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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Alicia Villanueva

Alicia's Tamales los Mayas

Growing up in Mazatlán, Mexico, Alicia Villanueva learned to cook at the heels of her mother and grandmother. They taught her how to make tamales and instilled in her a great appreciation for Mayan culture.

Before coming to the U.S., Alicia worked in the tourism industry in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. Upon relocating to San Francisco in 2000, she needed a way to support her family. Inspired to share her pride for her Mexican heritage and her passion for connecting to people through food, Alicia began selling her homemade tamales. At first, she sold them door to door. Then she set up a table outside of her church. In 2010, at the age of forty-nine, she launched Alicia’s Tamales los Mayas with the slogan “My tamales are stuffed with love, and the best people are stuffed with my tamales.” She offers a variety of tamales, from the best-selling chicken to a vegetarian version created for her Bay Area clientele.

Today, Alicia is not only able to support her own family, but a team of six women who help her make almost 3,000 tamales every week.

Date of interview:

Amy C. Evans

Amy C. Evans

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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