Unlocking the Secrets of Mata Ortiz

A Historical Exploration & Art Experience

Quick Info

Starting Location:  Mexico City

Ending Location:  Mexico City

Dates:  Feb. 26 - Mar 8, 2020

Duration:  13 Days / 12 Nights

Group Size:  8 Min - 16 Max

Age Group:  Adults Only

Hotel Locations:  5

Physical Rating:  Medium Pace

Altitude:  Approx. 5000 Feet


Mexico City

Chihuahua City

Casas Grandes

Mata Ortiz

Ciudad Madera



There are many options for travel before or after this tour.  If you would like to add on some time in Mexico City to visit the historical sites there, we can arrange this for either end of your trip.  If you would like to board the El Chepe Train through the Copper Canyon, we recommend doing this after our tour, due to the climate. 

Price is based on cost sharing with one couple per room.  If traveling solo & willing to share, we will place you with someone of the same sex in a double room.  Please let us know by January 31, 2020 so we can confirm list.
10 Guests:  $65,000 MXP
12 Guests:  $60,000 MXP
14 Guests:  $55,000 MXP
16 Guests:  $50,000 MX

Learn Coil Pottery Techniques

in the Village of Mata Ortiz 

One of Mexico's most highly priced and collectible pottery styles comes from the small village of Mata Ortiz, located in northern Mexico's state of Chihuahua.  This region is not visited by many foreigners, save the few who pass through the El Paso Texas border, highway bound for Mexico's colonial cities and coastlines.  Chihuahua is possibly one of the more overlooked states of Mexico, especially considering it is home to the infamous El Chepe railroad that traverses the Sierra Tarahumara in what many know as the Copper Canyon.

Beyond the Copper Canyon, Chihuahua has many interesting sites on offer.  The other major culture that thrived here prior to the Raramuri in the Canyons, were the Mogollon peoples, who in this region are often referred to as Paquime Culture.  Join us for a 10 day exploration of the Mogollon Empire, including a 5 day extensive workshop in Mata Ortiz, working with local award winning maestra, Gloria Hernandez.  We will visit Nombre de Dios Caverns and Pancho Villa Museum in Chihuahua City, the Pueblos Magicos of Casas Grandes, and the archaeology sites of Cuevo de la Olla, Paquime and Cuarenta Casas.  Our 5 day workshop in Mata Ortiz will include harvesting clay, crafting, firing and finishing a small project.        

You do not need a background in art or pottery to benefit from this experience.  Gloria Hernandez has been teaching art workshops for many years, with maximum class sizes of 20.




  • Grutas de Nombre de Dios in Chihuahua City, featuring impressive stalagmites & stalastites

  • Pancho Villa Museum, Chihuahua City

  • Stay in Pueblo Magico Casas Grandes

  • Visit Mogollon ancient cities or Paquime and Cuevo de la Olla

  • Hands-on experience working with clay, from harvest to firing.  Stay in the small village of Mata Ortiz.

  • Visit Madera to visit the incredible ancient trade centre and garrison of Cuarenta Casas in Huapoca Canyon




  • Please carry refillable water bottle & to-go mug (we will have water available in the van for refills)

  • Mata Ortiz struggles with water issues.  Please be conscious of water consumption in the shower. 

  • Modest clothing is appropriate for this part of Mexico.



  • The hike to Cuarenta Casas is about 3 hours, and involves inclines and declines.  Sturdy shoes and good balance are crucial for this region.

  • Mata Ortiz is a very small village with basic amenities.  Sailor showers are recommended here, due to the town's water crisis.

  • Internet may be very slow and non-existent in some areas we travel through.



  • Punctuality - crucial for fluid travel

  • Flexibility - always expect the unexpected

  • Participation - including one daily group photo

  • Consideration - please don't chit chat during presentations

  • Cooperation - the rules are made for all of us, including you

  • Respect - for local customs & protocols

  • Diplomacy - agree to disagree about politics & religion​

  • Confidence - know your limits 

Juan Quezada of Mata Ortiz

& The Revival of Mogollon Pottery

The story of Juan Quezada is as fascinating as it is reminiscent of so many legends whose accomplishments were against all odds. Born on May 6, 1940 in Tutuaco, Chihuahua, Juan Quezada's family relocated to a tiny village that had shrunk to only three blocks following the Mexican Revolution. That village was called Mata Ortiz.

As a child, Juan was engrossed by creative activities. From sculpting anything he could shape with his hands, to painting any surface he could find, his artistic passion was prolific enough that his mother let him paint the walls of their home, so long as he later washed it off.     At one point, someone in the local 

government took note and offered him sponsorship to attend art school. Having never been a fan of school, Juan declined the offer - a decision he never regretted.


