Ristra Vendor, a common site in El Paso, Texas. The custom of hanging the bright red chili ristras started hundreds of years ago, for very practical reasons, preserving chili as a foodstuff. Drying the red chili into a ristra (spanish word for string) was the only way people could save it after the growing season. They would lay the chili pods on the roof to sun-dry, then string them together. Now a common Southwest decoration. Popular in the Southwest as Christmas decorations.