Check out this video of a paisa woman living in the US. Between 0:36 – 1:26 she talks about paisas and rolos. It’s translated to English below the video.
My translation of 0:36 – 1:26:
In Colombia I thought rolos and paisas were always enemies. They have an absurd rivalry. I have no idea how it started.
Ahh the rolos are so boring and polite. They’re uptight and they don’t like anything. The city’s cold and the people are bad.
The rolos say paisas are storytellers and liars. Paisas are talkers (I’m a paisa). They say paisas are pure hagglers, they only think about business and ?saving money?.
In Colombia I realized rolos and paisas just don’t get along well, never will. Here in the US I realized it’s not true. My best friend is a rola. I say to her “You’re such a rola” and she says “this exaggerating paisa” because we’re very exaggerated / flamboyant / [difficult to translate].
So it’s funny here in America. I don’t feel the same about rolos. I like rolos. Yes they’re a little uptight and they don’t like anything, but they have other interesting aspects.
The first difference I noticed was the paisa attitude toward rolos. Every time I told a paisa I live in Bogota, they had something bad to say about rolos or Bogota in general. Every time. They don’t like the people. They don’t like the weather. They don’t like the city.
Despite what the woman in the video says about a rivalry, I never heard a rolo say a bad thing about Medellin or paisas. I hear the opposite. They say it’s the perfect weather, the women are gorgeous, the city’s beautiful, the people are friendly, etc. So it was surprising to hear the animosity being a one-way street. It’s not a phenomenon unique to Colombia, but rather how any of the world’s capital cities are viewed by outsiders from the same country. Arequipeños talk bad about Lima, but limeños have only nice things to say about Arequipa. Americans talk bad about New Yorkers or people from Los Angeles. They’re the same complaints small city people have about big city people. Colombians everywhere outside Bogota don’t like rolos.
My personal experience aside, there is this video some rolo made trashing Medellin. He goes a little far in trying to trump the TransMilenio over Medellin’s Metro – HA!
Paisas say rolos are cold or ‘closed’. It’s true. Paisas are friendlier. They ask you where you’re from and talk to you. They want to be friends. I felt like a cold gringo, or rolo rather, because I had to cut conversations short on people. One paisa guy was nice enough to walk me to a store that was open after 8pm. After we got there he’s standing next to me outside in line. I had to tell him ‘Thanks a lot, see you later.’
I realized how rolos might come off like assholes when I signed up for the tourist plan at a gym in Sabaneta. The personal trainer who gave me the tour told me he doesn’t like rolos. Then he showed me the gym. When I size up a gym in Latin America, I only need to confirm four or five features total. A safe squat station, a bench not built for home use in the 60s, Olympic barbells, standard plate sizes, dip / pullup bars a plus, and that’s it. This gym had all this so I decided to invest 50,000 pesos for ten visits or whatever it was.
I indicated to the trainer the tour was over. I’m sold. He seemed hurt I didn’t want to see the second floor cardio equipment. He started showing me machines, saying things like “HAHM-STREEN” next to a seated leg curl (‘hamstring’ has no clear Spanish translation). I told him I didn’t ‘need help.’ He kept on with other machines and I was in a hurry to start my workout. I ignored him for a second, then went up front to pay. We greeted each other in the gym over the next weeks, but no talking.
Justin and Zac, the gringos I stayed with in Sabaneta, talk to all their neighbors. A rolofied gringo isn’t as inclined to stop, shake hands, and have a quick chat with every single guy sitting at the tables outside the goddamn store. ¡Qué frío!
Living in Bogota’s different, especially if you spend 99% of your life in the heart of the city. You walk past thousands of people every day (Subways aside, I didn’t think Beijing wasn’t congested at all compared to Bogota). In Bogota people are constantly trying to get your attention – to get you into their restaurant for lunch, selling shit, giving you flyers, begging, whatever. You walk around with a wall around you. Medellin’s not like that. So rolos come off “uptight.”
