Growing appetite for tamales leads to long lines for last minute orders in El Paso

Growing appetite for tamales

EL PASO, Texas - A growing appetite for tamales and limited time to make the labor intensive holiday favorite has people lining up to buy fresh tamales at the last minute.

"It's maybe 30 degrees, but it's worth waiting in line," said a woman who would only give her name as Mrs. Gonzalez.

She was standing outside Lupita's with dozens of other people bundled up against the cold waiting to pick up hot tamales.

For the past seven years, the El Paso Sheriif's Office has assisted with security and crowd control.

"Every year the crowds get larger and larger. Sometimes tempers flare and they get frustrated waiting in line and sometimes confrontations happen," said Deputy Jesse Tovar.

There was a time when most tamales were homemade But these days it's hard for working women to find time to stuff corn husks with masa and filling before Christmas eve.

"It's three hours prep and then it takes a whole day to make them" said Marina Medina who usually makes her own.

This year she was picking up several dozen at Gussies's. She only had two days days off and had to return to work the day after Christmas.

In the kitchen of Gussies bakery half a dozen women wearing red shirts worked as hard as Santa's elves to stuff corn husks with masa and a variety of fillings including pork in red chile, chicken and green chile and cheese with jalapenos.

People who want to preserve the tradition at home lined up La Colonial Tortilla shop to buy masa or cornmeal dough by the pound.

"I'm making my own," said Esperanza Lopez, a white haired grandmother who uses a cane.  "I don't like to buy them."

Once mostly a Mexican Christmas tradition -- now more families of all backgrounds are making tamales part of their holiday meal.

"Put me down" cried Michaela, a little blonde girl in a frilly dress carried by her father as he waited in line to place an order at Gussies.

A man with white beard who looked a lot like Santa Claus also waiting in line smiled and waited patiently in keeping with the Christmas spirit.

"I'm a fat guy with a white beard I'm supposed to be," Rick Clark with a chuckle. "Merry Christmas."

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