Raising a multicultural family is one pinnacle of Modern Muze founder Zulay Henao’s life.
Her first daughter, with actor and producer Kevin Connolly, is living the best of many worlds as she shares Irish and Colombian heritage. In 2022, the couple gave Christmas a spin by traveling to Henao’s native Medellín.
The actress and entrepreneur shared her experience of looking at Colombia through her family for the first time and falling in love with it all over again.
Was this the first time you returned to Colombia since you were a child? How did you decide to bring your partner and child with you?
This was my first time back to Colombia as an adult. I’d been as a teenager a few times and had been daydreaming about going back. This trip came together over a family lunch one day in June of 2022, my dad was visiting from Colombia, and we talked about a potential Christmas family trip when he said, “Come to Colombia.” We all instantly said “yes, the entire family!”
It was such a wonderful thing to look forward to. We made up an itinerary, researched places we all wanted to see. Kevin, my partner, was elated to visit and that made it all the more special, to bring my young family along was monumental. I have a lot of family in Medellín, and seeing them and introducing them to my daughter and Kevin was so very special. It is a trip I will never forget and will cherish forever.
You’re raising a multicultural child learning traditions from her Irish, American, and Colombian backgrounds. What do you want to pass down to her from Colombian culture?
I think I’ve already passed down my love for Arepas, both Kevin and Kennedy love them! I really want to pass down to her our deeply-rooted love and sense of family. Colombian culture is deeply rooted in familial connectedness, support, and love.
There are things we carry with us from our countries of origin, like mementos, whether it be a special dance, cuisine, or item. What is that for you?
I am so proud of being Colombian, however, taste is my most heightened sense. I love Colombian food and feel so much nostalgia when I bite into a beautiful empanada made with love. I love our music, salsa specifically, and that too is another thing I try to incorporate into my home for Kennedy and Kevin to learn to appreciate as much as I do.
Aside from the hurdles of traveling with a toddler, what were some of the most challenging moments you experienced during your trip?
While the travel was indeed hard, we now look back on it with a sense of wonder and joy. Like, “Wow, we did that, and it was great.” Kevin and I lovingly share those memories with our friends and always feel so much joy. Other than that, the only real challenge was watching Kevin, who is really social and jovial, struggle to communicate with my family.
What was the best part of the trip or that piece you’ll remember forever?
I’ll remember landing in Medellín, the excitement in my body was out of this world. I cried. I will never forget one of our first nights on the chiva “the party bus.” It was a traveling party with my favorite music, my family, and all of our kids. The frequent stops in different little towns to eat, laugh, and dance. I’ll never forget the Medellín River and how it was lit for Christmas, the way my daughter’s face lit up, and how delicious the micheladas were. I’ll never forget how romantic it felt for Kevin and I. Amid all of the chaos, we often stopped and marveled at how beautiful life was and how much of a vibe Medellín was.
Although Colombia’s reputation has transformed over the last few years, people are still hesitant to visit or associate it with what they have seen on shows like Narcos. What would you say to this, and what are your recommendations?
My recommendation is to travel to Colombia. It has infinite beauty to offer. Talk and listen to the locals and travel to towns and locations recommended for tourists. Don’t go rogue, just like anywhere else in the world.