.

Good food and service, popular with the Mennonites

Los Pistoleros  (694-2964) Look for their sign on the right beyond the

Pemex as you exit Nuevo Casas Grandes south. Old-Western décor, steaks, and some of their vegetables are organic, raised hydroponically on the site. They also accommodate RV overnighters (dry camping) as a courtesy.

 

 

 

Casas Grandes (“Pueblo Viejo”)

 

·          LAS GUACAMAYAS ("The Macaws") near the Museo de las Culturas del Norte (Museum of Northern Cultures), a bed-and-breakfast and fine-arts gallery, offers fourteen units for $50 dollars single and $20 each additional person. Owner Mayté Luján's dining room, La Tertulia (the word means a gathering of friends for conversation and recreation), is open to guests for breakfast from 8am. WiFi is available to guests. Mayté offers in her gallery a premier selection of high-end Mata Ortiz pottery. This is an artsy place to stay. Make arrangements directly with Mayté in English at 011-52-636-692-4144 or by email at maytelujan[at]msn.com  www.MataOrtizOllas.com

 

·         PUEBLO VIEJO COURTYARDS offers “the adobe experience” — accommodations in several restored, historic adobes near the plaza, furnished with local antiques. Guests here find respite from telephone and TV but enjoy WiFi; so, bring your laptop. Extended-stay rentals from $200 USD/week and $300 USD/month. Units are equipped for light cooking and some have full kitchens. Grocery stores and good restaurants within walking distance. Ideal for small company retreats, workshops, academic conferences. The owners, Spencer and Emalie MacCallum, are knowledgeable about attractions in the area and will assist in planning your visit. Call on their USA line (915-261-0502) which rings in Mexico or locally (692-4402), or email them at sm[at]look.net. On entering the pueblo, their home is at the second stop sign on the far left corner (Avenida Victoria #420). Because at that point the block juts out five feet, narrowing the street you are on, you will cross from your left lane directly into their driveway.

 

  • HOTEL ESTANCIA UNIVERSAL (“Universal Sojourn”) on Calle Constitución immediately behind La Casa del Nopal, a block-and-a-half from the plaza in the direction of the Museum (Constitución bounds the west side of the main plaza). Budget accommodations, all new construction. Three rooms, each with refrigerator, bath, secure parking. One person to a room $250 pesos/day, two persons $300 pesos, three persons $350. Discounts for week or month. Contact José Luís Méndez (636-692-4118), owner, Hotel Estancia Universal, Calle Constitution #45, Casas Grandes, Chihuahua.

 

Colonia Juárez

 

·          MOTEL RINCÓN PARAÍSO (“Corner of Heaven”) on this side of the old, one-way bridge in Colonia Juárez. Five rooms, $30 USD/day for one or two persons. Owner can prepare meals for guests on request.  Adjacent mechanic garage is open 24 hours. Contact Ramiro and Amadita Ordaz (695-0171), Motel Rincón Paraíso, Calle Anahuac #42, Col. Juárez, Casas Grandes, Chihuahua.

 

Mata Ortiz

 

  • THE ADOBE INN in Mata Ortiz is locally known as "the hotel." Turn left exactly at the speed bump on entering town. Continue several blocks, cross a gulley, then left again. It has a garden courtyard and 15 rooms, each with two queen-size beds, private bath, and shower. $45 USD single, $75 double, includes three meals. Owned and operated by master potter Jorge Quintana and veteran trader Jerry Boyd. Make reservations in English with Jerry Boyd (562-431-9856), in Spanish with Jorge Quintana at his food market/art gallery (661-7135), or by email at reservations[at]mataortiz-adobeinn.com

 

  • CASA DE MARTA. Marta Veloz is loved by visitors for herself and for her cooking. Her inn is close to the old plaza in downtown Mata Ortiz and is noted for the personal attention she gives her guests. A visitor writes: "she is a most gracious hostess, the beds are firm, the bathrooms state-of-the-art, the whole place spotless, and the food is the best in town." Marta can accommodate up to 12 guests. $35 USD per person in a shared room or $40 alone, three meals included. For reservations phone 011-52-636-661-7132 (Spanish) or fax 636-661-7026. Faxes can be in English, as they can readily be translated. Specify number of people, date, arrival time, and return fax number. If language is a problem or further information is needed, Jeanne "Juanita" Peterson in Sonoita AZ will assist as a courtesy (520-455-5464, fax 520-455-5463, cell 520-237-3284, e-mail laughinghorseranch[at]hotmail.com).

