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  • Heresy or History?In Defense of the Forgotten Voices
  • Jim Hills (bio)

There’s the story, then there’s the real story, then there’s the story of how the story came to be told. Then there’s what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too.

—Margaret Atwood


This paper is in response to Richard D. O’Connor’s criticism of my article, “Reconstructing a Miracle: New Perspectives on Mata Ortiz Pottery Making” (Hills 2012). Although both Journal of the Southwest and I, as guest editor, received dozens of complimentary e-mails and letters, my article provoked a strong negative reaction from a small group of Spencer MacCallum supporters who accept without question his “historic” narrative. In light of these reactions, Joseph Wilder, editor of the Journal, allowed Dr. Richard O’Connor1 to represent these opposing views in hope of expanding the conversation about this pottery phenomenon. O’Connor’s “Analysis and Response” (this issue) offers an apparently hard-hitting, if often vitriolic, critique of my paper. I contend that he misquoted me, took passages out of context, misread statements to “prove” his arguments, and made the same kinds of errors of which he accuses me. Ironically, one of his major complaints is that I failed “to acknowledge and address the existence of contradictory data” when, in fact, the purpose of my paper was specifically to address the contradictory data that MacCallum and Parks neither acknowledged nor [End Page 721] addressed—which is why it was titled “New Perspectives on Mata Ortiz Pottery.” I stand by my original assertion that the single-source narrative championed by MacCallum, Walter Parks, and now O’Connor is more a mythic tale than an accurate historical assessment of the beginnings of pottery making in Mata Ortiz and the surrounding areas. I further contend that continuing to cling to this simplified account does a great disservice to the vitality of an extraordinary artistic community. Misrepresenting the course of history compresses the debate into a simplistic true-or-false dichotomy that distorts the complexities usually observed when studying the past, leaving no room for either multiple voices or the ambiguities of memory.

Mea Culpa

Before I discuss O’Connor’s serious accusations, it should be noted, in fairness, that some of his criticisms have merit, in whole or in part: I refer primarily to his section “Inaccuracies and Misinformation.” I am assuming the reader is already familiar with both my original paper (Hills 2012) and O’Connor’s response (this issue). Yes, Los Cristianos is east of Mata Ortiz, not west (although the map on the following page clearly showed the correct location); and yes, the Amerind’s fieldwork at Paquimé ended in 1961, not 1960. I also erred about the date when Gilbert was in Mata Ortiz—it was 1998, not 1985—which I knew, but unfortunately typed incorrectly. As for Juan’s ceramic female form depicted in figure 18 (Hills 2012:136), it was not made in 1994 according to O’Connor, although he didn’t cite his source for this knowledge. Apparently the ceramic statue I included in my article was not the ceramic female form Juan alluded to in his interview; I didn’t realize there were multiple ceramic female torsos made by Juan. In addition, O’Connor found three or four misspelled words in the 25,000-word manuscript. He also notes that I incorrectly wrote Manuel Olivas Lucero’s family name as Borrega: In the draft I submitted to the Journal, “Borrega” was in quotes, indicating a nickname, not a surname. During typesetting, the quotation marks were inadvertently dropped. O’Connor also noted an incorrect citation of MacCallum (1979b:54), who claimed that Juan’s grandmother died when his mother was six years old, not seven as I stated.2 In addition, there is indeed no page 38 in Kelley, as published: I read a preliminary copy, typeset and copyedited; page 38 was correct prior to publication. [End Page 722] I apologize to the reader; the correct published citation is Kelley et al. (2011:215). For these and any other such editorial oversights and errors of haste, I accept...


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pp. 721-770
Launched on MUSE
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