Concepción “Concha” Sanchez used this hand-cranked tortilladora to press masa into tortillas. Machines like this were invented in Mexico by 1911. This “La Rotative” press dates from about 1923 but was bought used by the Sanchez family in the 1940s. 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.
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