The Techno-Tamaladas

The Techno-Tamaladas draw on thousands of years of knowledge and practice cultivating corn/maize across the Americas to sustain life. We invite and recruit community members, tinkerers, artists, activists, scientists, eco folks, immigrants, refugees, students, homeless folks, tech workers, students, city council members, and all to sit together, and make and share tamales. We will tranfer knowledge about technologies of survival and resurgence of Indigenous, Latinx and African-American communities to instill a more creative technological imaginary. While the broad impacts of technologies of surveillance, social media, racial profiling, militarized policing and effects of displacement and dislocation on low income communities of color in the Bay Area have been devastating, we reorient ideas and practices around technology.

The Tamaladas focus on MesoAmerican tamales from Mexico; on Hot Tamales of African American communities of the Mississippi Delta; and on plantain tamales from the Andes in Colombia. All the Techno-Tamaladas are free and accessible to folks in wheel chairs. Tamale making experience NOT needed.


Techno-Tamaladas at ECAP Food Bank, 3610 San Pablo Avenue Emeryville, CA

11AM - 4PM on

Saturday, July 27;

Saturday, August 24;

Saturday, Sept 21


Techno-Tamaladas co-produced with Pro Arts Gallery & COMMONS in

downtown Oakland on Saturday, Oct 19, and Fruitvale on Saturday, Dec 14

Locations to be announced


Maize is indigenous to the Americas, the word comes from Mahíz in the Taíno/Arauco language, translated into Spanish as ‘fuente de vida’ or ‘sustento de la vida’ (in English is ‘fountain of life’ and ‘sustainer of life.’) Thousands of years ago, the people of Meso America developed nixtamalization, a process that increases the nutritional value of corn. In the Aztec language Nahuatl, nixtamalli or nextamalli is a compound of nextli "ashes" and tamalli "unformed corn dough, tamal".

Maize is the basis of cosmovisions in the Americas:

El maíz no es una cosa, ni sólo una mercancía o un cultivo: el maíz es un tejido de relaciones. Se originó hace unos 10 mil años de la crianza mutua, de la conversación entre pueblos originarios de Mesoamérica y algunos pastos que, con el cultivo, se fueron haciendo al modo humano.

Maize is not a thing, nor solely a commodity or crop: maize is a weaving of relations. It originated more than 10 thousand years ago through mutual co-creation, from the conversation between the original peoples of Mesoamerica and some grasses which, with cultivation, began being made in the human way (translation by Praba Pilar)

Maize is a ‘ciencia campesina o ciencia de huarache, como fuente de saberes’ - a science and technology of the land and of the huarache, a fountain of knowledge.


Tamale comes from the Nahuatl word tamalli, and originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC. The Olmec, Toltec, Aztec and Maya all made tamales, they were sacred and a large part of rituals and festivals.




The Southern Foodways Alliance has researched the origins of Hot Tamales of the Mississippi Delta, and share that “Some hypothesize that tamales made their way to the Mississippi Delta in the early twentieth century when migrant laborers from Mexico arrived to work the cotton harvest. African Americans who labored alongside Mexican migrants recognized the basic tamale ingredients: corn meal and pork. Others maintain that the Delta history with tamales goes back to the U.S.-Mexican War one hundred years earlier, when U.S. soldiers traveled to Mexico and brought tamale recipes home with them. Others still argue that tamales date to the Mississippian culture of mound-building Native Americans. Today, African Americans are the primary keepers of Delta tamale-making tradition.” Their online oral history project on Hot Tamales of the Mississippi Delta has interviews, short films, maps and more.

This short documentary, Rolling Delta Tamales, by Center for Documentary Projects of the Southern Foodways Alliance, is a portrait of tamale maker Elizabeth Scott, of Greenville, Mississippi, winner of the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award. Scott and her husband learned to make tamales after developing a taste for them in Texas, and today six of her children and grandchildren carry on the tradition at their tamale stand on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Greenville.


Robert Johnson was born in Mississippi in 1911, and lived and worked in the Mississippi Delta most of his life - which ended when he was only 27. Johnson wrote and recorded a song about Hot Tamales - They’re Red Hot - the single was released in 1937.


The Tamaladas are being collaboratively produced with Pro Arts Gallery & COMMONS. This project was developed in a Grace Performance Space (New York) residency in upstate New York in May 2018. Many thanks to Adam Zaretsky for input. Generous support for this project has been awarded by the City of Emeryville Community Grants Program, the Local Impact Award of the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.