|Traditional tamales, this and other recipes below|
In 1996 I spent my Christmas holidays in Guatemala City as a graduate student doing archival research for a doctoral dissertation in history. From that research I published Black Labor Migration in Caribbean Guatemala, 1882-1923 http://www.upf.com/book.asp?id=OPIEX001. I observed that for many Guatemalans, Christmas meant eating tamales, drinking punch, and setting off firecracker at all hours of the night. I loathed hearing firecrackers going off at 2 a.m. as I tried to sleep in my humble hotel room in Zona 1. Recently I used the autobiography of Rigoberta Menchu a Guatemalan Indian women in a class I taught on Race and Ethnicity in Latin America. In the book Menchu explains the origins of the relationship between Christmas and tamales. “The Guatemalan Indian custom for a very important fiesta is to make atol (corn based thick hot drink) and tamales,” she writes. Ladinos, continued this custom particularly as part of Christmas celebrations. What I have learned is that tamales at Christmas is the tradition in Mesoamerica. Here are a host of tamale recipes. Also check out the link to the series I did on my graduate school experience and food including Spanish language training in Mexico and field work in the United States and Guatemala with lots or related recipes.
Guatemalan Tamales with Ancho Chile Sauce: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Guatemalan-Tamales-with-Ancho-Chile-Sauce
Various Christmas tamales: http://www.latimesmagazine.com/2009/12/wrappers-delight.html
Surviving Graduate School, Field Work, and Food: http://www.foodasalens.com/search?q=surviving+graduate+school
Food and Sanity in Graduate School: http://chronicle.com/article/FoodSanity-in-Graduate/126970/