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Like corn tortillas? Thank Indigenous science.

In 1735, thousands of people died horrible deaths after eating untreated corn. If only they'd learned from what Indigenous communities already knew.

Published May 13, 2021.

You might not have heard about the ancient process of nixtamalization, but you’ve almost certainly tasted the results of it.

Nixtamalization is the process that transforms corn’s chemical makeup so that it can be used to make tortillas, tamales, tortilla chips, and a host of other foods we love. It is also, as Navajo writer and podcast host Andi Murphy reports, a testament to the ingenuity of the Indigenous people who have subsisted on corn for thousands of years.

In this episode of our Webby Award-winning podcast Proof, Murphy learns about nixtamalization from Indigenous chefs and historians and puts those learnings to work making her own tortillas at home. Along the way, she traces nixtamalization's role in preventing a mysterious disease from devastating Indigenous communities and also draws a parallel between this taken-for-granted technique and the erasure of the people who created it.

Listen now:
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The birria tacos Andi Murphy made after learning how to nixtamalize corn at home.

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