New children’s book on launching tamales in San Antonio

Soon, the soul-stirring aroma of fresh masa and pork and chicken and beans will soar through the skies of San Antonio, enveloping houses and streets in a thrill of the Tamal season. If the scene sounds like what history books are made of, it’s because it is.

The Mexican tradition of gathering hands and hearts to create bundles of cozy food in the form of heaps and heaps of tamales is a beloved custom, but there are not many children’s books that share the warm magic of tamalada. In Mexican households, everyone from the children to the abuela has a role to play in cooking, whether it is preparing the masa, filling the shells or being lucky and serving as taste testers.

The family functions have happened for generations, like trick-or-treating or baking gingerbread, but contrary to the commercialized traditions, a quick Google search for “children’s books about tamales” yields a sparse list of titles that would not fill. even a half shelf.

Cariño and Paloma Cortez, who are third-generation family members of La Familia Cortez, the group that owns Mi Tierra, Mi Familia and Pico de Gallo, will launch "Camilla La Magica makes tamales" soon in San Antonio.

Cariño and Paloma Cortez, who are third-generation family members of La Familia Cortez, the group that owns Mi Tierra, Mi Familia and Pico de Gallo, will soon launch “Camilla La Magica Makes Tamales” in San Antonio.

Courtesy, Carino and Paloma Cortez

Sisters Cariño and Paloma Cortez also noted the lack of culturally relevant children’s books. Like many nineties children, the sisters grew up reading Gary Sotos Too many tamales. The sisters, who are third-generation family members of La Familia Cortez, the group that owns Mi Tierra, Mi Familia, La Margarita and Pico de Gallo, are adding a new book to the election. On Friday, November 5, they start Camilla La Magica makes tamales.

Cariño, who is a chef, says that the annual child-friendly tamale workshops, hosted by La Familia Cortez, served as a springboard for the new book. The schedule for the event lets kids make a masa mess and includes a theme book reading. Cariño says that after rotating through a limited list of books, she realized that more was needed.

“There just weren’t that many out there about the tradition, and that’s kind of what I really love about the book, it speaks to this little girl’s funny personality and desire to be a magician,” says Cariño. “But at the same time, she’s learning these recipes and the cooking and tradition of tamales from her grandmother.”

The book also features kid-friendly recipes for bean-and-cheese tamales, Mexican hot chocolate and Mexican wedding cookies (which Cariño jokes were Palomas’ “one contribution” while growing up).


The sisters put pen to paper about three years ago when the real Camilla, who is Cariño’s daughter, was just a baby.

“She just has a curious, funny, lively personality,” Cariño says of the book’s minimuse.

Illustrator Christopher Villa, who is also from San Antonio, brought the magical story to life through the book’s 36 pages.

Camilla la Magica laver tamales officially launched with a pop-up event in Pearl’s “parquito”, the green space outside Cured. The Cortez sisters will activate the area with story time, book signing, hot chocolate by Chicano Cocoa, photo opportunities and more. “Camilla La Magica Makes Tamales” is available at Amazon, Hopscotch’s gift shop, Feliz Modern, Rancho Diaz and soon at Mi Tierra and Mi Familia.

Cariño and Paloma hope the book and its accompanying downloadable activities will serve as a conversation starter for parents who want to share cultural traditions with their children. Judging from sales from their tamalada set at home, which was launched during the pandemic, they feel that times of isolation and insecurity evoked a desire for families to grow closer and bond over nostalgia and tradition more than ever before.

“The three pillars [of the family business] is comida, cultura and familia, and the tamalada tradition is just one that hits all three of them, and see how excited children become to learn about their culture or someone else’s culture and get in the kitchen and make something and taste something new, is very funny, “says Cariño.

Paloma, who is art director and designer, points out that Camilla is starting the fourth generation of La Familia Cortez. She says her birth marked a need to create something that would honor their history and culture, not just for their family, but the Latinos as a whole.

“Food has always been a part of our lives,” she adds. “So I think it makes sense to have that part of our mission when we get older, to have those kinds of projects ourselves. Now, two kids later, it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re do need to pass on traditions. ‘ And food is what we know. So it might as well do what we know and share it with others. “

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