Last Friday night, a resource fair was presented by ten community organizations in the tented vaccination site at 24th and Capp. Photo by Christina MacIntosh.
Last Friday night, a resource fair was presented by ten community organizations in the tented vaccination site at 24th and Capp. Photo by Christina MacIntosh.

On Friday evening, Calle 24 brought together 10 community organizations and six different restaurants to the 24th Street BART Plaza to celebrate community resources — and tamales. 

Rain interfered and moved the event to the tented vaccination site at 24th and Capp streets, where conversation in the busy tents included bivalent boosters, free testing, and the relative merits of a banana-leaf and corn-husk wrappings. The site is run by Unidos en Salud/United in Health, a three-year-long collaboration with the Latino Task Force and the University of California, San Francisco.

The tamales offered represented six different Latin American countries and Mission businesses: Jalisco tamales from La Espiga de Oro, Yucatecan from Mi Yucatan, Salvadoran from the recently closed Sunrise Cafe, Guatemalan from Eterna Primavera, Nicaraguan from Rinconcito Nicaragüense, and Colombian from El Mecato.

The line for tamales. Taken Feb. 3, 2023. Photo by Christina MacIntosh.

“What is beautiful is that the ingredients are similar in every country, but each has its own flavor,” said Susana Rojas, executive director of Calle 24, which organized the event. “This showcases our differences and similarities.”

The event was just the first of a series of forthcoming Friday evening community events at the plaza, which will be hosted by different organizations. This coming Friday, Feb. 10, CLECHA, an organization that supports Latinx entrepreneurs, will host “Amor Eterno,” which will feature local vendors and a Valentine’s Day-themed photo booth.

“We’ve had a lot of issues on 24th and Mission,” said Rojas, referring to the ongoing issues of unpermitted vendors, “so this is a way to bring community (to the plaza)  in a positive way.”

On Friday, volunteers explained the differences between the various tamales, and why their country does it best.

Erick Arguello, president of Calle 24’s council, whose family is from Nicaragua, likes Nicaraguan tamales best, because they’re large and include potato, rice, peas, and chicken or pork. “There’s a whole meal inside,” he said. 

Nelson, a volunteer with Unidos en Salud/United in Health, the collaboration between the Latino Task Force and UCSF,  likes Salvadoran tamales: “it’s just chicken; it’s straight to the point.”

The event was slated to run from 6 p.m. to whenever supplies ran out, and there wasn’t a tamale in sight by 6:30 pm.

Mission Local reporter Chuqin Jiang, born in China and without a family stake in the game, did a taste test of five tamales.

Chuqin records observations. Taken Feb. 3, 2023. Photo by Christina MacIntosh.

First off, it was her first tamale tasting experience, and she was impressed by how rich and unique the flavor of tamales can be!

All tamales in the tasting test. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.
All tamales in the tasting test. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.

Jalisco tamale

It is covered with two layers of corn husk. It’s the first one I finished because the portion is small. Inside the husk there is a corn dough filled with seasoned chicken.

Yucateco tamale

It’s called toteados. It’s wrapped with banana leaves and a layer of paper. The portion is slightly bigger than the Jalisco tamale, but the flavor is similar. I can’t really tell the difference, except for the wrap. But I feel like the marinated chicken and meat are wrapped, instead of stuffed, in the dough.

Colombian tamale

It was my favorite tamale, because its unique taste stood  out. The tamale is square-shaped, and the portion was large. It’s wrapped with two layers of banana leaves. There are eggs, chicken and pork with bones in, carrot and potato with rice in it.

Nicaraguan tamale

It is a mix of beans, seasoned chicken, chili and rice. Part of it is a smooth, creamy puree, which I liked.

Guatemalan tamale

It is wrapped with banana leaves and paper. The filling, wrapped in white corn dough, is more orange and red. It’s more sweet and sour than the others. … My assumption was tomato. But according to the introduction, there is a unique ingredient, called achiote paste.

The event was organized by Calle 24, and featured tables from Unidos en Salud/United in Health, the Latino Task Force, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, The Gubbio Project, Bay Area Community Resources, CHALK, and CLECHA.

Follow Us

Christina grew up in Brooklyn and moved to the Bay in 2018. She studied Creative Writing and Earth Systems at Stanford.

INTERN DATA REPORTER. Chuqin has two degrees in data journalism and she is passionate about making data more accessible to readers. Before arriving in the Mission, she covered small business and migratory birds in New York City while learning to code and design at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She loves coastal cities, including SF and her hometown Ningbo.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. And that is why this vegetarian ended up weighing 118# after 3 weeks in Nicaragua in 1987.

    votes. Sign in to vote
Leave a comment
Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *