The smell of flour dough and chicken wafts around Lesly Reza Olguin’s apartment as she helps her brother Hector make dozens of tamales to deliver to students in the upcoming week.
After encountering some financial obstacles her sophomore year, Lesly, a bilingual education senior, began selling homemade tamales to UT students out of her Riverside apartment. This year when her brother, a radio-television-film freshman, said he needed some financial help, she decided to start up the business again.
“I know there’s not a lot of places in Austin that sell decent tamales, and I (was) pretty sure people would buy them, so I just thought, ‘I’ll go ahead and try this,’” Lesly said. “Overall it is hard work, but it pays off.”
The Olguin siblings are first-generation college students and both said they have struggled with expenses since starting at UT. After tweeting to promote their business on Oct. 22, they received an unprecedented outpouring of support from the UT community. With over 1,000 likes and retweets to date, they said orders are piling up.
“It constantly feels like people are attacking our community, but then we saw so many people trying to support us,” Lesly said. “It’s just really comforting.”
The siblings buy their ingredients at H-E-B and El Rancho Supermercado, then make and deliver all the tamales themselves.
The tamales can be made with various meats and salsas, including a vegetarian option. Some options include salsa roja, mole and jackfruit tamales. As of now, the Olguins are booked until mid-November and said they hope to continue to sell for as long as they’re able.
“We’re really grateful for all the support we’ve been getting with the orders everyone’s been putting in and the kind words people have been sending out,” Lesly said. “It really means a lot.”
After a month of making tamales, Hector said he has been able to pay the utility bills for his apartment in Riverside and hopes to save up enough money to buy himself a camera. However, he still has fears and concerns regarding his financial stability.
“Currently we’re still trying to figure out the whole situation, especially now that they’re thinking of tearing down Riverside,” Hector said. “We gotta look into other places where we can make that money.”
Undeclared freshman Natalie Garcia also helps the siblings prepare the tamales and make deliveries. She said she enjoys making the tamales and hanging out with the siblings. She also said the support from fellow UT students has had a positive impact on her.
“It really made me optimistic and realize there’s more people out there than I thought that care about something like this,” Garcia said.
When Garcia saw the response Lesly’s tweet received, she was shocked.
“I really like it because it’s helping him out and that makes me happy,” Garcia said. “To see support for an immigrant is eye opening. It makes me feel like there are people out there who care.”