The “Tamale Lady” — San Francisco’s perhaps most beloved street vendor — will soon have a day dedicated to honoring her legacy of selling homemade tamales and dishing out wisdom in bars throughout the Mission District and beyond.
Long before her sudden death on September 27 at age 65, Virginia Ramos was hailed as a San Francisco institution. She rose to local fame for pushing her tamale cart throughout Mission District bars, including Zeitgeist, the Elbo Room and Lucky 13, and was known to her patrons for offering candid life advice.
Mission District supervisor Hillary Ronen announced Tuesday that she plans to introduce a resolution declaring June 23 — Ramos’ birthday — as “Tamale Lady Day.”
“She sold her homemade tamales in the Mission using a family recipe passed down for generations,” said Ronen at a Board of Supervisors hearing. “She became institution due to her personality and caring nature.”
As the resolution notes, Ramos immigrated to San Francisco with her seven children “to escape a life of poverty and abuse.” Through her tamale hustle, Ramos, who was also a Mission District landlord, earned enough to help send her seven children to college.
Following a crackdown in 2013 by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Ramos was banned from selling tamales at Zeitgeist and other bars, prompting then-Mission District Supervisor David Campos to step in to help.
Ramos, who is the subject of a short documentary called “Our Lady of Tamale,” was set to open her own brick-and-mortar at 2943 16th St. in April.
On June 22 — the eve of the first official Tamale Lady Day — Zeitgeist will be hosting a celebration from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Ramos’ honor featuring local bands and a documentary screening.