Category Archives: HICA

HICA and the Fun of Tamale Pick Up Day

Doors of HICA last December – welcoming tamale sale supporters!

I think I’ve lost count as to the number of HICA tamale sales I’ve been a part of all these years!  It’s the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama’s signature fundraiser and a labor of love each year to put together and pull off.  It’s gone from a group of people making tamales in a church kitchen, to volunteers making them at the Culinard kitchen to outsourcing to restaurants one year when the demand got so great.  Over the years I like to think we’ve finally perfected the sale, the way we market the sale and most of all, the tamale pick up day!  On a personal note, I rolled off the HICA board in December last year, but this organization is close to my heart and I’ll always use the word “we” when talking about it.

I’ve written a lot about the sale over the years but I don’t know that I’ve really talked about tamale pick up day.  It always takes place on a Friday in December and it’s the day set aside for people who have bought tamales to stop by the HICA office and pick them up.  We always ask HICA board members to be on hand to help with the pick up day in shifts.  Of course, the HICA staff is always on hand to make sure there is a good flow to everything and the orders are fulfilled.

Holly Hilton makes calls to people who purchased tamales to remind them to pick up!

Calls are placed to people who placed large orders to remind them to come by and pick up.  Over the past few years, Tamale Captains were created to help with this.  When you order, you can select a tamale captain that you know and request for them to be delivered to you through this person.

For me, tamale pick up day is my favorite part of this fundraiser.  I don’t sign up for a shift because I like being there all day!  I love seeing all the people who come by and support HICA by buying tamales and listen to their stories.  That’s one of the best parts.  These stories are often unsolicited too.  As they are waiting for their tamales to be bagged, they offer stories on what they will be doing with the tamales, when they will enjoy them and how often they’ve been buying them from HICA!  It’s become such a tradition for so many people in the Birmingham area.

In the past, I’ve brought Christmas music to play and also a box of goofy  Christmas headbands – antlers, santa hats, elf ears, etc. – for the board and staff to wear and greet everyone.  This past year, I had a blinking Christmas light necklace that I wore.   I bought it at Walgreens and several of the staff members loved it and wanted one.   So after I went to make a tamale drop off downtown, I hit up several Walgreens stores looking for a few more to share with the staff with no luck!  I’m hoping I can find a few in the next few weeks to take with me this year!!!  It just adds to the fun of the day!

Because of my love for “pick up” day,  I have recorded it with photos over the years.  Here are a few of my favorites and some of my friends who continue to support HICA by buying tamales every year.

If you are in the Birmingham area and want to experience the HICA tamale sale this year, like HICA’s Facebook page to keep up with the updates.  The sale begins on Thanksgiving day (Nov 23rd) and ends Dec 10.  Pick up day is on Friday, Dec 14th at the HICA offices.  I’ll be there so let me know you read this blog post and let’s take a photo together!

Making Tamales on TV!

HICA Tamales!!!

HICA Tamales!!!

Well, today was fun!  I got to make tamales on television and help promote the HICA Annual Christmas Tamale Sale! 

I’ve done TV appearances before to promote the sale but this is the first time I’ve “made” them on TV.  Let me explain why I used quotes around “made.”  Usually, we bring a few tamales to the TV station, along with some Mexican décor.  We set everything up on a table and talk to the host/anchor about HICA’s programs, explain a little about tamales and end with how to buy them.  Today we took a different approach.

Monica Black, HICA’s Communications and Development Associate, arrived at the station equipped with everything we would need to make a tamale on camera.  She along with HICA staff member, Cindy Garcia, brought tamale fillings, masa (tamale dough) already made, corn husks (some already softened), ingredients to make both the red and green sauce for the filling and beautiful talavera plates for display.  Oh!  and they also brought a dozen of each flavor of tamale we are selling along with the tamale pots!  They are so awesome!

Me and Carlos Aleman - getting ready for our 3 segments on ABC 33/40 Talk of Alabama!

Me and Carlos Aleman – getting ready for our 3 segments on ABC 33/40 Talk of Alabama! Photo credit: Cindy Garcia

We made full use of the new studio kitchen at ABC 33/40 today.  Naturally, we couldn’t show the entire process in real-time – we would have been there all day, which we explained.  We were able to show the steps involved and demonstrate how to make an actual tamale from spreading the masa on a corn husk and adding our choice of filling – in this case either pork with red sauce or chicken with green sauce.  Next I showed how to fold the tamale and explained how to place the finished product into a tamale pot – a tamalera – and how to cook them.

