Gringa Frijolera

Friday, January 27, 2006

When it comes to TORTILLAS, size matters

El Salvador is about the size of the State of Massachusettes- tiny, tiny, tiny and over populated. Even after 4 years of making this country my home, it still surprises me how much variety there is here. If you're lucky enough to have a car (or have enough $$ to rent one in my case) you can drive border to border in less than 5 hours-its that tiny.

Yesterday I drove out East to a little town called Conchagua. I haven't been out East much and the drive was absolutely gorgeous. Time seems to slow down on that side of the country, even if you're speeding by in a government issued vehicle. Out East it just feels different but I noticed some physical differences as well.

The people, for example are shorter than in San Vicente with wider noses. Legend says that the inhabitants of Conchagua once lived on the island of the same name (Isla de Conchagua) out in the Gulf of Fonseca until they were chased landside by Brittish Pirates. Assuming that's true, we can infer that residents of Conchagua have a different genetic/racial make up than the rest of "mainland Salvadorans." That wasn't the only difference.

It was lunch time as I wove out of La Union and back towards San Miguel. Several young men steered their bicycles on the side of the road holding plastic bags with BIG HUGE TORTILLAS in them. By far, these were the biggest tortillas I had ever SEEN!

And it made me think... in San Salvador, by far the richest area in the country, the tortillas are made out of Maseca and are small, puck-like. In the Santa Ana countryside they are thick and the size of coffee saucers- made out of corn ground, harvested and planted right there in the same communtiy. Out East in the most forgotten of the 14 departments, where the government is hesitant to send aid and the civil war's scars are still pink with newness they make huge thick tortillas.

Is the correlation between poverty and marginalization and the size of tortillas flattened and flipped over a hot comal at all indicative of the region's economic prosperity? Are the tortillas bigger to make up for a smallish food supply? It made perfect sense to me, maybe tortillas size should be used as a poverty indicator.

Out East the tortillas are big, and in almost any arena SIZE MATTERS.


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