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Woman Making Tortillas, Mexico, 1927

Mexico.  Woman Making Tortillas.  (1927)
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_A12261
Document Description
A woman making tortillas, Mexico, 1927.
What do you think this woman is doing? 
What do you see in her home that is different from yours?  What is the same?
This picture was taken in Mexico many years ago.  How do you know it was taken a long time ago? 
This woman is preparing food.  What kind of food could she be making?
This woman is making tortillas.  What step(s) in the process do you think she is doing now? 
Why is this woman preparing her own corn for tortillas? 
In Mexico, each person eats an average of over one pound of corn tortillas each day.  Why do you think this is so? 
In very rural areas of Mexico, more than two-thirds (66%) of a person’s calories come from tortillas.  Why would this percentage be different in urban areas?
What do you think the main food is in urban areas?
Historical Challenges
Find (or order) maseca flour and make tortillas. Research traditional fillings for tortillas, fill them, and hold a taste test for the class.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math and Science: Purchase different types of tortillas and do blind taste tests. Tabulate and graph the results. Analyze favorites based on ingredients, nutritional value, etc.
English Language Arts: Write a persuasive letter to a tortilla manufacturer suggesting ways to improve its product based on the results of the taste tests.
Martinez, Zarela, and Anne Mendelson. The Food and Life of Oaxaca: Traditional Recipes from Mexico's Heart. Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated, October 1997. ISBN: 0028603508
Illsley, Linda. Mexico (Food and Festivals). Raintree Publishers, January 1999. ISBN: 0817255532
Heinrichs, Ann. Mexico. Scholastic Library Publishing, October 1997. ISBN: 0516261738
Burckhardt, Ann. People of Mexico and Their Food. Capstone Press, August 1996. ISBN: 1560654325
Beatty, Theresa. Food and Recipes of Mexico. PowerKids Press, January 2003. ISBN: 082395224X

Historical Context
In Mexico, Indian women are so experienced at making tortillas that they are able to form the dough into flat circles using only the palms of their hands.

Making tortillas from scratch requires several time-consuming steps:

     1. Remove kernels from corn.
     2. Boil white corn grain with slaked lime overnight.
     3. Discard the liquid and wash the kernels.
     4. Use a pestle to grind the corn, adding water to produce a pliable dough.
     5. Form the dough into small balls, then flatten them into thin, round pancakes (or use a tortillas press).
     6. On a hot griddle, cook the tortillas for 30-60 seconds on each side.

Essential Question
How does geography influence culture and economy?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the role of geography in the development of culture and economy.