Concepción “Concha” Sanchez's Molino

An immigrant mother supplemented her family income with cooking in the 1920s

This electric molino (corn mill) is rustic by modern standards, but it was a time-saving alternative to making tortillas by hand when it was manufactured in the 1920s. Concepción (Concha) Nieves Sánchez (1874–1962), a Mexican immigrant, used it to make the thin, flat pancakes of cornmeal that have been a mainstay of the Mesoamerican diet since ancient times. With tools like this molino, Concha could produce quantities large enough to sell on weekends directly from home and from her son Arnulfo’s food store in Fillmore, California.

Molino, corn grinder

Object Details

date made
ca 1920
Concepción “Concha” Sanchez used this electric Molino (corn mill) to grind cooked corn, an important step in making masa (dough) for tortillas and tamales. Her grandson, Adrian Sanchez, fondly recalls the machine and working with her to make tortillas and tamales:
I recall helping my Grandmother Concepcion Sanchez make corn tortillas for her to sell….[in] 1948 in Fillmore, California. …My uncle Arnulfo [bought] his mother a molino, a machine that grinds corn for masa to make tortillas…a comal, a griddle to cook the…tortillas, and a machine [tortilladora] that actually made the tortillas…the dry corn was cooked [and limed]…The cooked corn was then ready to be ground in the molino…The ground masa was then gathered into large balls to be placed on the machine…when the handle was turned, a tortilla would fall on an attached conveyor belt which…would drop the uncooked tortilla onto the comal…After the tortillas cooked, they were stacked and counted into dozens… The…neighborhood came to buy their warm tortillas…A…batch was sent…to…Tio Nuco’s market …During…Christmas…Grandma [made] masa for tamales…[she]…was into her 80’s when she quit. (Smithsonian interview, 2006)
Concha Sanchez and her family followed the path of many Mexican immigrants who turned their traditional foodways into a staple of community life. Concha and Abundio Sanchez migrated from Mexico in 1912 at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Through the 1920s, they worked in Kansas, in Texas, and in the produce fields of California, eventually opening a grocery store. When that failed in the Great Depression, Concha supported her family by creating a tortilleria, making and selling tortillas in her Ventura County neighborhood. Instead of making them by hand, as Mexican women had done for centuries, she used the new electric and gas-fired equipment bought by her son to produce tortillas and tamales for sale.
place made
United States: California, Fillmore
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
Cultures & Communities
Family & Social Life
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Credit Line
Gift of Anna Bermudez
Data Source
National Museum of American History
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Object Name
corn grinder
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
stone (overall material)
overall: 69.5 cm x 124.5 cm x 49 cm; 27 3/8 in x 49 in x 19 5/16 in
Record ID