Family, Friends Continue Tamale Tradition Decades Later

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BROWNSVILLE – The making of Christmas tamales is a tradition a group of family and friends in Brownsville have stuck with for more than 60 years.

The tamaleras gather every year to start cooking the traditional food. Some have been there from the beginning.

“I’m a 103, been here for a long, long time,” Viola, an original tamalera, said.

Some of the cooks have joined for the first time.

“I made these for many years with my mom, but she passed away. And so now, I’m thrilled to death to be making them with my friends,” Mary Helen Lucio said.

“It’s the tradition every year, since 1949. My mother started it and she would get all her friends to make tamales at her house,” Chickie Samano said.

Samano and her daughter, Cel Galindo, have continued the tradition.

“You know, during the year, it goes by so fast, we forget to get together. It assures us that we are getting together and we’re not forgetting our traditions and our roots,” Galindo said.

Those that can’t be present, call in. For most, this is the one time of the year they get together. They put it on their calendars and enjoy the friendship.

And there’s tradition within the tradition. For example, putting three raisins in each tamale.

Patricia explained the three raisins signify, “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

While a few of the tamaleras have left, two of the original still take part.   

They’ve had to move from their house to Gaindo’s restaurant, ‘La Escondida’ because the group has grown.

“We make them until we run out of something. So how many dozens that ends up being, we’re happy with,” Louise Hartzog said.

The ladies will meet again in January. This time to share the tamales and continue their tradition. 

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