Hispanic Student Association shares cultural traditions with tamale-making workshop

The tamale-making workshop gave students and families the opportunity to learn how to make a traditional Mexican dish often eaten around the holidays. Abby Roper | Photographer

By Sarah Gallaher | Staff Writer

As an annual campuswide event, Christmas on Fifth celebrates many well-known American holiday traditions. However, Baylor’s Hispanic Student Association brought Hispanic culture to the event this year with its tamale-making workshop.

The student-led organization decided to bring the tradition of tamale-making to campus after Mexico senior and HSA intramural chair Lalo Solorio suggested the idea in a general meeting. Solorio makes hundreds of tamales with his family each holiday and wanted to bring that experience to the group.

“I thought it was going to be really fun because we could bond,” Solorio said. “My family actually came over to help us. Along with our officers in HSA, we were all able to make them together.”

To prepare for the event, HSA made 470 tamales to sell as a fundraiser for the organization. Out of the 470 tamales made, Solorio anticipated roughly 300 tamales would be sold at the event, but many people participated in the workshop and did not purchase tamales.

“I think it was a really, really big success,” Chicago senior and HSA president Jordan Camacho said. “The Livingstones came over. It was really great to see people come over and step out of their shell and to kind of give something new a try. It was also nice to share a part of our holidays with our families with our Baylor family.”

Members of the Baylor family learned how to make tamales in a hands-on experience led by HSA members. The process uses a corn husk to wrap around masa — a dough made from corn — along with other ingredients such as meat or sauce. Although the workshop did not involve the dough-making or cooking process, the wrapping portion is often considered the most tedious and is how many families spend time together, according to Solorio.

“[Making] tamales is a tradition that most Hispanic families usually have,” Solorio said. “I know my family tries to do it a lot. This is actually the third time my aunt came over to make tamales; she’s made over 800 this month alone, so I think that’s really impressive.”

According to the Associated Press, tamale-making existed in pre-Hispanic times, when the ancient ​​Olmecs, Mexicas and Mayas prepared the dish. However, hundreds of years later, many within the Hispanic community still uphold the tradition during holidays throughout the year.

For Solorio and others, making tamales is more than a tradition — it is a chance to spend valuable time with family and catch up on each other’s lives.