The Story Behind The Famous “Tortas”

The guajolota or torta de tamal is a perfect example of Mexico City’s street food because it is just one of the many ways of preparing this classic chilango (food from Mexico City) dish.

Tortas are normally sold in small stands or locals called “torterías” that usually exhibit their extensive menu on colored signboards written with markers. You’ve probably seen one of these locals on street corners or in front of parks, but do you really know where tortas come from?

The origins of guajolota

Mexico City’s chroniclers tell us that this flavorful, portable, and generous sandwich was born during the last years of the nineteenth century in order to fill workmen’s and students’ stomachs. The size, thickness, and temperature of a torta can vary, as well as its filling.

Guajolota sandwich


Usually, they contain different ingredients and condiments. Still, they’re almost always prepared with a special white bread called telera and include spread mayonnaise, avocado and black beans, shredded lettuce, tomato slices, onions, chipotle or jalapeño chili, deli meats, and cheese.

European kitchen traditions contributed to the shape and some of the ingredients for tortas, which is why they’re considered “a baroque creation where approximately twenty-five elements get involved. Consider, for example, the ability of the operator to shred the lettuce and their respect of the required order of each ingredient”. 

It is said that tortas were created by the end of the XIX century, specifically in 1892, by an eleven-year-old boy named Armando Martínez Centurión. He later opened the first tortería in Mexico, established in the Callejón del Espíritu Santo (today Calle Motolinía) number 35.

The “Tortería Armando” offered chicken, ham, and milanesa tortas, all of them really popular between students and workers in the neighborhood.

The taste of guajolota

Nowadays, this tortería is located on the corner between Humboldt Street and Donceles Street in the Centro Histórico, and you’ll find a variety of tortas worth trying. (Explore the Centro Histórico for yourself with our Food Tour in Mexico’s City Center.)

Tortas are just one of Mexico’s iconic dishes, and it is not enough just to know their story without having tasted at least one type. This is why we invite you to complement your gastronomical reads with the experience of one of our Walking Food Tours in Mexico City, so you get to deeply know the flavors of Mexican cooking.

If you have any questions about our tours or services, please get in touch.

Article by: María José Ordóñez Platas