Close this search box.

Hand Grinding Corn Mill was a Tedious Childhood Chore

By Angel Nuñez
These corn mills or corn grinders are obsolete in San Pedro today but I am sure they are still used in some parts of Belize, and for sure all the way in Panama where my friend and Brother Tony Alamilla took this shot. 

“Angel, don’t forget to grind the corn before you go to school,” shouted my mom from the kitchen in the yard where she was frying some mullets for the morning breakfast.  She was reminding me to grind the corn for her to make the “masa” or dough with which she would make some delicious hot corn tortillas for lunch.  And why would she have to remind me every morning? You guessed it right!  It was not a chore that anyone enjoyed or even got used to.  I was delighted when it was my brother’s turn and I got to fill up the buckets with well water and leave them near my mom’s “batella” or wash tub.

Hand Grinding Corn Mill was a Tedious Childhood Chore

Corn had to be grinded twice to get the perfect dough consistency

Why would I or anyone not delight in spinning that handle of the corn mill? Well, it was a tedious job and it was tiring also.  Imagine having to spin that handle of this gadget some five hundred times to grind a quart of boiled corn?  This happened in two courses, my friend.  First we had to grind the corn but it never came out fine enough to my mom’s satisfaction.  The dough had to be returned into the mill (five hundred more rotations) and processed a second time for it to be very fine which would yield pliable dough.  According to my mom and all moms of the village, this was the only way to get the best corn tortillas.  

During one of these boring mornings my brother was rotating the handle and I was pushing the dough into the top feeder compartment. Suddenly the index finger of my left hand was caught into the grinding mechanism and I felt an excruciating pain.  I shouted, of course, for my brother to stop.  Up until this day I have a crooked fingernail as an ugly reminder of that manual corn mill. I was given a break of about a month for my finger to heal and after that is was back to my monotonous and tiresome chore.  Now the daily reminders from mom was as follows:  Angel, don’t forget to grind the corn before going to school and be careful because there will be no more holidays if your fingers gets caught again”  This of course made the job even more distasteful, but such was life in our humble village of San Pedro in the 1950’s.  It is a life I would never exchange with any other life and would re-live it any time again.

Hand Grinding Corn Mill was a Tedious Childhood Chore

The corn stone grinder was a technic used by the mayas


25 Years Ago Books Can Be Purchased At:
-Ambergris Today Online Newspaper -Jose Luis Zapata Photography Lala’s Store -Pampered Paws -San Pedro BTB Office -S.P. Town Library -Di Bush, A & R
Contact the Author at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *