El Mercadito de Centro: Connecting to Culture through Food
By Wendy Allen | Photos By Kirk Lawler 0
Much of one’s culture is held within food traditions. The ingredients, methods and words that go into creating a dish teach and remind us of our heritage. Centro Hispano in South Madison has built many of its programs around the idea that food— growing, preparing and eating it—forges a direct connection to and preserves generational knowledge and cultural pride.
In its second year, Centro Hispano’s farmers market, El Mercadito de Centro, has become a hub for South Madison’s Latino community, providing a place for residents to not only purchase high quality, farm-fresh food in an area of the city that does not have easy access to supermarkets, but also to have fun and learn.
This year, the market will offer cooking demonstrations in Spanish and English by aspiring chef Ana Brito, and the demo dishes “will be full of Latin flavors and stories,” says Mariela Quesada Centeno, director of adult programs at Centro Hispano.
For farmers, the market provides a place to sell their cultural foods, such as verdolágas (purslane) and chilacayote (figleaf gourd). Some vendors also have a connection to the Farley Center’s farm incubator program, which supports farm businesses run by immigrant farmers, and Spring Rose Cooperative, which sprang from the organization's first farm incubator program in 2010. (Read more about the Farley Center’s farm incubator program in our spring 2014 issue and on our website.)
As an extra bonus to get fresh produce onto the tables of families, El Mercadito de Centro participates in Madison’s Double Your Dollars program, which matches SNAP transactions made at participating farmers markets, and Centro Hispano has developed a cookbook featuring cross-cultural recipes and ingredients. Centro Hispano also operates a community garden and hosts workshops taught by fellow community members. “We want to start planting cultural seeds with the hope that we will harvest stories, knowledge, empowerment, and of course, decadent recipes,” says Mariela.
“El Mercadito de Centro started last summer as a way to provide Centro Hispano's clients and neighbors the opportunity to buy fresh vegetables and fruits during their visit to Centro and to nearby businesses,” says Mariela. “The market's overall mission is to offer an open and healthy place where members of Madison’s southside community can share their cultural heritage and culinary traditions.”
El Mercadito de Centro will be open weekly on Tuesdays, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., from June through October at Centro Hispano, 810 West Badger Road, Madison.