A gringo living in Bogota is missing out on an important part of Latin America. My first trip down here was to Recife, Brazil, a town about the size of Medellin over a thousand miles from Rio and Sao Paolo (super friendly people). That Latino friendliness was one of the main things that affected me and my trajectory in ultimately moving to South America. It was like that in Arequipa as well. But when you look at big capitals in Latin America, you lose that cultural aspect. In Bogota, Rio, Buenos Aires, people don’t care so much about you. And they’re not as impressed by a gringo.
Stay in a luxury apartment in Medellin.
Zac in Medellin told me he often doesn’t answer his phone because he has too many people calling him. I don’t have that problem in Bogota. Several times I’ll be drinking with a rolo I just met, all night long maybe, and we’ll change numbers at some point. And there’s no chance in hell that either of us are ever going to call the other. It’s happened so many times I was surprised in Medellin when people I met called me. One time I didn’t realize who the guy was until after we’d hung up. Another guy called to play basketball, and another guy called who had brought a chick up to the bar to meet me. You get all these phone calls and can’t NOT think how paisas are different.
Here’s something that will NEVER happen in Bogota with rolos: I was at a La Mota bar. I was drinking on some paisa’s bottle of Johnny Walker Red, talking with one of his buddies. Who knows what we’re talking about, when the guy asks if I’ve met any paisa chicks. I’d met a couple, and he said he has “amiguitas.” Would I like to meet one? Sure. He left and I forgot about it with the whiskey and all. So a half hour later the guy comes back with a little 20 year old dime with big boobs, butt, face, everything. We talk for a minute and I get her number and she takes off.
In Bogota, first of all, a rolo you just met will rarely offer you all the whiskey you want (sin escopolamina). Second, no rolo’s going to fetch a single, hot girl he knows to introduce to you. And finally, no rola higher than estrato 1 or 2 is going to come out the house to meet you.
Paisa hospitality’s worth a mention. I made friends with paisa Gustavo in Bogota a month before visiting Medellin. He would be there before me. My first day in Medellin I was drinking in Poblado around 10 am when I called him. He picked me up on his motorcycle around 11. He put a gram in my pocket. We got on his bike and sped through the city to meet gorgeous paisa girls he knew. Then a bar and more people, more rumba rumba rumba. He called me in the morning telling me to hurry up and get dressed, we’re going to a pool party at a finca. I barely threw on basketball shorts and a t-shirt in time to meet him. He brought me with him several times to see the town and meet people before he headed off to the coast. Great host!
Medellin is said to have gorgeous women. It’s true.
The paisa blood is more Spanish than Indian, which generally ranks higher in Latin Americans’ beauty preferences. And maybe because of the regular sunshine the paisitas’ faces are cuter. But they also spend more time making themselves beautiful. “Se arreglan,” explained one paisa fella. I never saw a girl at the gym without makeup, and the workout clothes seem carefully selected. To go out on the town, they put in the effort to achieve pristine presentation.
Over half the women walking around are hot. This works with the paisa friendliness to create an interesting effect in those hot paisa women – they’re not difficult or stuck-up. Since beauty is so common, they can’t act special. Gorgeous women who have to compete with lots of other gorgeous women are just as friendly as less gorgeous women in the real world.
One night I’m drinking with a group in Sabaneta Park, and we’re sort of mixed with another big group. In another group drinking nearby was a gorgeous paisa chick staring at me. Staring without trying to hide it. So I put my arm over my head and gave her a full-arm wave, then turned back to my group and had a laugh. The next thing I know this girl’s right next to me introducing herself. She had beelined it right over. We had a meet and greet and a little chat, and it’s on to meeting the next gorgeous friendly paisa chick.
