By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Illustration by Mark DancyDear Mexican,
I was always told Mexican children received tamales for Christmas so they would have something to open Christmas morning. Is this true?
Wondering in Fullerton
As a Mexican who annually receives misleading Christmas gifts (PlayStation boxes stuffed with swap-meet underwear and socks), I can unequivocally deem the tamale-wrapping barrio legend a lie. But the humble masa meal is a Mexican's most valued weapon come Navidad—it's our fruitcake, a fail-safe, universal present that also functions as an edible visa. For housemaids, a basketful of tamales ensures the doña will re-bristle her broom; at the office Christmas party, the Mexican who brings luscious cactus-and-cheese tamales spares himself at least a month of whispered beaner jokes. Tamale diplomacy is so necessary for Mexicans that parents will force children—did I say children? I meant the girls—to stay up all night spreading masa over cornhusks, crushing chile seeds into salsa and glopping lard over the entire mess.
Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, the Mexican won't answer questions next week—he needs to cook tamales for the January run across the border.