Five Reasons to Hate GRUMA, Makers of Mission and Guerrero Tortillas, Maseca, and Other Tortilla Evil

Spawn of Satan
Spawn of Satan
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If you're a fan of Mexican food in this country, you're most likely a consumer one way or another of GRUMA, the world's largest tortilla maker. Their American brands, Mission and Guerrero, are the top-selling brand in the United States and a favorite of Mexican households, respectively. Their masa, Maseca, dominates the industry as well, allowing anyone to make tortillas at home, in factories, or restaurants with their dried corn flour you can reconstitute with water.

Captain of industry, right? WRONG. Fact is, GRUMA is one of the most evil companies in the world, with every product they make a threat to tortillas as we know them. If it was up to GRUMA (whose American base is in the Dallas suburb of Irving), everyone would either eat their tortillas or eat tortillas made from Maseca. Monopolize an industry that predates the Olmecs? GRUMA is getting there, unless we do something about it.

GRUMA epitomizes everything wrong with Mexican capitalism, and also exposes the continued stupidity of Americans when it comes to Mexican food--if Mexicans make it, it must be authentic, right? WRONG. Behold five reasons why you should avoid GRUMA's products forever.

5. GRUMA Lies About Having Invented Processed Corn Flour
1927 renewal of trademark for Tamalina; got the original 1909 application, too!
1927 renewal of trademark for Tamalina; got the original 1909 application, too!

"On May 3, 1949, the first processed corn flour production plant in the world was inaugurated in Cerralvo, Nuevo León, signaling the beginning of GRUMA," writes GRUMA on their website. "Molinos Azteca (Aztec Mills'), the parent company of gruma, was launched as the first producer of processed corn flour in the world."

Almost none of this is true. As I point out in my book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, the first documented corn flour ("masa harina" in Spanish) plant in the world was actually opened nearly 50 years earlier in San Antonio, by Jose Bartolomé Martinez. Marketed as Tamalina, it earned Martinez and his sons instant riches. And the name of their processing plant? Azteca Mills. So not only does the GRUMA family lie, they seemingly borrow names of their competitors, too.

4. GRUMA Has Put Thousands of Tortillerias Out of Business...

These beauties are from Northgate Gonzalez Markets, and a trillion times better than Mission or Guerrero
These beauties are from Northgate Gonzalez Markets, and a trillion times better than Mission or Guerrero

The reality is that corn flour made the tortilla-making process much easier for Mexican households who stuck to the traditional way. The traditional way, for you gabas, was to grown the corn, pick the corn, nixtamalize the kernels (which means treating them with lye), smush the results into masa in the unenviable workout that is a metate, pat down a masa ball into a tortilla, heat it, and serve it--and do the same process the following morning, as masa did not keep. The process was simplified in the early 1900s with the rise of molinos (mills) that made fresh masa out of everyone's corn (my dad's rancho of Jomulquillo in Zacatecas has one), but corn flour makes the tortilla-making process even easier: add water, and you have masa. But the process didn't become widespread until the rise of Maseca, and when it did, thousands of local tortillerias and molinos across Mexico shut down. That sad process started in the late 1980s, when Gruma really asserted itself.

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