What Does Paisa Mean In Colombia?

credit: Peter Parker

The word “paisa” exists in many regions of Latin America. In truth, locals in every region will give a slightly different answer because the word has multiple meanings according to its region. What about Colombia? Let’s discuss the etymology and history of the term to find its meaning in Colombia!

The word Paisa in Colombia refers to someone from the northwest parts of Colombia, namely Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío. The Paisa regions’ distinct cultural differences in language, cuisine, music, dance, and attire separate them from other Colombian regions.

What Is The Meaning Of Paisa In Colombia?

The word Paisa refers to a person who originates from the northwest part of Colombia, specifically from the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío. People from this region identify as Paisas and hail from major cities like Manizales, Medellín, Armenia, and Pereira.

The etymology of the word Paisa is the Spanish word Paisano, meaning countryman. Interestingly, the Paisa people still retain the name Antioqueños from when the other Paisa provinces were a single unit.

Many people regard the Paisas as their own ethnic group (raza paisa or raza antioqueña), but they are as Colombian as the rest of the country. They have a potent and distinctive culture that makes them quite unique to other people.

For instance, they speak a dialect of Spanish called Antioqueñan Spanish, which contains unique expressions, phrases, and intonations that set it apart from regular Spanish. Writers and literatus refer to their dialect as español antioqueño.

How Are Regular Spanish And Español Antioqueño Different?

Español Antioqueño has many nuances that set it apart from the Spanish most people speak in Colombia or Latin America. Here are some of the most prominent differences:

  • Showing size or cuteness – Paisas add -ico or -ica to the end of words to make them sound smaller or cuter. It’s a common way to appear friendlier to strangers or show affection to loved ones.

Someone might say un momentico (a little moment) instead of un momento (a moment) or una gatico (a little cat) instead of un gato (a cat).

  • When Paisas talk to someone they know, they’ll use the word vos to express “you” rather than or usted in Spanish.
  • The Paisa people pronounce an “s” as “sh”. For instance, the Spanish word for “house” is kasa, but Paisas pronounce it as “kasha.”
  • Some expressions are unique to the Paisa region and see daily usage to express surprise and emotion. They say “¡Ave María pues!” or “¡Hombre!” which are the equivalents of “Oh my!” or “Wow!”.

How Is Paisa Cuisine Different To Other Spanish Cuisine?

The Paisa regions of Colombia use unique ingredients and flavoring that produce a distinctive, tropical taste and texture that only exists in the northwestern parts of Colombia.

Bandeja Paisa

Bandeja Paisa is the face of Paisa cuisine and boasts an impressive variety of delicious foods in a single setting, such as:

  • White rice
  • Fried egg
  • Avacado
  • Lemon
  • ground meat
  • Red beans cooked with pork
  • chicharrón (fried pork rind)
  • Hogao (tomato and onion sauce)
  • Arepa (corn cake)
  • Plantain, chorizo (sausage)
  • Black pudding (blood sausage)

The food variety results in a wholesome and filling meal that mirrors the hospitality and hard-working nature of the Paisas. The combination of Native American and European flavors and ingredients sets it apart from regular Spanish dishes.

Arepa Paisa

Arepa Paisa is a thin and crispy corncake enjoyed with salt & butter or plain. People also serve it with cheese, egg, or meat and enjoy it for breakfast and dinner or as a side dish or snack.

Arepa from other regions of Colombia tend to be much thicker and softer and come mostly with cheese or meat. Paisas consider Arepa a delicious staple food and a part of their regional and cultural identity.


Sancocho is a hearty soup perfect for warming the bones during the colder months! It contains either chicken, pork, beef, and vegetables like cilantro (coriander), corn, plantain, and yuca (cassava).

Locals appreciate its nutritional value and soothing effects, and most people have it over the weekends or for special occasions. It differs from regular Spanish soups because it utilizes tropical ingredients like yuca and plantain to produce a thicker consistency.


Mondongo is a delicious stew made with pork feet and tripe (cow’s stomach) and a variety of vegetables like carrots, potatoes, chorizo, and spices.

People adore it for its flavorful and aromatic qualities. It’s common for people to enjoy it with a side of rice, banana, and avocado. The use of tripe gives it a distinctive taste that makes it unique to other Spanish stews.

Paisas In Colombia Have A Unique Culture Of Music And Dance

The Paisa region draws inspiration from many sources to create unique dance and musical entertainment styles.


Bambuco is a unique musical genre that originates from the Andean region but that many locals consider the country’s national symbol. Its words reflect the rural lifestyle and feelings of the locals. It has a 1-2-3 rhythm that imitates a march, while the tune uses only five notes.

It requires a tiple (12-string guitar), a flute, and a pear-shaped lute called a bandola. The accompanying dance is a courting dance for couples called the sanjuanero. Its movements resemble a striking elegance and grace adored by performers and onlookers alike. 


Currulao comes from Colombia’s Pacific coast and incorporates many aspects of African music. Locals know it to be upbeat, energetic, and uplifting. The major instruments at work are bombo drums, marimba (a wooden xylophone), and tambora (double-headed hand drum).

Currulao is also the name of the expressive dance performed by couples who enjoy stepping, turning, and swinging to the rhythm of the drums!


Pasillo finds its roots in the European waltz and is also a popular musical genre in Ecuador and Venezuela. It has a quick tempo, producing a surprisingly nostalgic and sentimental emotion in listeners. It shares similarities with Bambuco but leans more heavily toward the bandola and guitar.

Pasillo is also the name of the dance and has plenty of agile movements thanks to the quick tempo. It involves a lot of steps, jumps, and turns!

Do People Dress Differently In The Paisa Region?

Paisas wear specific attire that may be less common in other regions of Colombia. Here are two of the most common items locals prefer to wear in the Paisa region.


Alpargatas are flat shoes with rubber or rope soles. They can be either leather or canvas and are common for men and women who pair them with white socks. They provide maximum comfort while remaining reliable on various terrains.

Most Alpargatas stem from local artisans, illuminating the entrepreneurship of the people. These shoes are ideal for everyday use, like picnics, family gatherings, and other casual occasions. 


A sombrero in Antioquia is slightly different than in other parts of Colombia. People call them vueltiao (turned), and they are usually black with varying white patterned stripes. Men and women wear them daily or for festivals, rodeos, parades, or special events.