 

  • LA KASITA. Five studio units just west of and facing the old rodeo ring, each unit with two double beds, hot water, shower, stove, refrigerator. Single occupancy $25 USD daily, $60 weekly. Double occupancy $35 daily, $100 weekly. Contact Amelia Martínez de Tena (636-661-7007, Spanish), owner, Farmacia Paquimé, Mata Ortiz.

  Note: Due to advancing age and recent widowhood, the owner is offering this property for sale. If language assistance or information is desired, Spencer MacCallum (915-261-0502 rings in Mexico or, locally, 692-4402) will assist as a courtesy.

 

  • POSADA DE LAS OLLAS, one block north of the old plaza. Five newly renovated rooms, each with its private bath, and two casitas of two bedrooms and a bath each. Centrally located near the old plaza for comfortable walking in the village. Owned and operated by Lalo and Rosa Heras, La Posada was the first inn established in Mata Ortiz when pottery-making began. $41.50 USD single, $64 double, three meals included. For reservations, contact the Heras family (636-661-7048, Spanish, anaih[at]hotmail.com) or Diana Acosta (USA 520-838-9729 or Mex 636-103-6004, English, dianahsd[at]gmail.com). If more information is desired, Ron and Sue Bridgemon (520-744-2243, Cell 520-405-8357, rbridgemon999[at]gmail.com), Tucson AZ, will assist as a courtesy.

 

  • CABAÑAS  SAN JOSÉ are three newly-constructed log cabins above the secondary school with a view of Mata Ortiz and the mountains. Completely furnished with two bedrooms, bath, living room and kitchen, ideal for weekends or extended-stay in Mata Ortiz (cleaning and/or cooking can be arranged). $80 USD a night, $250 a week. Contact Taurina Baca (Cell 636-694-3517, h.baca.tena@hotmail.com) on the river street, Mata Ortiz. Go to the river from Juan Quezada’s house and turn right; Taurina’s house is immediately on the right.

 

And where to Eat in Mata Ortiz

Immediately on leaving the paving as you come into Mata Ortiz and slightly to the right is Tortas de Nena, immaculately clean, where Armando Valles (661-7158) on Saturdays and Sundays serves breakfasts and, throughout the day, tortas, tacos, burritos, soft drinks, and hamburgers. On advance notice of as little as an hour, the Adobe Inn Hotel will prepare meals throughout the day for three or more persons (call Jorge Quintana at his gallery 661-7135). This is also true for the Posada de Las Ollas (Lalo Heras 661-7048). Also, given advance notice, Marta Veloz (661-7132) at Casa de Marta, her bed-and-breakfast near the old plaza, will prepare a good lunch (we find Marta to be one of the best cooks in Mata Ortiz). For language assistance, call Diana Acosta (cell 636-103-6004) at Agave Lindo Tours.

 

English-Speaking Guides

The following are available locally to guide and translate and are recommended. Please let us hear of your experience with anyone who has helped you in this way. The going rate is $30-$50 dollars/day or $10/hour.

 

·         DIANA ACOSTA (US: 520-838-9729 or Cell 044-636-103-6004, dianahsd[at]gmail.com), at the historic Hacienda de San Diego, is a graduate in tourism from the University of Juárez. Bilingual and knowledgeable, she owns and operates Agave Lindo Tours, located in the Hacienda de San Diego between Casas Grandes and Mata Ortiz, and arranges and/or guides trips to points of interest throughout the region.

 

·         CÉSAR DOMÍNGUEZ JR. (636-692-4609), college graduate and bilingual, son of master potters César and Gaby Domínguez in Casas Grandes (“Pueblo Viejo”). As you leave Casas Grandes toward Mata Ortiz, look for their gallery and home on your left almost at the end of the pueblo, marked by tall cedars against a white iron fence.

