Christmas Traditions: Maria Nieto Robledo’s Tamales

Maria Nieto Robledo (1887-1974).

Homemade tamales are a Christmas tradition in many Mexican families, and my family is no exception. I can’t remember a single childhood Christmas, and very few adulthood Christmases, without my dad making the wonderful savory tamales (with the world’s most perfect masa) that he learned how to make as a child from his Mexican-born grandmother, Maria “Nana” (Nieto) Robledo — who in turn, learned how to make them from her own mother, Maria Aurelia (Compean) Nieto.

About seven or eight years ago, my father decided to start hosting a massive extended Christmas tamale-making party for our extended Nieto and Robledo family, to carry on the memories and traditions passed down by my great-grandmother Maria Nieto.  We haven’t been able to host it the last couple years, due to recent family hardships, but this event has come to be our family’s favorite Christmas activity — and I think my entire extended family of Nieto and Robledo cousins would agree.  We laugh, cry, eat, drink and share stories about Nana and her children.  We make sure Nana won’t ever be forgotten.

If you’d like to enjoy some of our family dishes passed down or inspired by my Nana, you should try Dad’s Red Chili Sauce or our Holiday Pork Posole.

Dad makes sure the tamales get just the right amount of masa and fillings…just like Nana taught him.
We get a house full of four generations of Nietos for tamale day.

Biographical Snapshot of Maria (Nieto) Robledo

My great-grandmother, Maria Nieto, was born October 28, 1887, in the municipality of Armadillo de los Infante, located in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The village in which she was born is referenced as Tomascal in my records, but is also spelled Temascal and Temazcal in other sources. She immigrated to the United States circa 1915-1916, settled in Los Angels County, California (Long Beach, Glendale, then Norwalk), and died in 1974 (when I was a child) in Norwalk, California.

View Robledo-Greene Family History in a larger map

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