Edinburg family’s tamales tradition full of chaos, craziness, and quality time

dfwnewsa | December 18, 2023 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Edinburg family’s tamales tradition full of chaos, craziness, and quality time
Selma Barrera helps her mother Josefina Segovia, 81, while she spreads the masa on a corn husk preparing for the pork meat on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

There is indisputable evidence indicating that tamales are the glue that brings families together during the holidays. One only has to look around at Christmastime. There’s a dozen everywhere you look, and people you love (we hope) gathered around.

For Josefina Segovia and her daughter Letty Segovia Luna, 63, both of Edinburg, making tamales for Christmas has become a tradition that’s been passed down from mother to daughter from generation to generation.

Although the 81-year-old learned to make tamales from her mother who they called Lala, the tamale tradition began with Josefina’s mother-in-law, Leandra.

Over the years, the tradition has grown from simply making tamales to a day-long gathering filled with family.

“We all just get together, we eat and we drink and we dance and we sing,” Josefina said with joy.

As the years passed, they’ve continued to add to their tradition. In fact, Letty recalled two years ago when one of her daughters made an apron for each of the women in the family to wear as they made the tamales.

They topped off the look with a pair of Christmas headbands.

“We kind of upped it up a little bit with our attire,” Letty joked.

In previous years, Josefina and her husband, Arnulfo Segovia, would host the tamalada at their ranch home.

Prior to his death, the tradition included the men barbecuing outside while the women made the tamales.

She recalled her husband often making fun of her for complaining at the end of each tamalada.

Josefina laughed as she remembered his words, “You cry and cry for them to come and then you cry for them to leave.” He was referring to family members in jest.

As many are aware, hosting tamaladas is quite a bit of work, and Arnulfo didn’t always look forward to it.

Josefina Segovia, 81, makes tamales Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Edinburg. Segovia has been making tamales her entire life. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Although he attempted to look miserable she knew he loved the tradition just as much as she did. His annoyances belied gratefulness and affection for the quality time he was spending with his family.

The family now gathers at Letty’s house as they continue the tradition each year.

“The cycle has kinda changed as far as the location but the event and the kids and the noise and the fun and everything is just the same,” Letty said happily.

She explained that prior to the family’s arrival, Josefina often starts off their day of tamal-making by preparing the chile for the masa and tamales using a molcajete passed down from her mother-in-law.

The family then arrives around 9 or 10 a.m. to begin making the tamales. Although there are around 20 people in the kitchen, oftentimes they don’t finish making them until around 7 or 8 p.m.

Letty joked that they make so many tamales that they lose track of the dozens made over the course of 10 hours.

As the women made the tamales the children would be running around the house causing havoc.

Josefina recalled hearing the kids’ footsteps on her wooden floors.

“As hectic as it is … those are the memories that I have from when we went to my mom’s house,” Letty said, adding that the craziness is part of the tradition.

In addition, Letty explained that one of her favorite memories while making tamales was how much her grandma, Leandra, would make the family laugh.

“She was tiny and little but she would make us laugh so much, she would say jokes and some of them were inappropriate but it was fun,” Letty said. “That’s like what I remember the most.”

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She explained that they often think of her as they make tamales, recalling all her jokes as they honor her tradition. They also honor Lala’s memory by using the same pot that she used when making tamales.

Josefina’s favorite memories of making the tamales are just having all her family together.

“The secret (to great tamales) would be that family tradition of fun and love,” Josefina said.

To see more, view staff photographer Delcia Lopez’s full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: Edinburg family’s tamales tradition full of chaos, craziness, and quality time

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