PENNSYLVANIA (WTAJ)- September 15 is nationally recognized as the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a month full of dances, music, food, and traditional dress.

However, it’s most importantly a month full of culture.

7-year-old Madalyn Amelia Wolf is no amateur in the kitchen. She’s been cooking with her mom Marcela Martinez since she was 3-years-old.

“It’s really important for them to understand what kind of food we eat and how we prepare them,” Martinez said.

The duo makes everything from chocolate chip cookies to cupcakes together, but Madalyn says her all-time favorite thing to cook with her mom, is Arepas con Queso; a traditional Columbian breakfast dish.

The ingredients include:

  • cornmeal
  • salt
  • cheese
  • butter
  • hot water

Madalyn says you’ll want to mix everything into a big bowl. While you can start out using a spoon to mix, Martinez says by the end, you’ll want to use your hands.

“That’s when you pass the love to the food,” Martinez said. 

After the mixture takes on what Madalyn calls a “playdough consistency,” she says you’ll take a piece, and roll it into a ball.

Next, she says you’ll make a little nest out of the dough ball, and sprinkle cheese inside.

Once folded up, Madalyn says it’s ready to go on the griddle.

As for how long to keep it cooking, Martinez says the crispier the arepa the better…though Madalyn disagrees.

“No thank you, I do not like crispy,” Madalyn said while shaking her head.

After a few minutes, Madalyn says the arepas are ready to eat and enjoy!

“They’re super easy to make once you get the hang of it,” Madalyn added in between bites.

Martinez agrees, but adds, the arepas are even better when shared.

“Food is a big part of our culture. We love to feed people. That’s how we show them love,” Martinez said.

Another big part of Hispanic culture is dance.

“It’s the way that we connect, the way that we exercise as well, and the way that we have fun,” choreographer Carolina Pulido said.

Carolina has been dancing all her life. She says what she loves most about it, is that dance can bring cultures together, with no language necessary.

“So music in Spanish is obviously something we love, but we just like good music. So we dance to music in English or other languages…just the beat, you learn how to integrate and come together in a beat, through the beat,” Carolina said.

From Bachata to Cumbia and Salsa, another common dance is the San Juanero.

The Columbian folk dance can be found being performed at one of the biggest carnivals in the world, El Carnival de Barranquilla.

It’s a four-day long fiesta, celebrating Columbia’s rich and colorful culture.

“Everybody participates at the festival, doctors, lawyers, everybody. There’s masks, music, and dancing” Linda Delgaudio, owner of Linda’s Beauty Care said.

From Barranquilla herself, Delgaudio says the traditional dress worn to dance the San Juanero, is beautiful and lightweight. Most specifically it allows for lots of movement.

With layers, sequins and frills, Linda says a lot of work goes into the skirt.

“They make the flowers and sew them on there. Everything is homemade,” Delgaudio said.

After adding some bright makeup, Delgaudio explained the feeling of being in traditional dress.

“I feel like I am new. I am another person. I feel powerful. It’s so exciting when you wear something like that,” Linda proudly added.

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But even if you were to take away the fancy dress and makeup, Linda says what’s most important in her culture is happiness.

“Everybody has to be happy. We have to be happy, we have to be in love and that is all,” Delgaudio said.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!