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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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Joe St. Columbia

Joe St. Columbia

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:

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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