The Tamal Festival


My mother told me that if I have nothing nice to say, than I shouldn’t say anything at all, so this one is going to be short.


(Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound like something she’d say. I’ll keep it short anyways.) Over by Westlake they are having a tamal festival this weekend. I like tamales, but this “festival” is a bit dull so I skipped out quite fast, because my mom once told me the famous Mexican dicho: “Life’s Short. Play Hard.” Meaning, time’s a wasting, get to the fun stuff. I’ll show you some pics and you decide if you want to go tomorrow.


There was a line at the first tamal stand, so I skipped it, I’ll grab one at a shorter line.


Oh look, I can kill some time learning about paper towel technology. Fascinating stuff.


Hmm, another line. Don’t worry lady, I ain’t cutting.


Find out what Kitchen Craft can do for you!


Crowding around the “Gourmet Tamales.” Man, that just sounds wrong.


Fake ass churros under a heat lamp. People, please stop eating these abominations, you’re only encouraging them! If it’s not a little bit curly, then it’s not a churro.


More lines to sample the tamales.


Talking up the glamour shots.


“The Power of Beauty.” If you say so, but to me you just look sickly. Where are the taggers when you need them?


I got a great deal on my princess costume. A bit tight, but still very lovely.


People that bring their pets to public events just creep me out, it just reeks of the desperate need for attention. This guy brought an iguana, though it’s usually people and their dogs.


But how much sadder must it be to waste your weekend shilling for a politician? Ultimate Sadness.


WTF?!? Still lines for the tamales? Screw that, I don’t have time to be wasting to get something I can easily get from the lady at the Big Saver or one of the random ambulantes that go by my place. So the sad truth is that I never got to taste one.


Some people were much more patient than I was.


Oh, what could be more festive than a Christian booth for bibles and uplifting music? Now you know I’m out of here!

23 thoughts on “The Tamal Festival”

  1. I was there this afternoon/early evening and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. There were only a coupla tamale vendors, and they were running out of tamales around 5 even though the event went till 9. I did eventually get some tamales from Mama’s but I can get those anytime without waiting in line for the privilege.

  2. i’m getting REAL tired of the FAKE la folks you have working the button.

    almost everything that your folks don’t like is GREAT. how come all of the writers here seem to be LAME tranplants or idiots from OC?

    i don’t get WHY evrey idiot that writes for MBLKA is a cultural moron?

    do your RESEARCH and get some real BloGGERS!

    YOU PEOPLE ARE PISSING ME OFF. stop repping LA !!!
    i’m about to write for the LAist!

  3. I have loads of photos of when “More 4 Less”–which is on 7th Street, below Alvarado–was lined with a permanent line of LAPD as well as that huge LAPD RV. It was like Washington Square–where 5th Ave terminates at NYU–owing to all the drugs (mainly pot, but some crack and heroin).
    I find it amazing that there is the vast consumer difference between, say, the LES street festivals on 4th Ave below 14th–where people congregate and happen to buy things in droves–and this crap, where people are pushed to purchase shit in a hurry before the street lamps of the lake park are snipped or shot out, and “flower stems” and stepped-on slivers of baked crack cocaine (no one worth his salt would allow a dove of chunky to slip while on the run) are ground underfoot from the previous night’s failed sales.
    I want L.A. to stop trying to be that which it cannot, but when I see it emulating New York (some schmo on some other blog pitifully compared the forgettable ice cube at Pershing Square, to the Ice Rink at Rockefeller, fer fuck’s sake!) I cannot help but become enraged. I would love to see L.A. become cosmopolitan in its own fashion, but the ignorance of history of its own landscape is appalling.
    To wit: street fairs poisoned with commercial crap and slumming west-siders will only further poison a well what needs heavy purification, not further flavouring.

  4. D: El Chavo! is not a transplant.

    Bus ‘Tard: Um, you’re contradicting yourself. You say we shouldn’t make comparisons to NYC yet your argument is solely based on making comparisons to NYC. Newsflash, Tard! NYC is NOT the only city in the world where people gather in large groups in public. People who immigrate to Los Angeles come from countries with an even deeper sense of urban culture than NYC. It’s actually endemic to them, and not the metropolitan penis-size contest that NYers are known for. Why don’t you try traveling to another country for once?

  5. MA,
    Please stop acting like a 3rd grader; that you do the “‘tard” bit detracts from any possible argument you might hope to offer.
    I mean really; I expected more from you.

    Get back to me when you get over the juvenile: you should know I will debate rather than merely quarrel.

  6. El:
    “D” would not know a decent design if Matthew Carter leapt out to smack his arse with a brilliantly cinched typeface or Paul Williams did to him with a Pasadena mansion that which happened on Bunker Hill to the previous residents.

    Face it: D is for a word that my sesquipedalian arse would not dare to utter despite my knowing the history of that area like no one nearly white as my scots arse.

    Mum, ‘owever, proffers these therms: “D”ick,’ “D”ickhead,’ “D”im, “”D”ink,” “D”ork, and well, you get the picture.


  7. Mama’s Hot Tamales and the group that started them is in with this festival. It’s well intentioned. But like all good intentions in the city of LA, if the thinkers and do-ers are well connected, and the intentions align with development goals, a convoy of politicos and vendors will follow. On the other hand, if you try to go it alone, without lending good press to the bigshots, you suffer the fate of Cafe Luna, Tierra y Sol.

  8. It’s a testament to El Chavo that between 2am-4am he can generate this many comments. I liked your slightly sarcastic take on the festival. I do want to know, why is that kitchen person at many of the festivals?

    So what do you think D, people here should praise the five thousand festivals that are happening each week? That every bar is great and everything is fabulous?

    Everything isn’t fabulous, it’s not all horrible, but everything isn’t ok. Just because someone sends out an email press release doesn’t mean an event shouldn’t be critiqued.

    Do real bloggers not use capital letters at the beginning of sentences? I don’t think I like real bloggers. I like writers. Blogging LA has some people on it who make some interesting observation on LA cultural beyond “everything is so fucking rad.”


  9. “NYC is NOT the only city in the world where people gather in large groups in public. People who immigrate to Los Angeles come from countries with an even deeper sense of urban culture than NYC. It’s actually endemic to them, and not the metropolitan penis-size contest that NYers are known for.” Militant Angeleno

    Mr BusTard, I’ve restated the comment for MA (and I even addressed you as Mista,) now put down the Scotch glass and discuss a very excellent point raised.

    If we moved out of the Silver Lake land of ex valleyites and santa monicans I believe there is a real understanding of urban culture by people who are from other countries (and heck I’m going to say everywhere but Canada, I was born there so I can talk crap about it.)

    When I go to certain part of LA there is a bustling true urban metro culture. We’re so very segregated in LA, but if you look in certain parts of LA it clearly is metropolitan with people on the street with vendors and interesting things going on. To me it is an urban culture that is New York style. It does exists, but just not yet within the “white” or “black” American’s America.


  10. Not sure what all the excitement is about. I’ve never liked tamales. I just don’t understand why someone would want to eat the husk of corn. Now the inside of a tamale ain’t half bad…surprised nobody thought of selling two versions, the second being huskless.

  11. We went Friday night. There weren’t as many vendors as in Saturday’s photos above, and some of them didn’t yet have their full selection.

    Compared to the 1st annual Tamale Festival over by the Cornfield, there wasn’t as much variety. We did have a taco with cecido (Oaxacan) which was less common.

    I hope they keep this up, but I hope it gets better.

  12. The reason it won’t get better is because these festivals are created to make profit, hence all the corporate booths. Many of those food vendors are at all the big street festivals and survive because they can pay the big vendor fees and serve the crappiest food possible. Unless they allow for homemade entries (which wouldn’t happen because of insurance, health inspections etc), the public will never try the “best” tamales.
    The tamaleros that do participate seem to be resting on their laurels, skimping out on ingredients, using jalapenos instead of pasilla chiles, making the masa super fluffy so that the tamal seems more substantial and then charging premium prices. Even the beloved Liliana’s Tamales isn’t all that great.

  13. i don’t like mamma’s hot tamales. i met “mamma” (i can’t remember the owner’s name) during the organizing for the last sol festival, held at mac arthur park, when mamma’s was getting started (2003 i think).

    it was a small meeting, mostly mamma’s contacts. mamma talked way too much and at some point she outlined her business model — basically to encourage a crack down on the unlicensed vendors in mac arthur park. the vendors would then turn to mamma who had licenses and equipment and all the health department requirements. it’s my opinion that you should be able to buy food from anyone anytime. if you care if they are health department inspected, go ahead and ask. mamma’s tries to play like they’re very community minded but from what i see, it’s all about money and redevelopment.

  14. “But how much sadder must it be to waste your weekend shilling for a politician? Ultimate Sadness.”

    Even more sad to be an apathetic cynic who disparages those who are pro-actively engaging in the democratic process.

  15. I’ve never been, but I’ve always thought the name was kinda lame. Tamale festival? Ugh. I can imagine people pronouncing that with the long e, which is one of my pet peeves.

    I tend to only like tamales around Christmas time.

  16. Browne,
    Yeah, not all events are fun, I didn’t want to be mean here but it was quite a boring “festival”, no need to lie to the readers.

    Ha, ha, I’ve actually heard people complaining about the toughness of eating a tamal due to not unwrapping; everyone knows you save the husk for a napkin.

    You might have a point, some of these events are put on by the same people, and the events often have the same format.

    If your idea of democracy consists of handing out free stickers, you can keep your “pro-active” engagement.

    You noticed! I refused to use their stupid “tamal-e” name in my title, that’s just wrong.

  17. El Chavo, as always an excellent post. I had my first tamale shortly after I was living in Death Valley some 25 years ago. I was invited to spend an evening with Petra Regalado, her husband Rudy and mass of kids. It was my first tamale ever, and none have ever been able to match the magic she and her mother visiting from Mexico had made.

    The pork was succulent cooked in a spicy red spice mix of some sort, carefully pulled from the meat and spread into the handmade masa meal and carefully wrapped in the corn hust for steaming later. They were heaven, the spicy salty inside melding with the soft sweet of the corn. Never forgot it, never found it dupolicated.

    Sadly I haven’t seen them since I left. Patsy and her family were awesome people. My Dad sees them every few years but never when they have tamales available.

    Thanks for the memory jog.

    ps…the l’bel bus needs a mustache on the side.

  18. I went on Sat around 3pm and it was not as great as i expected it to be. There were not many tamale vendors ,lines were hella long and when we finally got to front of one the tamales werent cooked yet we ended up getting gorditas de queso lol. I didnt feel the tamale theme so much lol.I didnt bother to really check stage out didnt sound cracken i would say that festival de la gente a few weeks ago was on and cracken compared to this.Mabey it can get better with time…oh yeh since when are tamales 3.00$ geesh lol donde esta el real tamalero going down my street lol

  19. Real good EastLos Tamales at La Mascota on Whittier East of Soto, or that small store off of floral just west of Eastern.

    Lillianas is over rated and overly salty

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