Tamale Vendors Report Unusually Slow Sales Period Ahead of Holidays

Around the holidays, tamales are a staple. It's a family tradition for many families to gather and cook them together.

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The nixtamalized corn is churning and pounds of fresh masa is being produced at Sawaya Brothers Market in Logan Heights, but the dough isn't flying off the shelves like used to.

“Usually during this time it gets pretty busy, but it's been pretty slow this year," said market manager Anthony Pattah.

Not only are the lines of people buying masa smaller, but so are the quantities they are asking for.

Pattah's family has owned Sawaya Brothers for the past 15 years. They say the store typically sells anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of masa during the holiday season, but so far this year they've only sold 6,000 pounds. 

The tamale season typically starts with Day of the Dead, continues through the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12 and ends in early February for Día de la Candelaria. 

For many Mexican and Central American families, a holiday season without tamales is simply unorthodox. Yet, somehow, tamale vendors are also reporting a dip in sales.

“This year is definitely a big change, the sales have dropped,” said Fernando de Leon, a tamale street vendor. “Very low sales, just trying to survive."

And those who are buying are also purchasing smaller quantities.

Diego Resendez, another street vendor, said he's only received orders of one or two dozen tamales. And De Leon said his orders are few and far between. 

“Last year by this time I had a whole list of orders,” said De Leon. “ [I was] really busy, which was good and this year the orders are very little."

Could this mean families are adhering to public health guidelines and are keeping their gatherings smaller this year?

“Oh yea,” said De Leon. “Definitely. The people are not thinking of gathering."

It's a possible sign of a safer holiday, but tamale vendors are left feeling financial pain.

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