The process of making a tortilla begins in the milpa, or corn field, where the crop is carefully planted, raised, and harvested.
The entire family helps husk the corn. The cobs will be dried in the sun, for easy removal and preservation of the kernels. The husks are saved to wrap tamales or chuchitos, typical food of the Maya made primarily of corn meal.
Dried corn kernels are boiled with lime (the mineral) in order to soften them for milling. The process imparts calcium and vitamin B to the corn.
The boiled corn kernels are converted into masa, or tortilla dough, on a traditional stone mill. Similar tools have been in use for thousands of years.
A Mayan woman carries her corn to the mill. Most people visit one of several mills in town, operated by gasoline, to have their corn turned into masa.
Boiled corn kernels are fed into the mill to make masa. The electric mill makes quick work of what would be a time consuming and tiring job if done at home on a stone mill.
After milling, the masa is ready to be formed into tortillas. If necessary, water is added to achieve the proper consistency.
A ball of masa is formed into a tortilla by hand. Young girls often learn how to make tortillas as early as 10 or 12 years old, although as toddlers are known for mimicking their parents, many girls who are as young as 2 or 3 will begin.
Mayan women are skilled at forming perfect tortillas by passing them back and forth between the hands, clapping hands together, smoothing out the edges, all to make a thin and even tortilla.
Tortillas are cooked on a plancha, or griddle. Mayan women flip the hot tortillas several times with their fingers, until they are done.
A Mayan woman forms tortillas and places them on the stove. This is done three times each day, to have fresh tortillas at each meal.