Making Tortillas in Guatemala

Making Tortillas in Guatemala

Yesterday I mentioned that the traditional baked-clay comales are disappearing in Guatemala in favor of the metal comal; heated through gas. All this talk about the comal and some of you might be wondering what the heck, what is the comal and what is used for? Well, the comal is the Pre-Colombian stove for Mesoamerica. It is used mostly to cook maize-based tortillas, a Spanish term derived from the word torta, meaning a round cake.

The tortilla, that is most familiar to North Americans and quite possible most of the world, is a kind of thin unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize (corn) or wheat flour. Here I am paraphrasing the entry of Tortillas in Wikipedia (click the link for a longer definition).

All the cultures of the world found a way to include carbohydrates in their diet. Maize-based foods and tortillas are the carbohydrates for the Mesoamerican cultures. It is the equivalent of rice and wheat for Asia and Europe. Maize, however, is much more than a food group. Maize defines the Mesoamerica’s peoples. I have posted several entries regarding maize, but I believe I stated its importance more clearly in Mayan Pizza and Frijoles Colorados. Maize is one of the most important ingredients in the genesis of the human kind according the Popul Vuh, the Mayan equivalent of the Bible.

In this photo, we have a window into the tortilla-making process as it is done in Guatemala. Unlike Mexico, where tortillerí­as, the place where they make and sell tortillas, are micro-industrial joints and tortillas are made with machines and in large numbers, in Guatemala tortillas are made by hand and in a setting pretty much like this one.

This photo does not have great color, as I like, but I was very lucky to be permitted to photograph these two indigenous women in front of their comal. The photograph was taken at night with a tripod and with lens opened for 3 seconds. I am happy with the overall feel and rhythm of the image. What do you think of it?

© 2006 – 2013, Rudy Girón. All rights reserved.

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  • gmm

    Nice pic. Makes me hungry. These stay warmer in a plastic bag as opposed to being wrapped in paper. I miss Guate.

  • Jerry

    Gee, I wish I had a nice warm stack of these nice thick tortillas. In East Texas we generally only have mass produced, very thin tortillas, but tortillas are a staple here in Texas.

  • Tortillas and beans.. My favorite food 😉

  • i have seen the tortillas made and have made them my self. mine never are as good as the ones my friends have made for me. the older women pat the tortilla out with the hands and the younger woman have a press they use. this is to say the younger people from guatelama and mexico that live here. i have a friend that showed me how he made the corn meal flour from corn.

  • GMM: Thanks for your visit and comment. What are you waiting for… come on over I will put a stock of hot tortillas right out of the comal on your plate.

    Jerry: Tortillas are a staple here too.

    Cvander: Frijolitos y tortillas, quién se puede rehusar.

    Patsy: Thanks for the anecdote.

  • vanessa

    VANE:HEY I REALLY LIKE THAT PIC AND IT DOES MAKE U HUNGRY THOW AND I LOVE THE FOOD FROM GUATEMALA KUZ MY BOYFRIENDS MAKES IT FOR ME OKKKKKKK BYE
    LOVES ALL U AKA !LA VANE!

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