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Meeting Doña Mara, the famous lady in our Costa Rica trips, was really special.

I learned how to make tortillas, not only from scratch, but on a wood stove, outside in a “Rancho” which is basically like a gazebo; a covered kitchen with a rustic, old-fashioned oven.

First we walked along the dirt road over to her neigbor’s farm where they grown sugar cane, corn, and lots of other fruits and vegetables. Here they take the fresh corn and grind it, making it into the corn flour called “masa.”   They also have an old-fashioned “Trapiche” which is a manually-operated sugar cane grinder.

Corn grinding  Corn grinding machine

In case you are wondering, Doña (which is pronounced Don-ya and means Señora or Mrs.) is the way all married or older ladies are addressed in Costa Rica. Men are addressed as Don – Don Luis, or Don Jose, etc.  It’s a sign of respect, even used among friends. Part of the travel experience is learning the culture right? For me it’s the part I love the most!

Doña Mara and I watched and waited for the corn masa, paid for it as well as for some “Limones” basically a cross between a lime, lemon and orange, to make fresh juice to go along with our tortillas, and “Tamal”.  Tamal is like a coconut & corn bread… so yummy.

Making tortillas is actually fairly easy, it’s amazing that we most often buy them in packages. But nothing compares to a fresh one off the stove. A little crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.

Doña Mara getting coals ready  Doña Mara

Often families visit Doña Mara and her family for the afternoon, to get a slice of rural Costa Rican culture, fill their bellies on tasty fresh food, and of course try their hand at making authentic tortillas. While it’s just one afternoon, and a fun and memorable experience for the travelers, it really helps the people there. It’s a direct contribution to not only Doña Mara’s family, but the neighbors where she buys her corn, and lots of GreenSpot travelers also visit the local school, and make donations to our community development project.

Doña Mara's grandson Evans  Lunch table in Rancho

Another bonus is getting to meet her adorable grandkids!

It’s amazing to me how rising early (as is the norm in rural Costa Rica), spending the day in a breezy rancho, cooking (which I barely ever do at home), and just taking in the sights, sounds and views of the farm, can be the most relaxing, peaceful and heartwarming experience. There’s something to be said for taking pleasure in the simple things in life.

– Kelly Galaski

Have you met Doña Mara? Tell us about your experience!