News & Opinion » Metro ink

Cultural mining, at the source


A love of Latin American culture and a taste for adventure have led James Potemkin from a job teaching science to a life collecting Mexican arts and crafts.

            "I spent several years traveling in Latin America during the summers," Potemkin says, "and what awakened in my soul wasn't just the beauty of the landscapes but the wonderful arts and crafts."

            After several trips, Potemkin had enough stuff to fill a small storage facility. And he still wasn't done.

            "I finally opened a small store," he says, "primarily to pay the bills and to put out the crafts." That store, Animas Traders, opened in September, 1995.

            Potemkin isn't satisfied buying goods in large markets, preferring to get to the source. "I know at least 95 percent of the people who make these things," he says. "My personal interest is in meeting the people and telling the stories of the artists."

            In eight years, Potemkin has racked up 280,000 miles driving throughout Mexico. He's been lost many times but enjoys the adventure. "You have to take risks," he says. "Nothing will unfold unless you do."

            While most people believe bargaining for lower prices is accepted in Mexico, Potemkin refuses to do it.

            "The prices are so reasonable, there's no reason to argue for lower ones," he says. "This store is Fair Trade which means that the people set the prices and the people who actually make the things get a living wage. The vast majority of people I deal with are campesinos. They live in wrenching poverty but they'll insist you go to their family fiestas. I'll be on a buying trip but they'll pull me off the track of buying and into being part of their family."

            He pauses and smiles. "Mexico. It just pulls you in."

            Animas Traders is located at 975 South Clinton Avenue, 442-8538.

--- Joseph Sorrentino

Merger in motion

On June 15, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School's Board of Trustees approved a contract with the University of Rochester for a merger of the two institutions' libraries. By summer's end, a number of books will be moved from the Ambrose Swasey Library and the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester.

            Over the next two summers, a large part of the Swasey collection --- "something fewer than 300,000," says Dean of River Campus Libraries Ronald Dow --- will be moved to Rush Rhees. Duplicates of items found in both collections will be sold. And some of the empty stack space at Swasey will be used to store seldom-used materials from UR.

            One main difference between the contract adopted June 15 and the terms approved by the board in May is the addition of a shuttle bus. The bus, part of a shuttle service UR runs to connect its campuses, will give Colgate students free transportation to the moved books.

            Materials that would support the general curriculum would stay where they are, Dow says, and those with more of a research focus would come to Rush Rhees. The details --- what will go and what will stay --- have not yet been decided.

            "It's not what we hoped for," says Colgate senior Tobias Pinckney. "Many of us are in shock. We are still expecting a change in direction that will live up to the legacy of this great seminary."

Correcting ourselves

In our Rochester International Jazz Festival wrap-up ("All that jazz," June 16-22), we mistakenly reported that Cuong Vu's drummer was John Hollenbeck. The drummer for the Rochester sets was, in fact, Rochester native Ted Poor, who has been playing and touring with Vu for the past several months.