The ‘Pueblito Paisa’, a must see in Medellin
The Pueblito Paisa
As the second largest city in Colombia, Medellin has many things to offer for tourists and locals alike, and one of these is the famous Pueblito Paisa.
Located in the department of Antioquia, on the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes, people here are quite unique. The region was colonized in the XIX century by muleteer peasants, called ‘arrieros’, who came here mainly to grow coffee. Juan Valdez, the character who advertises Colombian coffee, was designed to be a representation of an ‘arriero’ and his mule. In fact, if you travel the Antioquia region roads, you may very well find someone who looks exactly as Juan Valdez.
Medellin, a cosmopolitan city
Nevertheless, Medellin is a modern and cosmopolitan city, whose peasant heritage is, for many, nothing but a distant memory. During the XX century Medellin grew its population and its economy to very high levels. Many factories and companies prospered here, creating jobs for many people who came to the city in search of opportunities.
Today, you can find traces of such vibrant economic development in the city landscape with iconic buildings like Coltejer Tower. As the city grew, it started to engorge nearby villages, as many big towns do, absorbing its culture. But such culture didn’t remain static, and eventually evolved to a more urban set of mind and ways.
Although it was a merely natural process, many nostalgic ones felt that the ‘paisa’ culture and customs had degraded. The local administration saw in that feeling of nostalgia a touristic opportunity, showing the old paisa culture and a simpler way of life as a cultural heritage that deserved preservation.
Rising from its ashes
Recently, Medellin has been on the global spotlight thanks to productions like Netflix’s Narcos, which showed its worst historical period. And even though its violent past is undeniable, the city has been making enormous efforts to leave such epochs behind.
The city today is a very safe, touristic and friendly place, where you can find art, entertainment and culture everywhere. “Plaza Botero”, filled with huge sculptures made by the famous artist, the Explora Park, the Metropolitan Theatre, the Oviedo Mall and the Botanical Garden are all fine examples of that. But for those who like nature and who feel curious about the old ‘paisa’ culture, we have the perfect plan.
One of the biggest hills in the city, Cerro Nutibara, is located in the western margin of the Medellin river. Named after one of the bravest indigenous chiefs, the ‘Cacique Nutibara’, the hill is an ideal place for hiking. There are roads all around its hillside that lead to many interesting sights, such as the “Parque de las Esculturas” (sculptures park), the outdoor “Carlos Vieco” theatre and, finally, the main attraction there: the “Pueblito Paisa” (‘Paisa’ Little Village).
The ten sculptures in the park are very interesting, with styles who go from classic to abstract and surrealist. Before reaching the village there is a big statue of Chief Nutibara, who represents the bravery of the inhabitants of the region since pre-colonial times. The outdoor theatre is usually used for cultural activities sponsored by the mayoralty, from classic plays to artistic performances.
The ‘Pueblito Paisa’
Location: 30 street # 55-64, Medellin
Open: Monday to Sunday, from 8:00 to 22:00
Built in 1977, “Pueblito Paisa” is a miniature version of a typical Antioquia village from the mid XX century. It has many interesting places, such as a chapel, a school, a town hall, the priest house, a barbershop, an apothecary, a tobacconist shop, some houses and a gift shop. A lot of its building materials are genuine, coming from old Medellin neighbourhoods who were drowned to build a dam. The chapel door, as well as the balconies, windows and roof tiles are authentic. The mayor’s office bought many props used to recreate the mid-century environment , which include a barber chair, some beds, kitchen implements and school chairs. So, if you reach the top of the hill, you may find yourself in the middle of an old village. A little colonial square, with a fountain in the middle filled with flowers, and even some locals dressed as arrieros.
Fairs and festivals in Medellin
Depending on the season, you can catch some of the local festivals and carnivals who regularly take place in Medellin. If you come by in August, you can experience the “Feria de las Flores” (Festival of the Flowers). If you come in December, the wonderful Christmas lighting, that set Medellin apart from the rest of Colombian cities, will dazzle you.
During the “Feria de las Flores”, many locals wear their traditional costumes and dance carrying flowers on their backs. These are called “silleteros” (chair carriers), because the flowers are arranged over the ‘silletas’ (saddles). Alongside the ‘silleteros’ parade, you may find a cavalcade, an orchid exposition, some traditional dances and live music shows. The “Pueblito Paisa”, as expected, is not indifferent to the celebration, being decorated with beautiful flowers from top to bottom.
The Christmas season, as mentioned before, is outstanding in Medellin, with lanterns and holiday nights all over the city. The December night view from the Nutibara Hill it’s certainly a must see. It is one of the top ten Christmas lighting decorations in the world according to National Geographic. And it’s not just because of the amazing and colourful landscape, the festive atmosphere in the “Pueblito Paisa” is magical. Women dressed in typical gowns will dance some local rhythms, whilst the ‘arrieros’ try to court them. Local children, dressed as little ‘arrieros’, with little hats, stuffed mules and fake moustaches or small dresses complete the picture.
Food and Souvenirs
As the touristic value of the site increased, so did the commerce and services around it. Being a cultural and historical place, many local merchants are selling souvenirs thematically related, such as small replicas of iconic buildings from the “Pueblito Paisa”, churches of Medellin, typical outfits and ‘paisa’ memorabilia; sometimes, the local chamber of commerce organizes some craft fairs, where artists and merchants from all the region come together to the Pueblito Paisa to show their best work. Given that the “Pueblito Paisa” entrance is free of charge, we invite you to contribute to the local economy by buying some pretty souvenirs.
We also recommend you to try the local food. Near the “Pueblito Paisa” there are many food stalls with local dishes such as “arepa con chorizo”, “Natilla” (cane custard), “Chicharrón” (pork rind), or “arequipe paisa” (‘paisa’ caramel). You may also found some restaurants nearby, where you can try the “bandeja paisa” (‘paisa’ plate) a huge mix of beans, rice, avocado, plantain, pork rind, chorizo and blood sausage, the “sancocho antioqueño”, a traditional soup, or the “calentao paisa”, made with rice, beans and meat.
Don’t miss the ‘Pueblito Paisa’
Climbing the Cerro Nutibara to catch a glimpse on the beautiful Aburrá Valley is a perfect plan for hikers, children and all family. If you are here by the holidays, for just a week or a long vacation, you won’t regret coming here. Whatever your plans in Medellin are, make sure you visit the “Pueblito Paisa”: the colonial environment, the beautiful landscapes and the cultural activities will certainly charm you.