How to Make Tortillas

Trip Start Jan 06, 2010
Trip End Feb 23, 2012

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Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

According to traditional Mayan beliefs the gods made three attempts at creating people before getting it right. First they made deer and other animals, but they were not able to speak and honor the gods so they tried again.

On the second attempt they made humans from mud, but he couldnīt speak with knowledge and understanding so dissolved back into the earth. 

The third attempt was made of wood, the gods couldnīt understand them when they spoke and they didnīt have heart.  They were almost correct and therefore turned into monkeys as they are most similar to humans

The forth attempt was made from maize.  With this the gods were happy and thus people were made from maize. 

For this reason corn has a scared element here in Guatemala.  Fresh corn tortillas are served at every meal.  Tortillas are never thrown away.  My family burns all their trash, but they never burn corn.

Making tortillas from scratch without machinery is very time consuming and exhausting.  But a lot of Guatemalan women wake up at 3 in the morning to start the process so there are fresh tortillas for breakfast for the household.  The longest process is grinding the cooked corn on a stone to make masa or dough.  But now each town has a machine.  So most women take their cooked corn to the machine for grinding (1 Quetzal or about 12 cents) and the process is faster.


1.      Cook the raw corn with water and cal or the mineral lime.
2.      Take it to the mil with the motor to grind the corn.
3.      Take out the dough from the machine.
4.      Put the dough on the piedra de moler, or grining stone, to even the consistency.

5.      Start to tortear or make tortialls.

6.      Put them on the comal or clay slab for cooking over the fire.

The action of making tortillas is a women's job and she is taught from an early age.  It is essentially just slapping and turning dough in between the palms of your hands to make the dough evenly distributed.  Our Spanish teacher tried to get one of my group’s host moms to teach us.  We were all horrible as they were lumpy and we were slow.  It is a good thing that we can buy them from professionals at the price of 5 tortillas for 1 Quetzal.

The contents of this website are mine personally and do not refelct any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.
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benjaminbarnett on

Hi there,

I liked your post so much that I incorporated into our "How to make corn tortillas page" on our web site. Nice work!

"...see a Peace Corps volunteer's experience learning how to make corn tortillas over a fire..."

Laila on

I agree with the previous comment. This is such a nice post that I will be sharing with others!
Thanks Laura

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