Here’s a video montage of hot paisas:
I tell people I’m fluent in Spanish. I’ve read books and watched movies without subtitles, but that doesn’t mean I always understand everything. You can give me a Colombian educated at Harvard – took classes and wrote essays in English, lived in Boston – and introduce him to a St. Louis project nigga and he’ll question his English proficiency afterward. So it goes when you encounter different dialects even if you’re fluent.
I rarely have trouble understanding people in Bogota, but in Medellin I often found myself saying, “¿Qué?” What are you saying? It’s different. It’s difficult. Some of them speak so their tongue never touches the roof of their mouth. I caught this when someone said, “La haía ejao.” La había dejado. Their lips touched just when the b should’ve been pronounced, and they made the vowels sound like they should in those words coming after d’s, but none of those consonants were actually heard. Or “¿Sae que?” – sabes que.
It was a nice change to hear ‘parce’ at the end of sentences instead of ‘marica’, but too much ‘chimba’ and ‘gonorrea’.
I tried to find examples of paisa accents on YouTube for you, but there isn’t much. The first video isn’t a good example because that woman’s been living in the States, she seems professional, etc. If I can transcribe it, it’s not very paisa. Here was one paisita I found, but more a showing of Colombian profanity and slang than paisa talk.
This next video highlights regional Colombian accents from celebrities and TV appearances. The paisa accents, which include former president Alvaro Uribe, are between 0:26 – 0:43.
Se arreglan. Not just the girls spend a lot of time on their appearance, the men do as well. The attention on the clothes, the hair, the style. I remembered that many of the paisas I’d met in Bogota struck me as gay at the time. Like the first one I met, or another two one night I never wrote about. Taking care of yourself and looking good is important if you want to get laid a lot, but it’s also a little gay. One rolo described them as ‘metrosexual,’ which is probably more the case.
However, metrosexual doesn’t fit the paisa stereotype, Juan Valdez:
The paisas were the men who settled the Andes Mountains, the mountain men. They grow coffee beans wearing those white cowboy hats, white shirts and slacks. They ride horses and drink aguardiente. The bandeja paisa is a total cowboy plate:
I got a lot of macho paisa stories from a paisa friend in Bogota about his dad. When he taught my friend (his son) to swim, he did so by throwing him in a river. Sink or swim. The old man drank a Pony Malta mixed with raw egg every day of his life for sexual potency. He was proud of his eleven children by two women.
Also, paisas love to have sex with minors. You also hear incest stories – first cousin love.
Most of the ones I saw and met were more metrosexual, but cowboys are the stereotype. Then you have to consider Medellin’s crime rate is statistically the highest in Colombia. Paisas make horrible killers and thieves. Pablo Escobar was a paisa.
It’s difficult to say what paisas are. They’re paisas.
Here’s Botero’s depiction of a typical paisa family:
Medellin climate is warmer than Bogota. That means you never need a jacket, evenings are optional. Afternoons can be hot. I sweat hard every time I walked several blocks wearing jeans. It’s never uncomfortably hot, however.
The crime rate is the highest in Colombia, but I think it’s confined to the slums. Walking around you just don’t feel the same vibe as Bogota, which is especially noticeable walking around the downtown areas of each city. I spent most of my time in Poblado, Envigado, and Sabaneta. Medellin feels safer, but statistically it’s not.
The Medellin metro area is 3.7 million, so definitely not a small city. But it has retained a small town attitude and friendliness because of (A) the cowboy culture and (B) the metro area includes suburbs (Envigado and Sabaneta) which have small town feels.
I went to a store to get food around 8:15 and it was CLOSED. It closed at 8 (this started the earlier story of a paisa who worked there showing me where a ‘late night’ store was). This kind of shit you don’t get in Bogota. One night Gustavo wanted to show me Envigado nightlife, so we sped there on his motorcycle. When we arrived it was dead, around 12 or 1 am on a Wednesday. One paisa I know here in Bogota said Medellin nightlife is really only good on Fridays and Saturdays.
With all these differences, can you believe the two cities are just a 30 MINUTE FLIGHT from each other???
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