As a teenager, Juan left school to assist his family. He collected firewood, worked for the railroad, and harvested maguey cactus. While he was fulfilling these tasks, he often stumbled upon caches of pre-Hispanic pots and pottery fragments - and due to his childhood fixation on sculpting and painting, his collection grew along with his need to repatriate this lost art form.


With no formal ceramics experience, and no expert To consult with, Juan spent several years of his life experimenting with various materials, in a desperate attempt to recreate the pots that were littered throughout the lands where he lived. Juan learned that adding sand to clay as a temper prevented it from cracking. By studying the ancient pots, he eventually realized that the pots were made using the well known coil technique. His next experiment was to color the clay using natural materials - which turned out to be rust for red, black for magnesium, and natural clay for blond pieces. He also figured out that human hair made the best tip for paint-brushes, as opposed to using animal hair or the fibre of maguey cactus. Today, all of the techniques employed by modern ceramicists of the Mogollon style are thanks to the many experiments and ingenuity of Juan Quezada.


When Juan Quezada first went to Casas Grandes to sell his first pottery pieces, nobody was interested. He decided to take a trip to the New Mexico border town of Palomas where a shop keeper loved his pots enough to purchase everything he had. Juan began working with a friend, who would deliver the pots - but his career as a ceramicist had only just begun. In 1976, anthropologist Spencer MacCallum visited Deming, New Mexico and stumbled across one of Quezada's pots. As the store-keeper didn't know who had made the pot, it sent MacCallum on a mission to hunt down more of these pots, eventually leading him to Mata Ortiz, much to the surprise of Juan Quezada.


Over the next 8 years, MacCallum's philanthropic support of Quezada's career resulted in his mastery of reproduction, as well as the invention of modern techniques and influences. MacCallum worked tirelessly to promote Quezada to museum curators and gallery owners until a collection known as Juan Quezada and the New Tradition was exhibited across Arizona, New Mexico and California in 1970 and 1980. This exhibit was donated to the San Diego Museum of Man in 1997 - and remains a complete collection.


Today, Juan Quezada's pieces sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars in the US market. His determination has sparked an entire movement of art that is recognized internationally as the Mata Ortiz art movement - though the collection of such pieces remains concentrated in the Southwestern United States.



Chihuahua is most famed for the incredible Canyons that make up Barrancas del Cobre, or El Chepe Train that traverses the Sierra Tarahumara.  We would like to introduce you to an even less-frequented part of this incredible state, with a 5 day workshop in the small village of Mata Ortiz, and a chance to visit some of Mexico's least visited, yet thrilling ancient cities.

Mexico City                - Day 01:   Everyone arrives in Mexico City

Chihuahua City           - Day 02:   Nombres de Dios Caves & Pancho Villa Museum

Casas Grandes           - Day 03:   Pueblo Magico Casas Grandes & Ancient City Paquime 

Casas Grandes           - Day 04:   Ancient Cave Dwelling of Cuevo de la Olla

Mata Ortiz                 - Day 05:   Mata Ortiz Workshop Begins with Clay Harvest

Mata Ortiz                 - Day 06:   Mata Ortiz Workshop

Mata Ortiz                 - Day 07:   Mata Ortiz Workshop

Mata Ortiz                 - Day 08:   Mata Ortiz Workshop

Mata Ortiz                 - Day 09:   Mata Ortiz Workshop

Ciudad Madera          - Day 10:   Champagne Breakfast & Commute

Ciudad Madera          - Day 11:   Ancient Trade Centre of Cuarenta Casas

Mexico City                - Day 12:   Early departure to Chihuahua City & Flight to CDMX



DAY 1:  Wednesday February 26, 2020


Welcome to our exploration of Mexico's ancient Paquime Culture. A sub-group of the Mogollon Culture that thrived in Oasisamerica, or Southern New Mexico, Arizona, Northern Sonora and Chihuahua and Western Texas, the Paquime inhabited the southernmost region of the Mogollon Empire, in what is now Mexico's state of Chihuahua. 

We have organized this tour from Mexico City for the convenience of international and domestic travelers. If you would like to add an additional tour-option for your stay, please contact us for more information. We can arrange tours for Mexico City, the Copper Canyon, El Bajio, Yucatan, Puebla, Oaxaca or Chiapas, depending on guide availability. All major cities in Mexico have inexpensive flights connecting with CDMX, so the possibilities are limitless.

