by: Mitchell Kuga
There’s a cornfield in Bushwick, on an industrial strip of Grand Street, painted on the facade of Tortilleria Chinantla. The mural is lush with shades of green stalks of corn backing roaming cows and tanned farmers. Rendered in three-dimensional detail by artist Jamie Kosse, the facade offers a calm relief amongst the forest of auto shops and delivery trucks.The smell of hot corn tortillas popping off the line wafts onto the street. The mural pays tribute to Chinantla, a Mexican municipality in Puebla where Erasmo Ponce, the cofounder of the factory, is from. A depiction of a young Ponce can be found in the smiling face of one of the farmers, holding a box full of overflowing corn. “It still looks like him,” says Jocelyn Ponce, Erasmo’s daughter.
Inside, Jocelyn takes us on a tour of the factory, a sprawling, 4,500 square foot space with large, steely equipment that mirrors the industrialism outside. Steam rises off the tortillas as they catapult out of an oven heated at 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The discs snake down eight tiers of conveyor belts (the cooling down process) before being stacked, packed, and boxed by three workers waiting at the end of the line. The entire process happens with a blurry efficiency.
It’s the pace required to fulfill a hungry demand. Aside from providing the tortillas for Trophy Bar’s Taco Tuesdays and the chips for its nachos, Tortilleria Chinantla also supplies tortillas at Associated and Key Foods, in addition to making home deliveries in the area. With a few clicks of the calculator, Jocelyn estimates the factory produces 259,000 tortillas a day.