The Tamale Wars

Though they might not be the king of street food today, a hundred years ago Tamales dominated street corners, with tamale vendors becoming so popular that turf wars broke out. Though it was briefly impossible to avoid tamaleros, they vanished almost as quickly as they came. The history of the “Tamale Wars” is history that deserves to be remembered.
This is original content based on research by The History Guy. Images in the Public Domain are carefully selected and provide illustration. As very few images of the actual event are available in the Public Domain, images of similar objects and events are used for illustration.
You can purchase the bow tie worn in this episode at The Tie Bar:
All events are portrayed in historical context and for educational purposes. No images or content are primarily intended to shock and disgust. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Non censuram.
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Script by JCG
#history #thehistoryguy #tamales

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  • There's a tamale store at the end of my street run by a lady who can't speak English. Hers aren't very good but the other ladies who sell them in her parking lot are.

    Dj LuminolDj Luminol14 өдрийн өмнө
  • The history guy always has something interesting. That's some taste knowledge 👌

    Brandon DouglassBrandon Douglass18 өдрийн өмнө
  • Ok, I'm gonna admit my own stupidity. When I went to a friends house and.ate Tamales for the first time (age 15), I.had no idea what they were. So I tried to eat the corn husk. Needless to say, my friend and his family laughed at me and I learned how not them. I did the same with Japanese edamame the first time. (Ok, I grew up a a poor family who at whatever was on sale that week at the grocery store, but it's funny now)

    Jeffrey B.Jeffrey B.18 өдрийн өмнө
  • You can still find tamale vendors. Try a Home Depot parking lot! Tamale vendors appear when least expected at random locations. They may not be common anymore but they do exist.

    Dan FloresDan Flores26 өдрийн өмнө
  • Swarthy Mexican here, anyone know of a good bucket that won't break under a heavy tamale load?

    Abel QAbel Q26 өдрийн өмнө
  • If history repeats itself keep an eye out for canned tacos, they may spell the end for the taco truck.

    Matt HillmanMatt Hillman29 өдрийн өмнө
  • I buy empanadas at my factory at work.Someone makes them at home,either beef or chicken.Oooohhh man are they good.$2.00 a piece.Made with and eaten with love.

    Stephen SoltauStephen Soltau29 өдрийн өмнө
  • I wonder what Axolotl tastes like? Frog legs?

    Sean SheaSean Shea29 өдрийн өмнө
  • When I was there, tamales were only available during festive days. Not to be had on any other day. They were so big, it was a single serving. How do you know you are entering a “ real” Latino resteraunte? It is posted on the sign, that is “ authentic “. But, we are American. Those that come here are not enemies

    Norman McNealNorman McNeal29 өдрийн өмнө
  • It’s strange, when I was a kid I would often hear the term “it’s a hot tamale” but never knew the origins of that term, living in the southwest Mexican food is popular and tamales with it, but I never knew they ever had such popularity in the past, because they had had their day even before my time, but apparently the term hot tamale still carried some lingering cultural significance. Thanks.

    Clint HoweClint HoweСарын өмнө
  • You, sir, are a tresaure. You do tell a great story, no matter how obscure. I sure did not know of the 19-century tamale war. When I first saw teh title, I thought it might have happened in South America. How parochial of me.

    Frank GullaFrank GullaСарын өмнө
  • Corn meal is not masa ! I hate Chicago tamales 🫔.

    James HammonsJames HammonsСарын өмнө
  • It was sad day when my favorite Mexican restaurant closed.

    James HammonsJames HammonsСарын өмнө
  • Tom-tom tamales at 47th and Washtenaw in Chicago makes some great tamales. They've been a staple for my family for generations.

    Ken NieminskiKen NieminskiСарын өмнө
  • I don't know how this is going to be interesting but THG always comes through.

    Mark BlixMark BlixСарын өмнө
  • Hot Dogs Carts won the street food race..

    AirplaneEmergency TurnbacksAirplaneEmergency TurnbacksСарын өмнө
  • So they were selling like "Hot Tamales"..

