How Yucatán’s Iconic Pasta Tiles Are Made

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Pasta tile floors, practical in a hot and humid climate like Yucatán’s, started emulating decorative rugs and carpets here in the 1890s.

These mosaic tiles are often brightly colored with flamboyant floral or geometric patterns that, for generations, were commonly favored in traditional Yucatecan homes.

After falling out of favor as cheaper ceramic tiles arrived, they came back into vogue in the late 1990s. Soon, pasta tiles were also seen on walls, stair treads, and furniture. 

So the craft remains alive today, and pasta tiles are in high enough demand to keep dozens of artisans busy. A ladrillero, or brick maker, can make from 80-130 tiles per day. It all depends on the intricacy of the designs.

These tiles are not fired or baked. The pressure does the work. Unlike more common ceramic tiles, pasta tiles are tough enough to last 50 to 100 years, if not more.

The Process

Into the molds …

1. It all begins with liquid, tinted cement being scooped into square tin molds. 

…. topped with sandy, chunky layers ….

2. The decorative cement is then topped with a sandy layer and then a thicker, chunkier mixture, which will be the
durable bottom of the tile. 

… and hot off the press.

3. The piece is then sent to a machine press, where high pressure quickly packs everything together. When it comes out of the press, the tile is stacked on its side to dry for more than a week. 

Photos: Patricia Robert

Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012.
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