A taste of culture

Popular tortilla-making event sizzles on campus


The smell of oven going burst out of the Wightman Hall classroom and down the hallway, Tuesday. The chatter and excitement of students eager to make their first tortillas filled the room, mingling with the clicking of stove igniters and the sizzle of the comal getting ready to cook the tortillas yet to be made.

This was "The Art and History of Tortilla Production," an offering of Multicultural Academic Student Services (MASS) and Prospanica: Association of Hispanic MBAs and Business Professionals. 

The excited student attendees didn't immediately get going on making a delicious Mexican snack. Rather, before they could get their hands dirty in the dough, they learned some tasty trivia about tortillas.

  • Tortilla production is a $6.4 billion industry;
  • Mexico accounts for 42% of the worlds production of tortillas; while the United States is 36%; 
  • Tortillas have grown to become a staple of North American diets;
  • Mexico’s more than 100 million people eat approximately 1.1 billion tortillas daily (about 11 per person, per day). 

"We choose to make tortillas since it’s one of the biggest Latine industries out there and since we’re a business organization it just fits in!” said Prospanica Vice President Valentina Memije. 

The tortilla-making started with a thorough hand washing and demonstration.

Memije and organization President Yazmin Torres called groups up to get the corn masa, then proceeded to explain how much water you add. Once everyone had the water and corn masa in their bowls, they learned how to roll the dough into a flat circle and put it on the comal (a pan-like stove top). 

Torres got her hands dirty with the corn masa and showed the engaged attendees how to make the tortillas. 

"I think people like the event because they get to not only learn about a new culture but have something like the tortilla / quesadilla to show for it,” she said. 

Throughout the event, Prospanica members walked around and helped guide the attendees' efforts. 

"It was wonderful seeing some of the same people coming back and wanting to do it all over again with us," Memije said. "Hopefully next year we’re able to put on another event similar to this one with the same amount of participation.”  

“One thing is that I really believe the food and cooking bring people together, and I love that we can bring that to CMU’s Hispanic Heritage month,” Torres said. 

She was also proud of how all the tortillas turned out 

"We wanted to keep it (tortilla making) going, to give people a chance to dive into Mexican culture hands on," Torres said. "We had really good reviews and attendance last year, and it went very well this year too.” 

1/4 cup of instant corn masa. 
1/4 cup of water 
A pinch or two of salt. 
Directions: Mix it all with your hands and you have your corn tortilla masa (dough)