    AirplaneEmergency TurnbacksAirplaneEmergency TurnbacksСарын өмнө
  • tamales at Christmas are part of our tradition since moving las vegas, husband Norwegian, and I'm English. i think absorbing the traditions of all those around us makes for a welcoming sight and fragrance as neighbors drop by during holidays. so i embraced the groups around me. makes life far more pleasant no matter where you find yourself.

    maureen skaarmaureen skaarСарын өмнө
  • come to the southwest..the tamale wars go

    maureen skaarmaureen skaarСарын өмнө
  • No pirates on this one!?! Lol thanks for another good episode!

    Andrew GreenAndrew GreenСарын өмнө
  • There has recent opened a tamale restaurant on Chicago Ave. From a man who opened just from a cart.

    George ColleyGeorge ColleyСарын өмнө
  • Watch this while eating tamales. I was just arching 88mm gun while having dinner and this video started playing right after.

    Aron SanchezAron SanchezСарын өмнө
  • The name is Tamal, not tamale, plural is tamales

    kim moletokim moletoСарын өмнө
  • Well done!

    Jennifer BrunerJennifer BrunerСарын өмнө
  • Maria "Tamale Kingpen" , mi suegra . Memories of ladies standing around a table making tamales by the gross , you could never make enough . Once word hit the street , it looked like a crack house for about 3 or 4 hours .

    Da gntDa gntСарын өмнө
  • I was born in San Antonio but move to the East Coast as a child. I'm still trying to find the delicious tamales of my memory. It has been a very long and disappointing search. My daughter's friend's family occasionally still makes them by hand and I get a few, and they are wonderful. My son recently discovered a brand of frozen tamales from San Antonio. They have several different flavors and real corn husk wrappers. They are very, very good, with a nice masa to filling ratio and great flavor. My only complaint is they aren't sauced and they aren't sold in many stores. They are produced by the Texas Tamales Co and come in a cloth bag. They also produce sauces but we haven't found those yet. If you love tamales, I suggest you try them, they are better than any restaurant tamales I've tried.

    Katmandu DawnKatmandu DawnСарын өмнө
  • Who are these sad, joyless people who give a thumbs down on a subject so neutral but suddenly interesting as Tamales!?

    Thomas SchillingThomas SchillingСарын өмнө
  • We're all tamales in the end. Make yours a good one.

    Shiboline M'RessShiboline M'RessСарын өмнө
  • I remember them on the streets of New Orleans in the late 60s and 70s. No more.

    Michael JohnsonMichael JohnsonСарын өмнө
  • The best tamales I have had in my life was at a little Roadhouse " I forget the name " just outside of Uvalde Texas. My god were they good! In fact they were so good they RUINED tamales for me. But I still try others just in case I find some that may rival those I had in Uvalde.

    Eddie MuldoonEddie MuldoonСарын өмнө
  • Fascinating story, but have to say the "Americanized" tamale still can't hold a candle to those still served by street vendors in Mexico or even as far south as Panama. A food that has been a staple for centuries. Have discovered so many variations in my travels, it's fascinating in it's own right, from corn husks to banana leaves, from goat to conch. And I love them all.

    Dirk DitmerDirk DitmerСарын өмнө
  • *the history of the more unique and more obscure movie serials would be appreciated as many were remarkably creative and inspired later movies*

    Scott MantoothScott MantoothСарын өмнө
  • Alton tamale war...I can hear it today hot tamales on a stick...

    Tom KTom KСарын өмнө
  • In the background at 4:42 appears "The Haunted Swing." I enjoyed looking up its history and finding out more about it. A History Guy Easter egg intentional or not.

    Zolton The MagnificentZolton The MagnificentСарын өмнө
  • My mom taught me to make tamales over the phone...the first batch included a "head" of garlic, instead of a "toe". I gave those i could not bear to a grateful Italian acquaintance. I learned my lesson, and make them with sweet memories, and pride. Tamale Carts, and Stands are somewhat common here (California) in Hispanic and surrounding neighborhoods, street corners, and mini-malls. They are about as common as the Ice-Cream Carts (Mexican Style), and more common than "Elote Carts" and stands (corn-on-cob with choice of combinations of hot-pepper powder, mayonnnaise, and cheese). Most tamales show up from "Select" restaurants. You can always find more bland or "bad" tamales than good. I've had "Tamales in a can." The best thing about them is, along with the disappointment, flavor memories of proper tamales come back with a vengeance.

