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Tamales join turkey and ham on San Antonio holiday tables

Benny Lopez said the famly business started in 1981.jpg
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
Benny Lopez said the family business started in 1981

There's more than turkey and ham on the holiday table in San Antonio. It's the busiest time of the year for the family-operated Delicious Tamales.

Texas Public Radio visited a Delicious Tamales Factory on South Presa Street where production was in full swing.

Workers were busy mixing meat and masa and rolling both together in corn shucks to make tamales by the dozen. Customers were walking up to place their roadside orders at the business with a colorful façade.

The Delicious Tamales Factory
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
The Delicious Tamales Factory on South Presa has a hand-painted facade

Sixty-seven-year-old Benny Lopez said they have been in business since 1981. His parents got things started by selling tamales door to door. They opened their first location on Castroville Road.

Lopez said business is at its peak right now.

"Christmas is the busiest time of the year for the tamale business and apparently San Antonio is the capital of Tamales in the United States," he said.

So how many tamales does Lopez expect sell through their stores?

"I'm estimating somewhere in the ballpark of, heck, a good 50,000 dozen for the whole city at one time during the holidays."

Family members are involved throughout the local factories and stores. Forty-year-old Johnny Vasquez Jr., who has worked for his Uncle Benny since he was eight, said there is a lot of family pride in what they do, but there is also room for individuality.

"We all run the franchises different and the recipes are different," Vasquez said.

Anita Lopez, who worked with her husband Benny, passed away in 2019.jpg
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
Anita Lopez, who worked along side her husband at the factory, passed away in 2019. This image of her hangs in the factory

Customer Jessica Rodriguez was picking up tamales during TPR's visit to the South Presa Factory. She said she's been a customer for a decade now.

"We order tamales every year. We don't make them anymore so it's just a lot easier to come and buy it," she said.

Rodriquez said when they were making them at home, it usually took days and involved the whole family.

Benny Lopez said family is key to making tamales at home and at the factory. And he said there's another big part of the recipe.

"A lot of love and, of course, a lot of harmony in family at this time of the year and it doesn't matter what you cook, it will always come out good. That is really secret recipe, love between the family,” he said.

The Delicious Tamales Factory on South Presa is easy to spot with its colorful façade, painted by Vasquez. It includes painted images of the Aztecs, who were among the pre-Columbian civilizations that spread tamales throughout Mesoamerica.

The location is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian