Versión en español

How tortillas are made
in the Tezoatlán Mixtec culture
Making a palm mat

In the towns where Tezoatlán Mixtec is spoken, the people eat very large tortillas, as large as 10 or 11 inches across.


To make them, the lady of the house (with children often helping) will shell the corn. Then she puts the shelled corn in a pot and adds lime and water, and cooks it for about half an hour. When it cools, the corn is washed and put in a bucket to soak overnight. In the morning, usually before 6:00, she takes it to the molino (mill) to be ground. The people at the molino weigh it after grinding it, and charge according to the weight.


The lady then takes her dough home, and kneads it some more. She has already started a fire and has the comal (clay griddle) heated up. She pinches off a piece of dough and rounds and flattens it a little by passing it from hand to hand several times quickly. She has two circular pieces of plastic she has cut from a plastic bag. The circles are placed on top of each other on her metate (grinding stone). She puts the piece of dough in the middle of the top circle and proceeds to pound it out using the base and side of the palm of her hand. The top piece of plastic rotates smoothly on top of the other piece, along with the tortilla, as she pounds the dough with her hand.


Once the tortilla is the right size and perfectly round, she peels it off the plastic and places it on the comal. As she works to shape the next tortilla, she turns the one on the comal over several times to cook both sides. Often the tortilla on the comal will puff up like a balloon. Once the tortilla is done, she places it in a tenate (palm basket) especially made for these big tortillas, which has a tortilla cloth in it to keep the tortillas warm. People like their tortillas best right off the comal. Old, cold tortillas are given to burros and dogs, or made into pig slop. (Watch a video clip of making a tortilla.)


Grinding the corn at the mill
Grinding the corn at the mill
Making tortillas
Making tortillas

--John Williams