    Bob HoneaBob HoneaСарын өмнө
  • I'm from New Mexico, they are staple here especially in Christmas

    J IJ IСарын өмнө
  • Game Stop & AMC Entertainment have been immortalized this month. Next month it is silver.

    ResortDogResortDogСарын өмнө
  • 09:09 I don't even know what a tamale is, and I know you don't put them in cans.

    Baron von QuiplyBaron von QuiplyСарын өмнө
  • I tried one of those things many years ago that I got from a Mexican girl from Texas. Their family tradition she told me. I have no idea what was in it but it literally tasted like what dry dog food smells like. Never have had any interest in trying another since that day.

    Bee BopBee BopСарын өмнө
  • Here in Kansas City, we have trucks that sell all manner of Hispanic foods, but tamales are still their number one seller. And oh my lord are they delicious.

    Elizabeth WilliamsElizabeth WilliamsСарын өмнө
  • If I had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life it would be Tamale (pork, chicken, beef. Red/green whatevs. So hungry now!)

    Darkstar 4th DimensionDarkstar 4th DimensionСарын өмнө
  • My mother gets pissed if I buy tamales from a street vendor or a stranger . She doesn’t trust them to be on e up and up

    marcus sanchezmarcus sanchezСарын өмнө
  • Learned to make tamales from the old ladies at church. Years later my wife's family asked if I could make some for the Holidays. I said sure, but why not make a few more to freeze. My idea of a few more turned into what they called the "Tamale Death March." Don't remember how many total, but we froze 35 dozen of the red chile/pork. Also made chicken/green chile & black bean. But they didn't mind eating them. For the year.

    BuffewoBuffewoСарын өмнө
  • Aztecs made tamales out of... sacrifice victims. Other than that, I love them. Wait,,, canned tamales? Oh, yuck! Almost as bad as the Mixtec version. We make them at Christmas! Turkey, beef, chile & sometimes sweet w/raisins. Not gone and not forgotten.

    Frank C. Martinez IVFrank C. Martinez IVСарын өмнө
  • Thank you History Guy I had never heard of Tamales before

    Sam EyersSam EyersСарын өмнө
  • The first tamale I ever had I bought from a street vendor in Chicago in 1977 or thereabouts. I had no idea what a tamale was (though I'd heard of them). I enjoyed it!

    Ronald WeissRonald WeissСарын өмнө
  • Whenever I would get tamales as a gift I would be so happy and appreciative because of all the hard work that goes into making them that makes the gift so special..........

    cartman4885cartman4885Сарын өмнө
  • An enjoyable experience as usual sir, thank you for your work and your gleaning of the under explored bits and pieces of history! 👍🤙🖖✌

    John WilsonJohn WilsonСарын өмнө
  • @ approx 10:20mins; I couldn't Not comment on the line "white men and women are employed year round......". Definitely a different time than now where one is supposed to be politically correct and all of That garbage. But I find that interesting, and by todays standards for Sure would be vilified by most of the mamdy pamdy portion of the world populous.

    John WilsonJohn WilsonСарын өмнө
  • - Clapton learning They're Red Hot by Robert Johnson.

    Dennis MasonDennis MasonСарын өмнө
  • What's the history behind people eating spicy food? How do we come by this slightly perverse but enjoyable practice?

    Michael HughesMichael HughesСарын өмнө
  • 1:10 Similarly, Americans say "perogies" when they want more than one, however, in Polish, "periogi" is already plural. "Pierog" is the singular form.

    Russell NelsonRussell NelsonСарын өмнө
  • I love the differences, historically, in how tamales evolved through the different regions of N America. Mississippi delta “hot” tamales are amazing, but there are many many arguments whether or not they are real tamales.

    Chef_PCChef_PCСарын өмнө
  • I'm sure there were tamale pirates embedded somewhere in that era.

