Trek to Yojuela

March 1994

Working in rhythm with the potters, Eric prepares shipments four times a year, the work reaching a climax as the pottery is delivered and distributed. Time then for a month or so of rest - a trip to the beaches on the Oaxacan coast, visiting in the States, or a search for new sources. Following up a lead on an undiscovered village of pottery makers is a fine adventure, the more remote, traditional, and untouched the better...

My good buddy from spain, Jose Miguel (I call him Joe Mike) and I went on a good adventure last week. I've heard rumors of a pottery village somewhere out beyond Miahuatlan on this edge of the coast range - so we decided to find it. For me there is much joy in heading out to the unknown of Oaxaca, knowing that at the end of the journey lies a treasure; for me a village of potters.

In Mexico, no one can read a map. There is no need (all the maps are inaccurate anyway) because if you get within a couple of hours of your destination, everyone you ask knows where it is. That's how we found our way to this village. We bused three hours - then got in the back of a pickup (as soon as you get into a pickup for transport you know you're about 300 miles off of the gringo trail) and bounced over dirt and ruts, only one flat tire, for two hours and then they dropped us off at the trail head and pointed south.

We started walking down the trail and saw some young women below washing clothes in the creek. We would have asked the way, but by the time we rounded a couple of bends and got to the creek the women were all gone, I could just see the last one running up the opposite trail with her clothes dripping out of a blue bucket. But soon enough we came across a man with his donkey, who was quite glad to see us and very curious - after a 15 minute interview he sent us on our way with clear instructions on how to get there - and an hour and a half later, after walking through parched low hills and then climbing up through a deep river canyon with huge cactus at the bottom and pines at the top we come to the cool town of Yojuela in the pine forests of the lower coast range.

Yojuela is a tiny town spread along a narrow river valley. The only other gringos here were evangelical missionaries. Four years ago the town acquired electricity and a road, which, on Mondays brings in a truck which transports people to market in Miahuatlan. There yet another dialect of Zapotec is spoken, and so again I seldom knew what was going on. But we easily found folks to feed us and a place to sleep and not one of those poor farmers let us pay for anything. And there is lots of pottery - exotic mottled black pots dyed with oak bark juice of a style unknown outside this region. They sell it by the donkey load. You can get 15 basketball-sized pots on a donkey. An exporters gold mine.


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