Thousands of people gather for the annual Gran Tamalada in the historic market square

Alejandra Ambriz and Jose Guzman spent their Saturday morning tasting tamales in the historic downtown market square, eating about a dozen between the two of them and collecting a few of their favorites to take home.

It was the couple’s first time at La Gran Tamalada, an annual tamal festival hosted by La Familia Cortez restaurants and the market square. The event included nine food vendors – five of which were dedicated to tamales – singers, folk dancers, and a holiday gift market with local vendors. Ambriz, Guzman and their 2-year-old daughter, Annalize Guzman, were among the thousands on Saturday to enjoy the festivities.

“Everything was super cool and super cute… We had fun,” Ambriz said. “It was just a good way to start the morning.”

The fun will continue until Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the historic market square.

Although it has evolved over the years, La Gran Tamalada has been around since the early 2000s and was first hosted at its current location in 2017, said chef and event organizer La Familia Cortez Restaurants. , Cariño Cortez. The Cortez family owns Mi Tierra and several other local restaurants.

“It’s really important to embrace and celebrate our traditions and not forget them,” Cortez said. “And so in any way we can do – throw a festival, get your hands dirty, eat, enjoy the music – I think it’s a fun way to pass it on to the next generation.”

Corina Arrona, owner of the Corina’s Tacos stand which is often found in the market square, always makes a point of being part of La Gran Tamalada. Arrona, 67, said she enjoys working in the market square and being involved in events like La Gran Tamalada.

“Every time you work in the marketplace it’s a privilege,” Arrona said. “This place is historic and attracts cultures from all over the world.”

Although vendors were unable to meet for the event last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lesson on how to make tamales – a traditional part of La Gran Tamalada – has always been held virtually. , Cortez said.

Organizers have kept the demonstration online this year. Participants could scan a QR code as they walked into the field to find a video demonstration on how to make tamales.

La Gran Tamalada was also an opportunity for people to hear Cortez read a book she wrote with her sister Paloma Cortez called “Camilla la Magica Makes Tamales”. The recently published children’s story follows a little girl learning how to make tamales from her grandmother. The book includes a tamal recipe on the back. Sunday’s event will not include reading and signing a book.

The festival was one of the trip to San Antonio raffles for Sandra, 40, and Juan Mendez, 42, in San Antonio this weekend. The Lindale couple spent their Saturday enjoying the food and had planned to attend a Spurs game that evening. The two said they plan to taste the tamales at each stall.

La Gran Tamalada is sort of a tradition for Melissa and Jacob Herrera, who have been coming since moving to the market square a few years ago. The two said they always try the tamales and salsas at each stall.

It was the first year for the duo to introduce their one-year-old daughter, Anastasia, to the tradition.

“It was her first time and she will probably come back every year,” said Melissa Herrera.

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