Nearly 30,000 tamales were eagerly consumed by a huge crowd of hungry folks during the third annual Tamale Festival in Somerton Saturday.
Highway 95 was shut down and 40 separate tamale vendors, each with a unique recipe, set up shop. About 12,000 people wandered from stand to stand throughout the day to taste and compare recipes.
According to Carlos Anaya, president of the El Diablito Arizona State University Alumni Chapter, the organizers of the event, the art of making good tamales is passed from one generation to the next.
"It is a tradition not only for Mexicans but for many people in Latin America," he said. "Tamales are big around Christmas. It is a tradition with Mexican families and that is why we decided to hold the Tamale Festival in December. We wanted to come up with something that can identify our culture and unite Yuma County. I'm pretty happy the community is embracing this festival."
Vendor Sandra Estrada learned how to make tamales from her mother, and the recipe was a favorite of the event, winning the People's Choice Award.
"It makes me feel really good," she said. "They are the best tamales in Somerton and Yuma. Thank you to all the people who voted for us."
Estrada, a tamale maker for 20 years, made 180 dozen tamales for the festival and she enlisted the help of her nephew Daniel Rodriguez.
"I've been helping her for the last couple of days trying to make them and it was a success," Rodriguez said, adding it is hard work.
"Yeah it's not easy. First you have to make the masa, which is like a tamale dough. You mix it up and get meat and crumble it up into a bunch of pieces and mix (secret) ingredients in. We cut up a lot of potatoes, olives and jalapenos. You put that all in there, close it and fold it up wrap it in a corn husk, and heat it up for a few hours. We cook them with steam."
Part of the proceeds generated from the tamale purchases will be used to help send local kids to college.
"The profits we make go towards scholarships. It is a book scholarship that we give out and right now it's $500 a semester, and $1,000 per school year," said Anaya. "The more money we raise the more scholarships we can give to more students."