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“I Hate it”:Tortilla-Making, Class and Women’s Tastes in Rural Yucatán, Mexico

Lauren A. Wynne
Food, culture, & society 2015 v.18 no.3 pp. 379-397
corn, humans, labor, mass media, rural communities, staple foods, sustainable agriculture, taste, tortillas, tourism, traditions, women, Mexico
In Mexico, the corn tortilla has long been imbued with deep meaning; at particular historical moments, it has reflected indigenous backwardness, national culture and women’s contribution to social reproduction. In one rural community in Yucatán, tortillas, their place in everyday life and their relationships with human bodies have grown yet more complicated. Over the last century, shifting conditions in the region—a decline in agricultural sustainability, the development of a massive tourist industry, the expansion of mass media and new religious diversity—have altered many of the ways in which people engage with food. This paper examines the tensions between the qualities of foods—and the process of tasting by which they are experienced—and the resistance of some Yucatec Maya women to preparing tortillas at home. Consensus about what good tortillas taste like no longer precludes women’s refusal to pat out this staple food by hand. The paper draws distinctions between practices of tortilla preparation and consumption to analyze the links women draw between food, work and class. In doing so, the paper argues that older traditions of cooperation and commensality persist in rural Yucatán despite increasing diversity in both women’s everyday labor and their class aspirations.