Grinding Sugar Cane
Series TitleMexican People
Alberto Beltrán (Mexican, 1923 – 2002)
DimensionsSheet : 14 x 17 1/2 in. (35.56 x 44.45 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
LabelSugar cane was brought to Mexico by the Spanish in the 16th century and soon became one of the country’s most important commercial crops. Commercial sugar cane was grown on large estates and processed mechanically to produce refined sugar for sale both in Mexico and in overseas markets. Because the refined sugar was relatively expensive, some peasant farmers also grew small quantities of sugar cane for their own use. This print depicts peasants grinding sugar cane in an old-fashioned wooden milling machine called a trapiche. A few stalks of sugar cane were fed into the trapiche and crushed to release their liquid. That liquid was then boiled in a shallow pan until it crystallized and formed a coarse brown sugar that could be used by the farmers for cooking.