Alicia Villanueva

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Appears in

We Are La Cocina

We Are La Cocina

By Leticia Landa and Caleb Zigas

Published 2019

  • About
Joined La Cocina: August 2010

The first gift (of many, really) that Alicia Villanueva gives visitors to her tamale factory is a life-affirming hug. She wraps unsuspecting tamale hunters in a matronly embrace, leaving just a hint of fresh-milled corn, makeup, and the perfume of Hayward parking lot light industry on their clothes. A sign on the door welcomes guests, post-hug: “The best tamales are filled with love, and the best people are filled with my tamales.”

Alicia’s husband, Pedro, rolled (pun intended—he was a trucker) into the early-’90s Puerto Vallarta travel agency where she worked and didn’t stop pursuing her until she found herself married and moving to late-’90s America, where the highways beckoned him and she could continue her work. They started their family in a two-bedroom that they found on Craigslist. Pedro Jr. came first, then Pablo, their “little American-born gringo,” and, finally, Grecia.