YES. You did it.

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Great article. But I’m still I little bit confused about the history. Various problems arise from all these hypotheses. The first is that from the early days of Colonial Mexico in the 1500’s to early 20th century Mexico, most wheat production was done in Central Mexico. According to the “archivos” históricos, Mexico’s wheat production region was the central high plateau, not northern Mexico. In fact, the best wheat variety in the 1600’s was Mexico’s “blanquillo” wheat grown in Puebla. It was so good, that the Spaniards banned its production at the end of the 17th century because it posed a threat to Spain’s own production. Central Mexico continued to be Mexico’s “bread basket” well into the 20th century with Jalisco and Guanajuato being the country’s largest wheat producers. All of this because it was difficult growing wheat in the tropical lowlands and in Mexico’s arid regions in the North, the latter because of a lack of water and constant Indian attacks. So it was in Central and southern Mexico where most bread production occurred. So, anyone saying that northern Mexico was Mexico’s wheat growing region is wrong. So, It would then make sense to say that flour tortillas were invented in the southern regions rather than in the north. In fact, one of Mexico’s first cookbook, the “Diccionario de Cocina” (the dictionary version of El Cocinero Mexicano) included wheat flour tortillas as one of its recipes; and this cookbook was mainly focused on southern Mexican cuisine. If we read many eyewitness, Mexican and foreign, accounts about the northern provinces during the 18th and 19th century, most of them usually mention corn tortillas as the main “bread”. Plus it doesn’t really make sense that they would make flour tortillas to satisfy their “European” taste buds, why not make actual bread?

Now, the hypothesis about Jewish or Moorish origins also don’t make sense, because as I mention before most wheat production was done in southern Mexico not the north. I don’t remember correctly, maybe you can verify it, but I remember reading somewhere that the “Crypto Jews” in Monterrey (Nuevo Leon) were actually eating corn tortillas during Passover, because obviously they couldn’t eat wheat bread and they did consider corn to be “kosher.” Apparently, the fact that they were eating corn tortillas instead of bread, was used as evidence against them during their trial. So this might put a dent on the whole Jewish origin.

Then you have the “Arabic”, “Moorish” or Middle Eastern hypothesis. It’s true that Spain does have a lot of Middle Eastern or Levantine influence. We can see this on its architecture, language and cuisine today. And yet there is no flat bread or anything similar to pita bread or flour tortillas. David Bowles used some really weird examples as his prove of flour tortillas in Spain by including dishes like “coques” and “regañas”. There is a lot of Moorish influence in Spanish cuisine today, but no real “flat breads” as far as I know. There are, however, corn tortillas up in northern Spain: “Talo” or “Talau” from the Basque Country and “Tortos” from Asturias. Of these two, “Talo” is the almost identical to the corn tortilla, and many consider these foods as descendants of the Mexican corn tortilla.

Here’s my hypothesis: there is no connection between any of the middle eastern flat bread and the flour tortilla, other than the fact that they are made with wheat. Americans seem to be obsessed with a juicy origin story. Apparently they cannot fathom that wheat four tortillas could have been invented independently in Central Mexico; for many, there had to be some foreign influence. How hard is it to come up with the idea of making tortillas out of wheat flour? If you can make four or dough out of it, you can make a tortilla or bread. In Mexico there are various kinds of tortillas made with different ingredients: corn, wheat, rice, mezquite, nopal, linaza, etc. Simple explanation: people saw that wheat could also be used to make tortillas, and boom, they did it. But if you really want a juicy origin story to satisfy your American brain, well, how about this: the indígenas didn’t want to eat bread, they wanted their tortillas, so the evil Spaniards came up with a solution: fool them into eating wheat, in the form of their beloved tortilla, instead of evil colonialist bread.


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