Through all this, my fellow board member, Carlos Aleman and I talked up HICA and how this tamale fundraiser helps support the wonderful programs of the organization.  We have been doing this tamale sale since 2003 and sold over 70,000 tamales!  That’s a BUNCH of tamales!!!  This year our goal is to sell 10,000 and hopefully we will meet that goal.  We shall see!!!

Anyway, it was a different TV experience since the first segment was about 4-1/2 minutes long followed by another 2-3 minute segment halfway through the one hour show.  The last segment was at the very end of the show when our wonderful co-hosts sampled their choice of tamales and we did a quick wrap up on how to buy tamales on our website.

Thanks to the folks at Talk of Alabama on ABC 33/40 for such a wonderful experience today.  Y’all were so wonderful to work with, in particular our co-host for the segment, Javante Ingram!  Java has her own special tamale story which she shared with us on air.  And that’s why we love this tamale sale so much…it brings out the stories in people and how important tamales have become in their celebrations and special memories.  Food does that!

A photo from the ABC 33/40 Talk of Alabama website showing the first of 3 videos from the show today.

A photo from the ABC 33/40 Talk of Alabama website showing the first of 3 videos from the show today.

Don’t forget to buy some tamales if you are in the Birmingham area!!!

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HICA’s Annual Tamale Sale is BACK!

HICA Tamales go on sale Thanksgiving Day!

HICA Tamales go on sale Thanksgiving Day!

I know it’s Thanksgiving Day and you are all probably up to your eyeballs in turkey and dressing…BUT…give some thought to Mexican food too because today is the beginning of the 13th Annual HICA Tamale Sale!!!!!

If you live in the Birmingham area and love tamales, you don’t want to miss out on this fundraiser benefiting the programs of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama  – HICA.  The sale runs through December 11th and orders are taken online with pick up date on December 16th at the HICA offices.  If you work with a Tamale Captain, you may be able to get them delivered to you.  All this information is on the HICA website so be sure to check it out today and place your order.  Flavors include chicken with green sauce, pork with red sauce and MY favorite, cheese and pepper tamales.

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Tamales have become a tradition for many non-Hispanic people in Birmingham over the years of our sale.  It’s definitely a tradition with Mexican families, mine included!  Friends and family get together to have a tamalada (where you make the tamales) and then after they are all made – dozens and dozens – you eat them together!  Tamales are fairly labor intensive to make so they aren’t necessarily made on a regular basis.  Christmas is one of those special times when they are made and we’ve shared this information with the people who return every year to buy tamales from HICA.  They come back and share their stories of eating Christmas tamales with their own families along with salsa and other fixings!  It’s so fun to hear the stories every year during pick up day.  We may try to record a few this year!

Me and Isabel Rubio after filming our tamale sale video this year in he kitchen.

Me and Isabel Rubio after filming our tamale sale video this year in he kitchen.

This year, HICA’s Executive Director, Isabel Rubio and I made an English video that will run beginning Thanksgiving day.  HICA Staff members, Monica Black and Cindy Garcia were on hand to make a Spanish video to run as well.  We gathered in Isabel’s kitchen to made the videos a few weeks ago with Latino News.  And the best part?  We got to eat the tamales afterward!  YUM!!!

Cindy Garcia, Isabel Rubio, me and Monica Black after the tamale videos wrapped up - thanks to Latino News for filming!

Cindy Garcia, Isabel Rubio, me and Monica Black after the tamale videos wrapped up – thanks to Latino News for filming!

Being a part of the HICA Tamale Sale is one of my favorite things to do each year as a board member!  If you’ve never tried our tamales before, I encourage you to give them a try this year.  They are simply the best and hopefully this will be the beginning of a new holiday tradition for you and your family!

The Monarch Butterfly – A Symbol of Immigration

Monarch butterfly ornaments I made for my HICA board of directors a few years ago.

Monarch butterfly ornaments I made for my HICA board of directors a few years ago.

A few years ago, I made monarch butterfly ornaments.  I was the outgoing Board Chair of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, better known as HICA and I wanted to give a small token of my appreciation to my fellow board members.

