The Omnipresent Tortilla

By Casey Neese

July 25, 2012

by Christian DeVries | photos and video by Russell Powell

The tortilla is an omnipresent part of all meals in Guatemala.  Warm, round, delicious, these flat breads are found on every table.

Mrs. Francisca Najera Vasquez lives in the tiny village of El Duraznito with her husband and seven children, so she has a lot of experience making tortillas. The family’s corn is husked and the kernels are boiled. After being cooked the corn is ground at a local mill. Francisca uses six pounds of masa (dough) to feed her family every day. Using a traditional piedra de moler (grinding stone) with a stone rolling pin she grinds the dough one more time.

Small handfuls of dough are patted into the appropriate size and placed on a hot piece of steel atop a clay oven. Working with her daughter (Saira) and her aunt (Felipa), the three women are a veritable tortilla machine: grinding, patting and cooking.

My mouth begins to salivate at the smell of fresh hot tortillas. The wood smoke penetrates the bread adding a subtle smoky flavor. I always have fun visiting Heifer farmers. Sitting at Francisca’s kitchen table, eating a lovingly prepared meal, I feel like one of the family. All I need is mas tortillas, por favor.

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