Guest Writer: Adriana Arvizo, Senior Manager of External Communications at Comcast
In Mexican culture, the holidays don’t officially start until you have had a bite of a tamal. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggerated statement, but tamales are truly a fixture of the holiday season.
Opening a warm, steamy corn husk to discover the soft masa (dough made from nixtamal) that holds the rajas con queso (pepper and cheese), chile verde or mole will forever remind me of my grandmother. Growing up in Mexico, my grandmother, the matriarch, would host a tamalada party every early December. The gathering consisted of an assembly line of family members making tamales for the season. During the tamale-making process, someone oversees preparing the masa, a couple of people spread the masa in the corn husk, and the following team adds the filling, typically rajas, chile verde, rojo or mole.
As a child, I loved those gatherings because I could run around the kitchen with my cousins while my tías (aunts) and tíos (uncles) lined up around the table to make hundreds of tamales. The magic of the gatherings was rooted in the conversation and connection that sparked throughout the process.
According to an LA Times article, tamales are associated with Christmas because corn was viewed as the precious substance of life in Mesoamerica. In fact, it was believed that the gods made humans from corn.
Perhaps more sacred than the corn offering was the tamale-making rituals. Talamadas, or tamal-making parties, were illustrated in the hieroglyphics of the Toltecs and Olmecs. To this day, they are a vital component of the celebrations surrounding sacred occasions such as baptisms, first communions, special wedding anniversaries and, of course, Christmas.
My grandma passed in 2020, but her legacy lives through our traditions. Now I’m the one leading our tamale-making expedition, enlisting my five-year-old daughter, husband and in-laws to join the process and make new memories out of our beloved traditions.
When I learned about RISE recipient La Guerrera’s Kitchen, located in the Swan’s Market in Oakland, I could not help but feel nostalgia for the native country I left over 20 years ago. I immediately planned a trip to visit the quaint mercado (market) where they are located. Meeting the mother and daughter duo, Ofelia and Reyna was inspirational and magical. They keep the tradition and the wonder of tamales alive, bringing new life to sacred recipes. I feel so proud to work in a company committed to supporting small businesses owned by people of color, women and immigrants like me. On behalf of Comcast and myself, I wish everyone a happy holiday season filled with love, laughter, and of course, tamales!
Learn about La Guerrera’s Kitchen story here: