Tortilla de Harina

The Texas Story Project.

The sun has just risen on a weekend morning in Brownsville, Texas. I roll out of bed and attempt to open my door to get through the hallway that leads to the kitchen. As I make my way down the hallway, I hear the sound of Saturday cartoons and conversations in Spanish coming from the kitchen. Standing in front of the sliding door that leads to the kitchen, I vividly remember seeing my grandma rolling flour-dough and smelling beans being cooked on the stove. There was nobody else but her in the kitchen. "Come eat," she says, "I made you a tortilla de harina"

Like most Hispanics or Latinos, flour tortillas were a staple in my family's diet. I have come to realize that not only is it a tradition, but the reason why we were so quick to eat it with every meal is that it is cheap to make and the dough can yield a lot of tortillas.

My grandma was the chef behind almost every meal I consumed from around the time I was born till I was 13 years old. I lived with her until my mother could settle in a home and find a stable job. Because of this, my grandma was left with the responsibility of raising me and my older sister. She did her best in trying to raise us and even passed us down the recipe/tradition of making her famous flour tortillas.

But my grandma was not always great at making flour tortillas. She is originally from Salvaterra, Guanajuato where she grew up on a ranch alongside twelve other siblings. Unlike today, it is common to see this type of occurrence in Mexican families as more children equals more hands to work on the farm or to be sent out and work. When she was 16 years old, she left her farm in Salvaterra to go stay with her aunt in Matamoros, Tamaulipas (a city that borders Brownsville, Texas) and work in a tortilla factory. It was there where she learned the recipe for what would soon be the famous tortillas that I recall from my childhood.

Life in Matamoros was not any easier than life on the farm. She would work long hours at the tortilla factory and then come home to her aunt and her aunt's husband who would be expecting dinner whenever he got back home from work. It was there where she was able to refine and practice her tortilla making skills. There were even days where he would come home alongside his co-workers so that they could taste the tortillas my grandmother was making. After a few years of working at the tortilla factory, she met my grandfather there and they married and settled in Brownsville, Texas shortly after.

There was an old habit that is referred to as "Machismo" that defines a sense of masculinity and can be expressed by forcing one's wife to stay home while the husband goes to work to make money and provide for the family. My grandma was a victim of the "Machismo" culture and she was forced to stay at home and raise my two uncles and the daughter who would later become my mother. While growing up, they ate the same meals that we all did growing up Hispanic: every meal served with a few flour tortillas.

The short anecdote from the beginning was only the start of what would be a childhood filled with flour tortillas. It quickly became my favorite food to eat and my grandma would always make sure that I had some throughout the school week. If I did not have one for breakfast, then I would not be surprised to find that I had some in my lunch box at school. The tortilla de harina is a food that is native to our culture and it is what catalyzed my birth here in Texas.

Eric Jordan Grant is a student at St. Mary's University studying Political Science. He was born in Arlington, TX but was raised by his grandmother in Brownsville, TX.

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