A tradition for many, here’s why tamales are important to Latinos

Whether you make them in a corn husk or banana leaf, it’s the meaning behind tamales that remind people of their roots

SAN ANTONIO – When thinking of Hispanic heritage, many South Texans think of the history, culture, and food -- especially tamales.

They come in all shapes and sizes, but, it’s the meaning behind them that remind people of their roots.

“Growing up, it was a way of life,” said Herlinda Lopez-Wood, the vice president of Delicious Tamales.

Whether you make them with a corn husk or a banana leaf, for many Hispanic families, the process is an event in itself.

Family and friends come together, especially during the holidays and bond over the tradition that was passed down for generations.

“You learn from the ground up, cutting the foil, washing the cornhusk, the smaller tasks,” Lopez-Wood said.

Delicious Tamales has been in San Antonio for 41 years and currently has seven locations in operation, with the first one in Austin, Texas expected to open later this fall.

Lopez-Woods said the tradition has evolved over the years and includes people from all walks of life.

“We see all kinds of cultures come through. We have African-American, Caucasian, Hispanics,” she said.

However, the job can be time consuming.

“A lot of people cannot do it the old fashioned way,” said Valerie Gonzales, the owner.

On a normal day, employees form an assembly line and make 3,000 to 4,000 tamales a day in 13 different flavors.

They are then frozen, while still raw, and sold to local restaurants, special events, and shipped across the country.

As for the everyday customer, the shop cooks several dozens in the morning so they are ready to go.

This time of year is also when workers prepare for the holiday rush.

Even though it takes a lot of hard work and dedication, Lopez said “if it’s a labor of love, it doesn’t feel as hard.”


About the Authors:

Roslyn Jimenez is a news producer at KSAT. Before joining the team, she was a producer and video editor at KIII-TV and a radio intern in Corpus Christi. She graduated from Del Mar College with an Associate's degree in political science and liberal arts. Roslyn is family-oriented and loves spending time with her fiancé and chihuahua Paco.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.