Hotel Location:  TBA Mexico City       Hotel Contact:

Dinner:  TBA


Day 2:  Thursday February 27, 2020



Our flight departs early this morning from Mexico City to Chihuahua City. Landing by 10:30 AM, our guide will meet us at the airport for transport to hotel check-in, and a day of exploring city highlights including the caverns of Nombre de Dios, Pancho Villa Museum, and more.

Depart Hotel:  4:30 AM           Arrive at Hotel:  10:30 AM


Day 3:  Friday February 28, 2020



The ancient Mogollon city of Paquime was incredible in its time, and remains a fascinating archaeological site to visit. It was between CE1130 and 1300 when small settlements began settling in this vast valley. Paquime is the largest site known today, and began as groups of 20 or more houses in clusters. Each grouping had a plaza and wall. As single-story adobe homes, the technological advances here included a complex water system, which included underground drain systems, water reservoirs and a sewage system.

Archaeologists have found evidence that the city was razed in 1340. After being burned, Paquime rebuilt it with multi-story buildings. In total, it is estimated that Paquime had 2,000 rooms built from adobe. The city also had at least 1 ballcourt, stone-faced platforms believed to be observatories, effigy mounds, and a market. There are also still visible round pits which were used for cooking food. It is believed the population here was about 2,500, but that the small empire controlled by the administration in Paquime reigned over about 10,000 people.

The peoples of Paquime were proficient potters, producing pottery with a white or red surface, decorated with designs and motifs of blue, red, brown or black. It is considered by some to be superior to the modern pottery made in the region, such as the famed town of Mata Ortiz. The pottery was traded among indigenous groups as far north as present-day New Mexico and Arizona, as well as throughout northern Mexico.

As Paquime is aligned with Chaco Canyon and Aztec ruins, there has been considerable controversy over who truly constructed and inhabited this ancient city. Today, evidence suggests the site is related to Mogollon cultures found in present-day Southwestern United States, with political and religious ties to southern cultures.

We will depart Chihuahua City by 9:30 AM, destined for Casas Grandes for a 1 PM arrival.  Following lunch, we will begin our explorations at the ancient city of Paquime.  There is a museum and gift gallery here to browse through, before we enjoy a walking tour of the small village of Casas Grandes.  

Depart Chihuahua City:  9:30 AM           Arrive Casas Grandes:  1 PM

Day 4:  Saturday February 29, 2020



Located about 47 KM’s away from the Pueblo Magico town of Casas Grandes is an important region called Valle de las Cuevas, or Valley of the Caves. This region is noted for having an ancient human record, dating back to 5500 BCE. As with many peoples of the Americas, the staple crop of this area was an ancestor of maize.


Cuevo de la Olla is one of many sites that was inhabited in this region. The name “Cave of the pot” comes from the presence of a cuexcomate, a Nahuatl word describing a large vase-like granary made from stone. These granaries were necessary in this region due to cold winters, and the need to store food. There are granaries throughout the Sierra Madre Occidental that resemble the granary at this site.


Though hunters & gatherers settled in this region eons ago, it wasn’t until 950 – 1060 CE that the granary and structures here were constructed. Archaeologists theorize the Mogollon, Anasazi or Hohokam peoples arrived in this region, gradually evolving into the Paquime peoples of Casas Grandes.


It remains a mystery as to what became of the Paquime culture. Some theorize the Paquime may have retreated into the mountains due to famine, and may be the ancestors of today’s Raramuri peoples, who reside in the Sierra Tarahumara.

Depart:  9:30 AM           Return:  3 PM


Day Five:  Sunday March 1, 2020 to Day Nine:  Thursday March 5, 2020



This morning we will depart Casas Grandes for the nearby village of Mata Ortiz.  Our hotel here will be basic, though comfortable and clean.  As restaurants are very limited here, our hotel will prepare our meals during our stay.


Gloria will take us out to harvest clay, so we can participate in the very first process - procuring supply.  We will spend the next five days working under Gloria's instruction.    


Please Note:  Located only 28 KM away from Casas Grandes, it is possible to take a taxi into Casas Grandes for food or supplies during our spare time.

Depart:  9:30 AM           Arrive:  10 AM        Daily Classes:  Times TBA


Day Ten:  Friday March 6, 2020



After 5 days working with Gloria and her family, we will enjoy a leisurely morning at our hotel, sipping on bubbly mimosas and reflecting on our journey thus-far.  We truly hope Gloria and her family will join us, so we can enjoy our last moments together before our departure for Ciudad Madera.  The commute takes approximately 4 hours.