    Len GreigLen GreigСарын өмнө
  • Now it's tacos and burritos from food trucks. But the food truck business is very, um, competitive, and is sometimes called a war. Tamales can be fast to serve, but they are pre-made while tacos and burritos are filled-to-order. Tacos are also smaller so they are cheaper to make and allow you to sample a variety of fillings. But the dollar taco is getting harder to find in urban California.

    I Collect StoriesI Collect StoriesСарын өмнө
  • In Puerto Rico ,they are called pastels and are made with green bananas, rice, or plantains.

    Steve CannonSteve CannonСарын өмнө
  • We were having a bit of a weather issue last week here in Texas, so I missed this. Now I am craving tamales!

    Ken DavisKen DavisСарын өмнө
  • Eric Clapton made an album of nuthin' but Robert Johnson songs and he struggles to imitate the Johnson chord progression for the song Red Hots and this Clapton album was the source of a documentary about said album. Might be in YT.

    Dennis MasonDennis MasonСарын өмнө
  • Here in food cart prevalent Portland we see the tamale coming back. Also, the empanada. Thanks, great research and story telling once again.

    Russ WoodwardRuss WoodwardСарын өмнө
  • Reminds me of the Robert Johnson song , don’t know which one , with the lyrics ; Hot tamales and their red hot!

    Josh HoodratJosh HoodratСарын өмнө
  • Vegetarian tamales!

    Make Racists Afraid AgainMake Racists Afraid AgainСарын өмнө
  • "Pizza is nature's most perfect food." ---Albert Einstein

    Satan OfficialSatan OfficialСарын өмнө
  • The best tamales I ever had came from the southeast side of Dallas in "the Grove". They were quite inexpensive, had both shredded beef and shredded pork, were just spicy enough, and were about 1.5 times the thickness of your thumb. They were so good it could be considered heresy to put anything on top of them (chili or cheese). The ones I found in California were in no way comparable in quality to these. Those in Cali were too thick and too expensive, were only shredded pork and not spicy at all. [Edit: By the way, traditionally in Mexico, tamales are considered a holiday food, with large groups of women getting together at Christmas to make huge batches of the most delicious tamales.]

    PaleRider54PaleRider54Сарын өмнө
  • As a "Blue eyed" American with 3rd Gen Ca. growing up with Mexican Tamales in my blood and hood with Zero Tamale loyalty, married to a Central American, I will tell "Anyone" Listening Tamales are good! But? ANY? Central American TAMALES are GREAT! Typically use a finer grain Massa with more lard/fat, better wrapping, MUCH more Ingredients in their filling similar to a burrito, one will finish you off. Nacka Tamals are my best tested to date! I can get typical Mexican tamales in the Wal-Mart or grocery store parking lot out of the back of a Toyota lo pro mini van in La Ca any day. Just saw the "Tamale Lady" today! and they compete with each other for about $1.50 each! GoOOO! Jose Davila! You are a tamale legend! My Hat is OFF! to you!

    dave fellhoelterdave fellhoelterСарын өмнө
  • I remember tamale vendors pushing carts with large steaming pots full of tamales on the streets of St. Louis in the early 60s.

    James MoorcroftJames MoorcroftСарын өмнө
  • Hey History Guy, what's the weather forecast? "Chili today, and hot tamale!"..

    Douglas GriswoldDouglas GriswoldСарын өмнө
  • I have never had a tamale. (I'm Canadian) I'll have to try one when I find them.

    Roger TulkRoger TulkСарын өмнө
  • History Guy, please consider doing a video on the Russian vodka riots of 1859, which alarmed the government so thoroughly temperence societies were declared illegal. Yes, the problem was people weren't drinking ENOUGH vodka.

