Susan Gomez recalls waiting nervously on an isolated road in southern Arizona for her ride across the border to Mata Ortiz, Mexico. The air was thick, and she could hear thunder in the distance.
Her business partner, Mayra Castellanos, had implored her not to go. A native of Juarez, Mayra was familiar with the big-city narcos culture that was seeping into rural villages like Mata Ortiz.
But Susan was determined to make her first trip to meet local Mexican artisans whose livelihoods were endangered by the growing drug violence. Just a few years ago, “busloads of tourists were driving into Mata Ortiz twice a day to buy pottery from a thriving collective of 600 artisans. Now they are destitute because people are afraid to travel, and many are leaving their craft.”
Preserving traditional Mexican art forms is central to the mission of Amigos Art & Pottery, a retail social enterprise Susan and Mayra founded to help artisans transcend obscurity and poverty by showcasing and selling their wares for a fair price in the US.