I was in Michaels looking for some Christmas craft items when I spotted packages of monarch butterflies down one of the aisles.  I’ve always been drawn to these butterflies.  As an active board member of HICA for many years, I knew that they had become a symbol of the immigrant rights movement.  They were very seen at all the marches and events organized during the battle to overturn the HB 56 immigration bill our state passed.  I learned this was because of the migratory pattern these beautiful butterflies take from Mexico to Canada and through the United States and then back to Michoacán, Mexico.  There is so much more symbolism that goes along with all this but suffice it to say, there are a number of parallels between the immigrant movement and the migratory patterns of these beautiful beings.  Something or someone trying to make a life away from their native country…Mexico…that’s all I needed to understand the beauty in all this.

 

So, that day at Michaels I added a few packages of the butterflies to my basket along with some clear glass ornaments.  I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I was going to add these butterflies to the glass ornaments and decorate them for my board.  It was really very easy and the end product was beautiful.  Folding the butterflies up to insert them into the glass ornament was reminiscent of the butterfly coming out of the chrysalis.  I added black and orange polka dot ribbon to the top of each ornament when I was finished.

I intended to make them only for my board, but I had so many that I left them for the staff as well.  Everyone seemed to appreciate the sentiment and for me the symbolism is why I did it in the first place.  My hope was that everyone who took one would consider it a symbol of what we were working for at HICA…the social, civic and economic integration of immigrants into our community.

I kept several myself and I use them on my Mexican Christmas tree, added to the Mexican tin ornaments and other icons from my Mexican culture.

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We Are Better Than This…

IMG_7628I had dinner with some great friends this week…we started talking about all the negativity in the world these days…in particular with politics.  We all vowed to keep things as positive as possible in anything that we post on social media and in the way we conduct our lives.  It made me think of another time in recent years when things got pretty nasty but friends and neighbors pulled together to show unity and hope.  This is a post from a blog I had back in 2011 about events surrounding the anti-immigrant bill (HB56) that was signed into law by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.  This event that I attended and documented showed that not everyone in the state agreed that this law was a good thing…

June 28,2011…

This past weekend I attended, along with my husband and daughter, a candlelight interfaith vigil to protest an anti-immigrant bill that was signed into law by the governor of my state.  This misguided law goes into effect Sept 1st and if you believe the comments on media stories you would think we were back in the 60s and that everyone in the state was anti-immigrant.

The day the governor signed the bill, with the state representatives who sponsored it smiling broadly next to him, I felt sick to my stomach.  Comments ranged from “this will send them all back where they belong” to “this will create jobs for more Alabamians.”  The pure mean-spirited nature of the comments and personal attacks were hard to read at times.  It is being called the toughest illegal immigration bill in the US, modeled after the Arizona law but supposed to be foolproof when it hits the courts.  Again…people smiling broadly like this is something to be proud of in a state where race relations and violations of civil rights are well-known.  People across the US once again are looking at Alabama as the epicenter of discrimination – only this time it is against our “brown” brothers and sisters.  Haters spouting that we are a nation of laws and they must be enforced…quick to forget that just 50 to 60 short years ago segregation was the law of the land and it was clearly unjust.  It seems incredible to look back at such a short time ago and think people thought that was okay.  I’m sure people asked themselves then…WHO are we that we would think this is right…clearly we are better than this.  And many set out to change things…and were successful.

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St. Peter Apostle Catholic Church leads the marchers out of Linn Park.

 

Clearly we are better than this once again. People can’t truly believe this law is just.  If you lived in Alabama in the 60s – like my husband did – you must have the perspective that this is wrong.  Do we really want to go through all that again?

Well the march on Saturday evening set out to prove we have learned something from our history and we ARE better than this.  The march was organized by the faith community…and churches of all denominations were present and denounced this law as morally wrong.  Organizers expected about a thousand people but clearly word got out and people – feeling like they had to do “something” – showed up in bigger numbers.  I think the final estimate was about 2,500 attendees.

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Benedictine nuns…some from out of state…joined in the march.

 

And what a sight it was to see…marchers were asked to wear white shirts and bring a candle.  Churches were asked to bring their banners but other signs were discouraged.  Families came out in full force…it brought tears to my eyes to see the little children – so sweet and innocent….leading the marchers, holding candles and riding on the shoulders of their dads…

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Many families joined in the march…children rode on the shoulders of their fathers. This sweet little girl stayed on her father’s shoulders during the entire march.