 

  • BILLY MARTINEAU (Cell 636-117-0585), at the corner of Anchita and Coahuila in Colonia Juárez, while not a guide for Mata Ortiz, is an experienced mule handler available for outdoor camping, horseback expeditions, mountaineering in the Sierras. Bilingual and knowledgeable about rock art, birding sites, and old and current mines from Copper Canyon northward.

 

  • ELÍAS RAMOS G. (Cell 044-636-536-7215), though not bilingual, is an outstanding guide for the Sierras and regional points of interest, of which he has many photos. He can take six passengers in his vehicle. He charges $300 pesos to guide individuals or groups for a two-to-three-hour tour of the ruins of Paquimé.

 

·         DIEGO AND CARLA VALLES (661-7137, Cells: Diego 044-636-536-4036, Carla 044-636-104-9983, diego_valles[at]yahoo.com) are bilingual, recent college graduates and among the best of the younger generation of potters. Diego recently won the Premio Nacional de la Juventud in the category of art, the nation’s highest honor to an artist under 30, and Carla took first place in her category at the annual Mata Ortiz competition of 2014. Crossing the arroyo into Barrio Porvenir, their home and studio are on the near corner of the second left-turn street.

 

 

Days of Celebration in Mata Ortiz

While traditional and colorful Matachín dances are held several times during the year, only two dates are certain: May 15 (San Ysidro) and December 12 (Virgin of Guadalupe). Performed throughout Mexico and the American Southwest, these dances date from early Spanish times and are a celebration of the conversion of the Indians to Catholicism, hence contain both Indian and Catholic themes. The costume designs are of European origin. In Mata Ortiz, Eusebio Sandoval is the monarca de la danza, who leads the dance, assisted by Octavio Silveira and Gerardo Tena. A children’s dance has also been formed, led by Felix Chavez Ortiz, Josué Navarrete Ortiz and Yerdi Ortiz. In fulfillment of a religious vow, a person may stay awake during an all-night vigil and then dance from dawn to dark, a feat of endurance.

 

FEB 5 Dia de la Constitución celebrates Mexico’s constitution.

MAR 19Día de San José, patron saint of Mata Ortiz. Matachín dancing

    likely. The church is decorated, and usually there will be a parade with

    pick-up-truck floats.

MAR 21 – Birthday of Benito Juárez.

APRIL Semana Santa is the holy week ending the 40-day Lent period and

    includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Good Friday is observed in

    Mata Ortiz with a parade winding through several barrios of the pueblo

    and ending at the church.

MAY 5Cinco de Mayo celebrates the defeat of the French army, then the

    finest in the world, at Puebla in 1862. The French later prevailed,

    however,  and in 1864 established Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico, a

    reign lasting three years.

MAY 10Dia de las Madres (Mother’s Day).

MAY 15Día de San Ysidro, patron saint of agriculture. Mass in the Capilla

    de San Ysidro on the hill, Matachín dancing.

JUN 15Día de San Antonio, patron saint of Casas Grandes. Matachín

    dancing likely and a large fair in Casas Grandes.

SEP 16Dia de Independencia. Parade in the morning to the plaza for

    coronation of queen and princesses, jaripeo (bull-riding) in the afternoon,

    and a public dance to live music in the evening at the salón de bailes,

    ending at midnight with the reenactment of the Grito (Cry) of Father

    Miguel Hidalgo that launched the 1810 revolution of independence from

    Spain.

OCT 12 Dia de la Raza celebrates Columbus’ arrival in the New World and

    the historical origins of the Mexican race. Excellent rodeo at the Hacienda

    De San Diego.

NOV 1-2Dias de los Muertos (Days of the Dead). Mata Ortiz along with

every community in Mexico celebrates the memory of loved ones with a procession to the cemetery to tend grave sites and reunite with family members, leaving flowers and favorite foods of the deceased, etc.

