By Maria Fernanda Cabezas


For years, there’s been a controversial debate between Colombians and Venezuelans over who came up with the famous arepas.

Let’s start with facts: In Colombia, the first record of the existence of corn dates from about 3,000 years ago, while in Venezuela the estimate is about 2,800 years ago. The creation of the arepa most likely happened simultaneously in both countries, but well before either territory became a country with demarcated borders. The Timoto-Cuica indigenous tribe in Venezuela placed arepas in circular clay pans called “aripos” (where the word arepa is thought to have derived from) and cooked over fire, whereas in Colombia they were cooked on heated slabs called lajas.

The arepa endured throughout the colonization in the 1500s, in part because the Spanish took a liking to the snack. Moreover, the cheese, meat and vegetables often used to fill or top arepas were European, indicating that the Spaniards also deserve some credit for the current way we eat them. Colonization also brought with it the invention of the pilón, a kind of mortar and pestle made from wood used to mash the fresh corn which largely contributed to the popularization of the dish.

By the 1800s, Simon Bolivar lead a revolution and established the Gran Colombia, including the modern nations of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama which helped spread this tradition throughout the continent.

But it was by the 1950s that an innovative Venezuelan engineer, Luis Caballero, came up with the idea to use machinery to create the first ever pre-cooked corn flour (Harina P.A.N) therefore simplifying the act of cooking arepas and helping to keep the tradition alive within the venezuelan culture.

In summary, it is really hard to tell which nation invented the arepa. We believe it is the result of the contribution of people from different nationalities. The most important thing is that both Colombians and Venezuelans have made an amazing job bringing it to every corner of the world and keeping this millenary tradition alive.

More importantly, who cares who invented it, if everyone can make it their own?