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Corn has been cultivated in Mesoamerica since 3000 BCE, even before the first pyramids were built in Egypt. It is still a staple in the area, with the people of Mexico eating some 300 million tortillas a day.
Almost every Mesoamerican town has a tortillaria engaged in the timeless process of turning corn into tortillas.
In one tortillaria in the center of the port city Puerto Vallarta, the men begin preparing the day's production at 3:30 each morning. Their work is heavy: each burlap bag of corn weighs 80 kilos, and while some of the process is automated, the men must move several hundred tons of corn, water dough each week with their hands and backs. The corn is cleaned of impurities, cooked several minutes in nearly boiling water, then put into a reservoir to steep. Once the hulls have loosened, they are washed away with cold water, and the softened kernels, now called nixtamal, are dumped into the molino, the mill, to be ground. What emerges is masa, a fresh-smelling, whitish dough.
The dough is mixed with bagged corn meal, then goes into a conveyor-cooker that produces round, steaming, tasty disks of nutritious food. Smelling the hot tortillas, customers line up to take them home.
During his career, David Björkman has worked as a photojournalist, war photographer, art director, Minimalist Color Field painter, fine arts instructor, collage artist, book illustrator, and book publisher. As a photojournalist, he has been smuggled across borders at night and survived a chopper being shot out from under him. His photographs have been published in magazines in over 20 countries. To complete a book project,-he slept on the floor of a Lakota Sioux medicine man's house for weeks at a time. He met writer Victoria Thomas while on assignment to document the Explorer's Club Chagres River expedition, (Flag 172), into the Darien Gap of Panama, to undertake an archaeological survey of a Chocó settlement, and to collect Chocó artifacts for the Smithsonian Institution. This settlement belonged to Chocó Chief Antonio Zarco, who taught the original U.S. Apollo astronauts jungle survival in case their capsule landed in the tropics on reentry. Together they founded Zone913, Inc