NOV 20Dia de la Revolución  honors Gen. Francisco I. Madero and the

    revolution overthrowing dictator Porfirio Díaz. The opening battle of the

    revolution took place in Casas Grandes. In Mata Ortiz, be at the school by

    9am to see the making of floats for the parade, which starts an hour later

    with many horses and beautiful girls and ends at the bandstand in the

    old plaza with the crowning of the Queen of the Rodeo. By 1pm, people

    are heading toward the stadium, around which the Queen rides on

    horseback, for the rodeo which lasts all afternoon. In the evening, a

    public dance at the Salon de Actos.

DEC 12Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint, following

    nine days of processions. Matachín dancing.

DEC 16Las Posadas celebrates Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in

    Bethlehem. Candlelight processions end at various nativity scenes.

DEC 25Navidad (Christmas).

 

Seasonal Weather

At about 5,200 feet, Mata Ortiz is high desert. Except for occasional chilly days, WINTER months are good for visiting; Walter Parks has encountered ideal weather in January. SPRING can be somewhat less inviting. March and April bring occasional high winds with dust in the air, while in May and early June the landscape continues brown and dry and it can be hot (though less so than in much of the American Southwest). Monsoon rains cool things a bit from late June through August and turn the world green, making SUMMER good months for visiting for those who can take some heat. Due to the monsoons and elevation, summer has few unbearably hot days, seldom exceeding 100 degrees by day and always cooling at night. FALL is optimal, from September to early November, when the weather is constant, temperatures are comfortable, and the landscape is still green from the summer rains. Find WEATHER REPORTS for the Casas Grandes region at  http://weather.yahoo.com/mexico/chihuahua/mata-ortiz-133116/

 

Shipping Pottery Home

Because many potters have no way of shipping to the United States or dealing with the arcane U.S. Customs requirements, a shipping service is needed in the area. Until then, César Domínguez (636-692-4609, doal27[at]prodigy.net.mx) in Casas Grandes and Susana Nava (636-694-2600, susypottery[at]hotmail.com) in Nuevo Casas Grandes will hand carry pottery across the border and arrange with UPS or other specified shipper to double-box and ship to you. Jorge Quintana’s gallery will ship for its own customers.

 

Last Minute Thoughts:

 

          Dollars are accepted almost everywhere, and the current exchange rate is around $12 pesos to the dollar. Should you want extra cash, any bank in Nuevo Casas Grandes has an ATM machine, and before leaving home, you might ask your banker to raise your daily ATM limit for the duration of your trip. Do not bring travelers’ checks; merchants don’t accept them, and banks won’t cash them (they’ll only accept them for deposit in your account, if you have one, and then with a hassle). However, if you are known at a casa de cambio (money exchange house) or are introduced by someone who is, they’ll cash a traveler’s check or any other check for a standard 2.5% fee. Many artists will accept a personal check if they know you. In that case, add the 2.5% that the casa de cambio will charge them for cashing it, and leave the payee line blank so that the casa de cambio can stamp its own name there.

         Tipping is 10% in local restaurants, sometimes more in a restaurant

frequented by tourists. Tip grocery-store sackers 1-2 pesos per bag, especially if they carry them out. It is customary to tip bathroom attendants (all Pemex stations have bathrooms) a couple of pesos.

          Electric current in Mexico is the same as in the United States, so all your electrical items will be usable. Using several appliances at the same time may risk blowing a fuse, however. Wireless Internet for laptops is available in many places (for example La Casa del Nopal in Casas Grandes).

          Plumbing - Mexican sewage drains are smaller than in the United States, and the concrete pipes are rough. This can cause paper blockage, especially when water pressure is low. For this reason, toilet tissue that is not unsightly is usually placed in the basket provided next to the commode.

          Night driving - Daytime driving is fine, but avoid night driving if possible. Roads are 20 percent narrower than in the United States and often lack a shoulder, which means disabled vehicles cannot get off the road. In the event of an electrical problem at night, you could suddenly encounter an unlighted truck totally stopped in your lane. Potholes, livestock, and frequent lack of painted striping add to the nighttime hazard.

          Cell phone - Check with your cellular provider prior to coming down to confirm that your cell phone is capable of roaming on GSM or 3G international networks.

