Pasquale’s Hot Tamales

Joe St. Columbia
Sears Parking lot, weekends only - 1005 W Highway 49
West Helena, AR 72390
(877) 572-0500

Joe St. Columbia is the third generation of his Sicilian-American family to peddle hot tamales in the Arkansas Delta. Joe’s grandfather, Peter St. Columbia, arrived in Helena, Arkansas, in the last part of the nineteenth century. He sold groceries and dry goods to people working in the fields up and down the Mississippi River. Eventually, Mexican laborers came to work the fields, and Peter’s Sicilian dialect allowed for easy communication with his Spanish-speaking customers. A tamale recipe changed hands, and the St. Columbia family began making and selling the portable bundles of meat and masa. The current incarnation of the business, Pasquale’s Hot Tamales, is a clever nod to Joe’s heritage. Today, Joe and his wife, Joyce, operate a tamale stand in West Helena on the weekends and at area festivals. Their son, Joe St. Columbia Jr., manages their booming mail-order business.

Date of interview:

March 31, 2006

Interviewer:

Amy C. Evans

Photographer:

Amy C. Evans

Pasquale's Hot Tamales - Joe St. Columbia - AR - Tamale Trail
As you go up and down the [Mississippi] river you’ll find differences in the tamales… But I wanted to keep and retain the authenticity, I guess, of the shuck, the husk that they brought in here, you know, that the Mexicans used to really use in the early days. I wanted to keep that.

Explore Media