Latino studies celebrates winter holidays with tamales, storytelling at Merry Merienda

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Photo Credit: Jamie Hwang | Daily Texan Staff

In the middle of final exam season, students released stress with homemade tamales Thursday evening. 

Merry Merienda offered students freshly fried buñuelos, Mexican-style hot chocolate, storytelling, and arts and crafts in the Gordon-White Building. The event, held by Latino Studies, allowed Latino students, faculty and staff to celebrate the winter holidays, said Mallory Laurel, outreach and communication director for Latino Studies.

“This event is meant to build community among all students, especially Latinos ... and is treated as a study break before the stress of finals,” Laurel said. “I hope students are reminded there is a place on campus that feels like home and where their belonging is absolute and unquestionable.”

Alex Palacios, a graphic designer for Latino Studies, convinced their Tía Tencha to make 40 dozen tamales for the event, according to a newsletter sent Tuesday by the Latino Studies department. 

“I ran over here as soon as I could when I heard a real tía was making the tamales,” mathematics sophomore Maria Ramirez said. “Having authentic Mexican food here made by somebody Latino makes the event so much better ... I appreciate my Mexican culture and I miss being in Mexico, so having this event is like experiencing a little piece of home.”

Lorraine Hernandez is the only Latina librarian in Del Valle ISD and a mother of a Mexican American and Latino/a Studies student, according to the newsletter. She read her short story, “Tamale Memories,” from this year’s Christmas edition of “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” and said the story is inspired by her memories of making tamales with her mother.

“Reading to (Latino students) is a way for me to give them a taste of home and the face of a mom for a little bit,” Hernandez said. “I think they all either have an abuelita or a mom or an aunt who has probably put them through the torture of making tamales at Christmas time ... I hope it gets them excited about going home and celebrating with their families.”

Far from her home in Monterrey, Mexico, Ramirez said she was grateful to see Latino students celebrating Christmas on campus together.

“Being away from Mexico and family, especially during Christmas, is hard because I miss the Mexican traditions of family gatherings and food,” Ramirez said. “Even if these people aren’t necessarily my relatives, the fact we come from a similar culture helps me feel at home.”