          Car accident - Contact your insurance adjuster before calling the police. Avoid police involvement if you can. For a fender bender, go with the other party to a body shop (carrocería), get an estimate, and the party at fault will pay for the repairs. Body shops here generally do good work for far less than in the United States. You will also find major car dealers (Chevrolet, Dodge/Chrysler, Ford, Nissan) in Nuevo Casas Grandes. We have received reports from visitors that some Mexican insurers have been less helpful lately in resolving accident claims than they were in the past. The largest insurer in Mexico is a U.S. based company and, like many insurance companies, has been stressed by the current economy. Know your policy and persevere in your rights. Local adjusters may just be acting on orders from above to reduce costs arbitrarily, a trick not unheard of in the U.S. as well. Any claims must be made before you cross north again.

          Bring pottery books that you might want your favorite artists to sign.

          A flashlight is often handy.

          Packing materials for pottery - Bring flattened boxes, plastic bags, bubble-wrap, and packing tape (also click on the section “General Interest” and scroll to “Pot Packing 101”).

          Drink water!  While tap water in northern Mexico is safe, bottled may be preferred for taste and is available in all stores. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and its serious complications, since this is an arid climate and you will be outdoors more than you are probably accustomed. Dehydration is the most common cause of serious illness for visitors. Carry bottled water with you and drink frequently.

Horses

Horses are still a part of everyday life in Chihuahua. In Mata Ortiz, for $20 dollars per person per day, Jesús and Carmen Veloz (636-661-7102 or Cel 636-114-5639) will rent horses for solo or group excursions into the mountains (petroglyphs are 2 ½ hours away by horseback) or else north along the river toward the Hacienda de San Diego or south toward Santa Rosa. Their sons Martín and Antonio, though not strong on English, are available to guide. If desired, they will prepare a picnic lunch over an open fire ($5/person, minimum 4). Be advised, however, that Chihuahua horses can have a mind of their own, and in Chihuahua it is assumed you know how to handle them. Not recommended for inexperienced riders. The Veloz live across from and a couple of doors south of the church.

 

Beyond Mata Ortiz — the Sierras

 

The Sierra country just west of Mata Ortiz is home to an entirely different culture, a mountaineering culture with log architecture, hunting, fishing, hiking, cliff-dwellings, and birding opportunities. In “El Willy” (Ignacio Zaragoza), look for Casa Rios and El Rio Café in the middle of town, a block north of the sign marking a left turn to Cueva de la Olla. Operated by Guadalupe and Dora Rios, this is a good place from which to explore the area, whether by vehicle, foot, or horseback. Lodging is $15 per person per night, breakfast $5, dinner $8.  For reservations, email Guadalupe Rios j.rios99[at]yahoo.com, being sure to include El Willy in the subject line. For information on the area, contact the Bridgemons (520-744-2243, Cell 520-405-8357, rbridgemon999[at]gmail.com) in Tucson. Also see their book, The Magnetism of Mata Ortiz (described in the section, “Publications”).

          Hunting is popular in the Sierras, especially for trophy Coues whitetail deer and Gould’s turkey, and several hunting lodges have opened or are under construction. Hunting season is 20 November through 20 January except turkeys, which are April and May. For information, contact Ernesto J. Beall (915-845-3149, 694-5560, Cell 104-8942, indiagraves[at]sbcglobal.net), Ojo Caliente Outfitters, PO Box 99, Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua 31700, www.ojocalienteoutfitters.com); Luís Gómez Anchondo (Cell [011-52] 636-103-7448, hcg_luis[at]yahoo.com); or Hawkins Family Outfitters & Trail Riders (Bobby 623-478-0489 or Alan 636-695-0098).

          For exploring the Sierras, see the section “Classes and Tours” for guides WILLIAM “BILLY” MARTINEAU and JOHN HATCH. Both know the Sierras intimately. Billy is a mule handler, an authentic old hand in the Sierras, while John is in demand for leading both family and scientific expeditions.

