Molino, corn grinder

Concepción “Concha” Sanchez used this electric Molino (corn mill) to grind cooked corn, an important step in making masa (dough) for tortillas and tamales. Her grandson, Adrian Sanchez, fondly recalls the machine and working with her to make tortillas and tamales:
I recall helping my Grandmother Concepcion Sanchez make corn tortillas for her to sell….[in] 1948 in Fillmore, California. …My uncle Arnulfo [bought] his mother a molino, a machine that grinds corn for masa to make tortillas…a comal, a griddle to cook the…tortillas, and a machine [tortilladora] that actually made the tortillas…the dry corn was cooked [and limed]…The cooked corn was then ready to be ground in the molino…The ground masa was then gathered into large balls to be placed on the machine…when the handle was turned, a tortilla would fall on an attached conveyor belt which…would drop the uncooked tortilla onto the comal…After the tortillas cooked, they were stacked and counted into dozens… The…neighborhood came to buy their warm tortillas…A…batch was sent…to…Tio Nuco’s market …During…Christmas…Grandma [made] masa for tamales…[she]…was into her 80’s when she quit. (Smithsonian interview, 2006)
Concha Sanchez and her family followed the path of many Mexican immigrants who turned their traditional foodways into a staple of community life. Concha and Abundio Sanchez migrated from Mexico in 1912 at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Through the 1920s, they worked in Kansas, in Texas, and in the produce fields of California, eventually opening a grocery store. When that failed in the Great Depression, Concha supported her family by creating a tortilleria, making and selling tortillas in her Ventura County neighborhood. Instead of making them by hand, as Mexican women had done for centuries, she used the new electric and gas-fired equipment bought by her son to produce tortillas and tamales for sale.
Object Name
corn grinder
date made
ca 1920
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
stone (overall material)
overall: 69.5 cm x 124.5 cm x 49 cm; 27 3/8 in x 49 in x 19 5/16 in
place made
United States: California, Fillmore
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
Family & Social Life
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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