(Fragment of the Mural of Cacaxtla)
In the Popol Vuh of the Mayas, after several unsuccessful attempts
to create man, a stable and lasting formula was achieved, in which
the blood of the gods was mixed with corn.
Three important cereals, each closely associated
with the origin of great civilizations, appeared 8000 to 10,000
years ago. Corn (Zea mays L.) began to be cultivated in America,
wheat and other cereals in Europe, and rice in Asia (1). These
grains gave an important impulse to the development of technology,
civilization, culture, and traditions. Corn has been both food,
money and religion for the Mexican people. In Mexico, corn for
human consumption has been processed using the nixtamalization
technique (nixtli = lime from ash, and tamalli = cooked corn masa,
some nixtamalization means corn cooked with lime). Some 4000 years
after corn began to be cultivated, utensils such as the metate
(stone receptacle for grinding corn), the clay pot, and the comal
(flat, originally clay dish used for cooking tortillas) were invented
and became indispensable parts of the technology of nixtamalization.
It is estimated that the classical nixtamalization process for
making tortillas was invented about 3500 years ago. This process
played a decisive role in increasing the nutritional value of
corn products like snacks, chips, tacos, tostadas, enchiladas,
nachos and others in the Mexican and Central American diet.