 

Border Compliance

 

ENTERING MEXICO

A visitor’s permit, or tourist visa (two names for the same thing) from Migración (Immigration) and, if driving, a vehicle permit from Aduana (Customs) are required to travel in Mexico. These permits can be obtained from a Mexican consulate or at the border. Do not be misled by being waved across the border. The agent assumes you will be visiting locally. The open highways are patrolled by federal police, who can ask to see your papers at any time. Not having them can land you in big trouble. You can cross back and forth while these permits are in force, but must cancel both on leaving Mexico the last time. Keep all canceled permits and receipts to prove that you exited before the expiry date; inability to do so could mean delays and/or fines on a return trip. While in Mexico, incidentally, it’s a good idea to make copies of your passport and of both permits, in case you lose the originals. While this has been reported previously in the Calendar, it bears repeating. Vehicle permits are still required for travel to Mata Ortiz. Even though the garita (checkpoint) south of Janos, Chihuahua, has been closed, the area to the south is not a free zone for tourists. Chihuahua State Police are making random stops of tourist vehicles to ensure that they have the permits.

 

Migración (Immigration): A special seven-day visitor’s permit will be issued free for persons arriving by land. A permit for up to six months costs about $27 USD (students with ID are exempted from this charge), payable at any bank before leaving Mexico. The bank will stamp the permit paid. To obtain this permit, you need only show a US passport valid beyond your anticipated date of return. Lacking a passport, you must show a government-issued photo ID plus the original or a notarized copy of your birth certificate or letter of naturalization. If you haven’t one of these, the photo ID plus a notarized voter registration or a notarized affidavit may suffice, but no guarantee. Anyone under 18 not accompanied by both parents must have a notarized letter of permission from the absent parent. If the officer issuing your visitor’s permit stamps your passport on entering (which he need not do), you MUST be sure to get an exit stamp on leaving. Otherwise on a future visit you will face cumulative daily fines or be denied entry. For general Migración offices in Palomas, call (011-52) 656-611-7520 or, for the officer on duty, 656-666-0155. The Migración office in Janos is (011-52) 636-693-5374. El Berrendo has no phone at this time, but you can direct questions to the Janos office.

 

Aduana (Customs): Three requisites for the vehicle permit are an original car registration, current driver's license, and credit card (Visa or Mastercard), and all must be in the same name.

·         Your vehicle registration must be an original; one saying “duplicate” or “copy” is not acceptable. So if you have lost your vehicle registration, it is no longer sufficient to go on-line and print out a duplicate; you must go to the Motor Vehicle Division and pay for an original. However, in lieu of the vehicle registration, you can use the title as long as it shows no lien on the vehicle. If there is a lien, or the car is not in your name, as for example a rental car, you must have a notarized letter from the lien holder or registered owner giving you permission to take the car into Mexico.

·         Besides a fee of about $50 USD for the vehicle permit (for “temporary importation”), you will be charged a refundable deposit of $200-$400, depending on year and make of the car. On returning to the border, the deposit will be credited back to your credit card, if that’s how you paid it, or in refunded in dollars if you paid in cash. If you are late returning, however, even by an hour after the expiry date, you may lose the entire deposit.

·         For Aduana information see the website  www.sat.gob.mx  or phone  (011-52) 656-666-0295.

·         The Janos garita (checkpoint) is now closed, but federal police patrol the open highways and may ask at any time to see your paperwork.

 

Obtaining Vehicle Permits On-Line Dick O’Connor applied for his vehicle permit on line and found the process quite easy. The site is www.banjercito.com.mx/registroVehiculos, and you can select to proceed in either English or Spanish. You will then come to a screen that requires a Visitor Permit authorization number. A link lets you fill out the visitor permit on-line, provides you with an authorization number, and a screen to print (you will want to give the printed receipt to the Migración agent first thing at the border). You then return to the vehicle permit page, fill in the authorization number and finish the application. The whole thing takes less than ten minutes. If you had a permit previously, some information regarding your vehicle is in the computer system and populates some of the screens automatically. O’Connor  used a charge card for both the deposit and the fee. He filled out the application on his home computer late in the afternoon on a Monday, and the vehicle permit was delivered to his home via DHL express Wednesday noon. This is amazingly fast.

