METATES

A Metate is used to grind ingredients such as corn, beans, rice, or cocoa, and is also used in artisanal workshops, where other materials such earth are ground to decorate clay pots. Generally, metates are made of volcanic stone. Their shape varies according to their region of origin. In most of Mexico, metates are placed on the floor, are made of a single stone, are rectangular, and stand on three legs. To grind, pressure is applied to the sliding surface by another stone implement known as a mano or metlapil which can be cylindrical, four-sided or merely a somewhat elongated stone. In some regions, one uses the metate on a table. It is common for every cook to have more than one metate to prevent unwanted flavor mixing; often they are inherited or received as a wedding gift. In Michoacán there is a ritual dance to ask for the bride’s hand that features a metate.
Archaeological discoveries as well as pre-Hispanic and colonial codices refer to metates for ritual purposes and everyday life. The current name comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Metates are principally used for grinding nixtamal, to make tortillas daily, but they have largely been displaced by modern milling techniques. They are handcrafted throughout most of Mexico, and the most noteworthy come from San Salvador el Seco, Puebla; and Huichapan and Huejutla, Hidalgo; Comonfort, Guanajuato and San Pedro de los Metates, in Mexico State.