    WalkaCrookedLineWalkaCrookedLineСарын өмнө
  • In San Diego, in the 90s it wasn't uncommon for a tamale vendor to take orders at corporate offices. We bought a lot of them and kept them in the freezer. My favorite was pork with pineapple. I'm back east now and don't see them anywhere.

    milomindermilominderСарын өмнө
  • In areas of Phoenix or Tucson, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, it is not unusual to be approached in the parking lot of a grocery store by an Abuelita with a question: "Tamales?" Of course, you answer: "Caunto?" (How Much?) and follow her to her car. There she will open the truck and the igloos inside would reveal the most delicious aromas. A dozen for $12 is quite the deal and a delight to the taste buds. Street vendors are now more likely to be Eloteros (Elote Men) or vendors selling Helados and other cold treats. Elote is normally an ear of corn, served hot, with mayonnaise slathered on one side and sprinkled with parmesan cheese and tajin chili spices. Sometimes it is a cup of corn kernels. I prefer the ear. Delicioso!

    Kevin ClaybornKevin ClaybornСарын өмнө
    • $12/dozen is waaaay too expensive. Southeast Dallas delicious tamales (last time I was able to be there and buy some), were half that cost. Of course.... they were not the huge thickness you would see in California. These were about 1.5 thumb diameters, whereas California tamales would be more than double the width of your thumb. Yuck :(

      PaleRider54PaleRider54Сарын өмнө
  • Good tamales are really hard to find.

    OldCountrymanOldCountrymanСарын өмнө
  • In Chicago, it's still common in some neighborhoods to see pushcart tamale vendors, even in winter.

    ROGER2095ROGER2095Сарын өмнө
  • @The History Guy: History Deserves to Be Remembered - When you did the Bugle Episode I swore, in the middle of the vid, that if you did not play at least one note on your bugle I would unsubscribe. Three minutes into Tamales I swore I would unsubscribe if you didn't mention Robert Johnson. This is Tamales - a Class Conflict...the Whole Enchilada...

    Dennis MasonDennis MasonСарын өмнө
  • Both you and Max Miller have said that Native Americans traditionally made tamales with honey. Since honey bees are native to the Americas this is not possible.

    Come And Get ItCome And Get ItСарын өмнө
  • a really good tamale is worth fighting for

    mister klugemister klugeСарын өмнө
  • I live outside Chicago, the most outer suburbs, and they have tamales on every Chicago-style hot dog place in the area, grocery stores like Jewel or Piggly Wiggly have fresh ones made daily. You can go into the local area seller groups on FB and people sell handmade tamales, it was always sort of a random phenomenon I thought. Portillos has tamales on the menu. Even the Greek take-out restaurants serve tamales. I kind of chalked it up to different cities have different dishes scenario playing out. I guess it all makes sense now. Like Italian beef, hot dogs, and Chicago-style pizza, I am grateful for the amazing food of the city and for the tamale. I have conquered many in my life and will devour many more in the future.

    Pulp ProductionsPulp ProductionsСарын өмнө
  • I love this channel but the way you show photos and particularly newspaper clippings is really distracting.

    Nigel AldertonNigel AldertonСарын өмнө
  • Talking about tasty history😋😋 As a former chef I enjoyed this video very much. Thank you kind Sir, that was very entertaining. 👌😎👍

    Mister AngelMister AngelСарын өмнө
  • The battle of team red sauce vs green sauce continues....

    Looms McGoomsLooms McGoomsСарын өмнө
  • So forgotten a gringo like me ate the husk and did not know you don't do that.

    JustDNAJustDNAСарын өмнө
  • I learned a tamale recipe from my fellow student teacher Jesus de la Garza, who had just married an Angla and so the couple was learning la cocina Mexicana/the family recipes from his mom. My partner and I got to learn from them. His grandmother had been a young refugee during the tumult of the Mexican Revolution and fled to San Antonio where she made her living selling fresh tamales from a basket in downtown San Antonio. Her version was rather small, easily eaten in two big bites, with a well-spiced filling of ground beef tongue held in a shell of just enough masa mixed with a bit of lard. Steamed until they swelled tight in the hoja (corn husk) it was a convenient and sanitary street food as well as a required element in any holiday meal, even a breakfast.