 

The December 21, 2011, issue of the Arizona Daily Star, besides stating that you can pay the vehicle deposit on-line (http://azstarnet.com/news/local/border/deposit-required-for-some-mexico-auto-travel/article_3481b656-16c3-586c-a049-2c28935cd289.html), also states that if a credit card is used, it is not charged but is held until your return. This has not been our experience at the Agua Prieta Banjercito. The cards were indeed charged and then the peso amount refunded on-line with a loss of about $30 USD due to peso devaluation. Please report your experiences to the Calendar.

 

What to do if your vehicle has a permit and is not drivable This is a serious situation and certain protocols need to be taken if you want to take another vehicle into Mexico. Go to the Editorial Archives page and read the October 2015 Letter to the Editors.

 

Rental Car Agreements Around 2013, the Mexican port of entries started requiring that all rental car agreements must contain the vin (vehicle identification number) of the vehicle. The vin number must be machine generated, it cannot be handwritten onto the document. Your editors are aware of at least two incidents where the travelers have not been allowed to enter Mexico with their rental vehicle due to either the lack of the vin on the rental contract or the vin had been handwritten onto the rental agreement.

 

 

Import duties on anything other than personal effects are 16 percent, based on purchase receipts or the agent’s estimate. But there is a $300 dollar exemption for each person in the vehicle—which rises to $500 dollars per person during Holy Week (Easter) and the month of December.

 

Seguros (Insurance): U.S. car insurance is not valid in Mexico, but Mexican insurance is available from your auto club; on-line; at the border when you get your vehicle permit; or simply by phoning a company like Adventure Mexican Insurance (800-485-4075) www.mexadventure.com; Mexpro Insurance Professionals (888-467-4639) www.mexpro.com; or Palms Mexico Insurance (800-666-4778) www.palmsmexicoinsurance.com.

 

Consulates: Call a Mexican consulate if you have questions before your trip or encounter problems at the border and need clarification. Locations of Mexican consulates in the United States are given at: www.mexonline.com/consulate.htm. The four nearest are: Tucson (520-882-5595), Douglas (520-364-3142), Albuquerque (505-247-4177), and El Paso (915-533-3644).

 

Fair warning: Clean out your vehicle before entering Mexico!

Any weapon or ammunition, even a spent shell, or a single seed of an illegal plant, in your car or the back of your pickup is a federal offense penalized by a prison sentence, and there is no leniency for foreigners. A permit for firearms for hunting only may be obtained in advance from a Mexican Consulate.

  

RETURNING TO THE UNITED STATES

You must show a U.S. passport (which need not be current) to establish citizenship. Be aware also of an advisory in an article in www.sovereignsociety.com of 18 January 2010. Although they rarely do it, Customs officials are authorized to copy all data on your laptop or other electronic device when you cross a U.S. border and could require that you decrypt any encrypted files before allowing you to proceed.

Pets must have a rabies certificate or be subject to quarantine. A Mexican vet will provide this. We go for our veterinary needs to Dr. Arturo Felix N. (694-3308), Jesús Urueta and Constitución, Nuevo Casas Grandes, a block east of the Motel Piñón.

Pottery is duty-free but must be declared. Keep receipts for any large purchases (just any notation of amounts with the potter's initials and Pagado (paid) will suffice). Under $800 dollars per person, no paperwork is needed. From $800-$2,000 per person, an informal entry will do, and this may be waived if the agent takes your word that the pots are not for resale. Higher amounts require a formal entry through a customs broker (which, incidentally, requires showing an original Social Security card). Each pot should be labeled "Mexico." Technically, this applies only to pots intended for resale, but Customs advises us that they prefer that all pots be so marked. This can be written on 3M Post-it Removable Labeling Tape 695 or Drafting Tape, which is the least likely to mark the pot. Best is to press any kind of sticker (even one cut from a Post-it) onto the bottom inside the pot with the eraser end of a long wooden pencil, wiping out any dust first so that the sticker will stick.