There isn't a lot to see or do in Ciudad Madera, but we are sure by now, everyone will welcome a quiet evening of rest and introspection.  

Breakfast:  9:30        Departure:  12:00        Arrival:  4:00 PM

Day Eleven:  Saturday March 7, 2020



Tucked into the deep ravines of the Huapoca Canyon are a series of wood and mud dwellings that are housed in caves. Archaeologists theorize the area was an important stopping place for traders travelling between the Mogollon Capital at Paquime, and the Sea of Cortes. Dr. Arturo Guevara Sanchez worked at this site at the end of the 20th century, finding evidence of feathers used for exchanges and ornamentation. Other studies conducted revealed cultivation of corn, legumes, squash, maguey and acorns. The people here hunted deer, rabbit and rodents for food.


There are 10 groups of rock shelters made from compacted mud with “T” type doors and windows. The groups are called: cave of the windows, cave of the cat, cave of the bridge, cave of the rats, cave of the walls, stained cave, cave of the stream, cave of the rock, cave of the arch and the cave of the niches. Artifacts found here include ceramics and lithic stone tools decorated with prehispanic motifs from the region. The very first photographs, complete with descriptions, were made public in 1892 after Norwegian explorer Carl Lumholtz visited the region. Lumholtz kept meticulous notes, and was the first to write about this area.

There are countless sites in this region, each comprised of hundreds upon hundreds of ruins, and as they are spread apart, it is impossible to visit them all. We are pleased to be offering a tour to this magnificent area of Chihuahua, as this region is the most southern of all Mogollon settlements.

Please Note:  Today will require some strenuous hiking.  Please be prepared for arduous inclines and declines, and pack along collapsible hiking sticks if you have them.  We will also pack in all of our water and garbage, so please remember to bring a small backpack.

Breakfast:  8:30 AM        Departure:  9:00 AM        Return:  6:00 PM

Day Twelve:  Sunday March 8, 2020



This morning, we will depart Ciudad Madera early, to arrive at the Chihuahua Airport for our late-afternoon flight to Mexico City.  Upon returning to our hotel, we will head out for a celebratory supper together.

We hope you have enjoyed this tour, and will offer us any suggestions or feedback you have.  If you have enjoyed this experience, please join us in Michoacan for our art workshops there, or explore our other itineraries to see if anything piques your interest!

Thank you for participating with Soul of Mexico Tours and have a safe journey home!

Departure:  7:00 AM       Flight:  TBA        The Last Supper:  7:00 PM



  • All accommodations are included

  • Tipping is customary

  • We recommend between $30-$50 MXP per night



  • Picnic for Cuevo de la Olla included

  • All meals in Mata Ortiz included

  • Mimosa's for last  Breakfast in Mata Ortiz included

  • Picnic for Cuarenta Casas included

  • Drinking water included

  • All beverages (outside Mimosa breakfast) are not included



  • Return Flight CDMX to Chihuahua City included

  • All mandatory transportation in Chihuahua State included
  • We will not have transportation in Mata Ortiz village



  • Nombre de Dios Caves

  • Pancho Villa Museum

  • Paquime Archaeological Site

  • Pueblo Magico Casas Grandes Walking Tour

  • Cuevo de la Olla Archaeological Site

  • 5 Day Pottery Workshop in Mata Ortiz

  • Cuarenta Casas Archaeologicy Site



​We will make a small donation to the Mata Ortiz Museum

which we will announce upon confirmation of tour.




We require a 100% non-refundable payment to confirm your reservation

due to our close departure date


If you would like to pay your balance with a Credit Card, we charge 4% for processing fees 

Alternately, you may send us a wire transfer or use paypal


Due to close departure time, we cannot refund cancellations. 

If you have a friend who can take your place, you may transfer your deposit


For your payment, we will invoice you using:




If you have a Canadian account, you can e-transfer us at

For wire transfers, please contact us for our banking information

Square & Paypal accept all major credit cards and are recognized for secure online banking.  You do not need to divulge your information to us for payment. 



We request emergency contact information from our guests, in the event that there is an accident or emergency.  Please ensure your next of kin has your medical insurance information.  If you would like to include your insurance provider contact information with your emergency contact, this can certainly be helpful in the event that something happens during our travels.


Please give our contact information to your next of kin, in the event that a family member or friend needs to contact you due to an emergency.

Jennifer Bjarnason


Whatsapp Text:  001 (778) 585 1882

Mexican Cell Text:  +52 (443) 639 2782

Thank you for your interest in this tour!  We truly look forward to exploring with you!

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