    Rick ValleyRick ValleyСарын өмнө
  • Someday, I hope to have the resources to cut you a check, Lance. Your videos have lead to many of discussions and prompted hours or research in my life. You have a talent for proving history is the the fascinating story of life. I will now suggest a few topic for further episodes. Consider the fire hose nozzle developed by FDNY prior to WW2 as war winning technology. (They can't sink a ship if you can save a ship.) WS Hancock, the best soldier of the Civil War. Katyn Wood and is cover-up including Sikorsky's crash. The Council of Nicea, editing to word of God. The life of Mark Twain, a companion piece to your Kipling episode. I have more, but this is a start.

    Patrick UpdikePatrick UpdikeСарын өмнө
  • Here today gone tamale.

    Brendan McDonoughBrendan McDonoughСарын өмнө
  • i love tamales.

    Dawn HodgesDawn HodgesСарын өмнө
  • I really nope no one ever made tamales with regular corn meal. They are made instead from Masa, which is yes, corn, but it is treated with lime and here, we'd call it Hominy corn. Different taste.

    galaniegalanieСарын өмнө
  • I appreciate you

    ChrisChrisСарын өмнө
  • I know that this was about Tamales in the USA, but here in Mesoamerica tamales are stilll very traditional. Tamales are a long way from being on theway out. A lot of Guatemalans are in the USA and they are cooking as close to traditional tamales as they can. If you se a resurgance of tamales in Chicago, consider taht by some estimates the the city with the secound largest population of Guatemalans is Chicago.

    Jorge Enrique PolancoJorge Enrique PolancoСарын өмнө
  • Down in Ajo, AZ you can still find tamales and empanadas sold by vendors.

    Mike HillierMike HillierСарын өмнө
  • Very handsome tie, THG!

    JesseO StoneJesseO StoneСарын өмнө
  • Actually hot dogs is an European invention. German if I'm not mistaken?

    John JohansenJohn JohansenСарын өмнө
  • They aren't exactly street vendors in Dallas anymore, but if you want them everybody knows somebody that can hook you up.

    tardis2005tardis2005Сарын өмнө
    • Go to 5 Points in Balch Springs (Belt Line Rd. and Pioneer). There you'll find Tito's Meat Market, on the east side of that intersection that makes good, inexpensive tamales as well as other Mexican favorites. Take the Elam Rd. exit off LBJ freeway and go east. Turn left onto Pioneer and follow it to the Belt Line Rd. intersection.

      PaleRider54PaleRider54Сарын өмнө
  • I have 1 can in stock and it was hard to find. Didnt use to be. When I lived in Methuen, Ma. there was a great Mexicsn place in Lawrence, heavily Hisppanic/Latino town. But in Maine Mexican food sucks. Ah well... Seafood here is gr÷at. Lobster anyone?

    Don BerryDon BerryСарын өмнө
    • Mexican food that's more than 500 miles from the border sucks. So, don't feel bad. You have a bunch of company in that boat.

      PaleRider54PaleRider54Сарын өмнө
  • In the 60s, there was a time when stray cats were hard to find - - - -

    Rowland LarkhamRowland LarkhamСарын өмнө
  • 6:50 XLNT Tamales are still available today

    Bad Kitty No Milk TonightBad Kitty No Milk TonightСарын өмнө
  • Thank goodness I live in New Mexico where tamales abound!

    Gillian EllisGillian EllisСарын өмнө
  • I'd put a San Antonian tamale up against a Californian one any day. Yes....them are fightin' words!

    TaocatTaocatСарын өмнө
    • Absolutely. California tamales are nearly as thick as a man's wrist, in many cases, and are too dry and have no spiciness.

      PaleRider54PaleRider54Сарын өмнө
  • How do you talk about street food and not mention tacos?

    Nick CappielloNick CappielloСарын өмнө
  • I live near Portland Oregon, we have people selling tamales in vacant lots all over. Just a truck and sign that says tamales.

    wintern101wintern101Сарын өмнө
  • No one bats a thousand - dumbest video ever - is this for grade schools ?

    Rudy BishopRudy BishopСарын өмнө
    • Wrong, if you get a hit the first few times then your batting 1000.

      Duane PigdenDuane PigdenСарын өмнө
  • As a native from New Mexico, this is agreeable. Now do history on the Green Chile in the Southwest!

    biscuitninjabiscuitninjaСарын өмнө