 

The crowd was diverse too with about half being Hispanic but the other half was quite a mix.  I’m sure there were many documents AND undocumented who would have liked to have been there but were afraid and I can’t blame them.  The police were present but they were there to make sure the marchers were safe and the Spanish language radio stations tried to get that word out.  Still…fear is real right now…you could see it in some of the marchers eyes and you could hear it in the stories being told to one another throughout the evening.

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Marchers re-enter Linn Park after walking peacefully through the streets of Birmingham.

Afterwards my husband, daughter and I went to dinner with my friend Isabel Rubio and her husband Freddy.  Isabel is the Executive Director of HICA – Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, an organization that I’ve been a part of for about 8 years.   We talked about the march and the law and how it will be challenged.  Isabel mentioned how the one thing missing in her mind is that during the 60’s the marchers had songs to sing.  She said “we don’t have a song.  We need a song.”

She’s right…music unifies and in this case we do need something – a song, a slogan…something that people can grab on to and pull us together.  Maybe others are thinking the same thing and just maybe this will be something organic that grows from further marches and protests to this dreadful law.

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A precious little boy works to keep his candle lit during the march…

We ARE better than this…I think we proved that Saturday night at Linn Park and through the streets of Birmingham.

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Tamales and Cole Slaw? Yep!

HICA tamales with a side of Salsa Senorita spicy cole slaw!

HICA tamales with a side of Salsa Senorita spicy cole slaw!

So you say you want to enjoy a complete meal of tamales and something else…but what? What do you add to tamales to make it even more delicious? Why not cole slaw!

Lori works on the slaw ingredients while Jessica Chriesman does some filming.

Lori works on the slaw ingredients while Jessica Chriesman does some filming.

I filmed a video with Lori Sours – better known as Salsa Senorita – a few weeks back to promote the HICA tamale sale. She has some great recipes made with her wonderful salsa and I was surprised to find she added her salsa to cole slaw. She gave me a little demo in this video (posted below) and I tell you…it was delicious!!! My husband and I are not a big fans of mayo but you really can’t tell there is even mayo in it with all the other added ingredients. I have never heard of adding honey either.  I mean really? HONEY? But it’s the unexpected that really makes the difference in recipes, isn’t it?

I loved filming with Lori…she is such a natural on the camera and we had a great time talking about New Mexico and her salsa and how she got started in the salsa business. We filmed 4 segments in one day under the eye of Jessica Chriesman – a recent UAB Film graduate. She did a fabulous job showcasing Lori’s salsa recipes and also highlighting the HICA tamale sale.

Lori Sour's spicy cole slaw before it all got mixed together...

Lori Sour’s spicy cole slaw before it all got mixed together…

HICA – the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama – sells tamales each year as their signature fundraising event. The organization has sold over 70,000 tamales since 2003 and in the process have introduced a wonderful part of Mexican culture to the Birmingham community. We hope to sell 18,000 this year and we have two more days to do that! I hope that if you are in the Birmingham, Alabama area that you will consider buying a dozen, or two (or three!) and support the great work that HICA does in our Hispanic community!

Me and Lori after the filming was finished.

Me and Lori after the filming was finished.

Meanwhile…check out the video and jot down the spicy cole slaw recipe from Salsa Senorita!

 

 

 

Salsa Senorita’s Easy Cheese Dip!

The HICA tamale sale is just two days away!  Thanksgiving day!!!  The tamale sale is HICA’s signature event and you don’t want to miss out.  Go to http://www.hispanicinterest.org to order your tamales.  You have until December 11th and pick up day is at the HICA offices on December 18th.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we partnered with Lori Sours of Salsa Senorita to produce 4 videos using her salsa and recipes and our tamales!  Lori will have her salsa on sale during pick up day too if you want to pick up a jar or two (or three!) that day.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit HICA.

Here is the latest video in partnership with Salsa Senorita and produced by Jessica Chriesman.  This one features an easy cheese dip you can pour over the tamales and enjoy.  Featured in the video is Maricela Garcia, a HICA board member.  Mari was recently honored by the Alabama Media Group as one of 34 women who shape the state!

Meanwhile…enjoy the video and hope to see you on tamale pick up day if you are in the Birmingham area!