What is an "Informal Entry?" To expedite your crossing, download ahead of time from the web (http://forms.cbp.gov/pdf/CBP_Form_7523.pdf)  Customs Form No. 7523 (080295), enter on it the District Port Code (e.g. Naco 2603, Douglas 2601, Columbus 2406, Santa Teresa 2408, El Paso 2402), and identify the pottery as "Decorative art pottery from Mata Ortiz" (identified, if the question arises, as TSUS No. MX6913905000). Informal entries, also called "commercial declarations," can be processed at most ports 9-5pm weekdays and 10-2pm Saturdays—but note limited services and different hours at Naco and Antelope Wells. How much of this is necessary depends on the individual Customs officer.

For information on the various ports of entry, see www.customs.ustreas.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/ports. Phone numbers are: Naco AZ 520-432-5349; Douglas AZ: 520-364-8486; Antelope Wells NM: 575-436-2792 (limited hours 8-4pm daily and no commercial importation over $2000); Columbus NM: 575-531-2686; Santa Teresa NM: 575-589-9354; and El Paso TX: 915-872-3444.

          In the event of a seemingly unfair problem with an agent of either government, our best advice is to keep cool and ask courteously to speak with a supervisor.

 

Choose Your Crossing Point

 

Naco, southwest of Bisbee, Arizona is a good port of entry, open 24 hours with little or no waiting. Customs brokers are available. Returning to the States, Customs hours for crossing pottery are Mon-Fri, 9-5pm.

Agua Prieta (opposite Douglas) is a full-service port. After completing your paperwork for entering Mexico (visitor’s and vehicle permits), turn left (east) immediately, go three blocks to the first traffic signal, and turn right at the Hacienda Hotel/Restaurant. Continue south through the city and then left (east) on Highway 2 toward Janos and Nuevo Casas Grandes. This road will take you through a 5,000-foot pass in the San Luís Mountains, part of the Sierra Madre Occidental that to the north becomes the Rocky Mountains. Once through the mountains, there is a prairie dog town, now somewhat diminished, on the right near kilometer post 47, and you may also see burrowing owls, especially in the afternoon. Note that poor weather, especially snow, can combine with narrow road, curves, and heavy trucks to make driving the pass hazardous, and at such times the road may be closed. Even in good weather, some prefer traveling the extra distance to cross at Antelope Wells/Berrendo or at Columbus/Palomas. Both of these routes are flat but take about an hour longer. (As of November 2016, road construction on Highway 2 in Sonora has created several, rough dirt detours that add time to the drive.)

          El Berrendo (opposite Antelope Wells) is an ideal entry point to Mexico but only if you already have your vehicle permit. They are small and only issue the visitor’s permit. Hours are 8-4pm. On returning to the United States, commercial entries are limited to $2,000, and there are no customs brokers for larger amounts. Informal entry for pottery for personal use is limited to $800, and it is helpful to have a receipt (hand-written is okay) from the potter(s) showing the amounts you paid. Eight miles of unpaved road on the Mexican side becomes very muddy with rains, but are good in dry weather. (As of January 2017, this road is shorter and except for a mile of dirt road at the border, it has been paved.)

          Palomas (opposite Columbus) is a full-service port open 8am to midnight for visitor’s and vehicle permits. After clearing your paperwork for entering Mexico, stop at the Pink Store in Palomas for food and Margaritas (for those in your party not driving), good ambience, and one of the best selections of Mexican crafts in northern Mexico.

Santa Teresa west of El Paso is a good port of entry with the same full-service as Palomas. Reach Santa Teresa by taking Exit 8 (Artcraft Road) from Interstate 10 on the west side of El Paso and driving west 13 miles. But instead of crossing here, we prefer turning right on Route 9, a mile before Santa Teresa, and continuing west, paralleling the border 60 miles to Columbus/Palomas. This is a very good road and frequently patrolled. If you cross at Santa Teresa, you will do the same 60 miles paralleling the border on the Mexican side. Neither road has services.

Ciudad Juárez (opposite El Paso) is not recommended because of having to navigate the complexity of the city. Instead, we take Exit 8 (Artcraft Road) from Interstate 10 on the west side of El Paso and cross at Santa Teresa or Columbus/Palomas.

 

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