Viva la Fonda!

A visit to a fonda antioqueña is always a big hit with tourists! Gaily painted in primary colors inside and out including the wooden furniture, often with a wild variety of items hanging from the ceiling, it’s a place for a tinto or a drink of aguardiente and guasca folk music.

The Tradition

Historically the fonda was a pit stop for arrieros. Arrieros are the sturdy men who transported merchandise on mules between pueblos in the eje cafetero departamentos (Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío). The fonda provided them a place to sleep, eat, get supplies…or a drink of the still popular licorice liquor, aguardiente.

Fondas Now

Today, fondas are mostly recreations even if arrieros still exist in remote parts of the country. Many have traditional Paisa food like the bandeja Paisa: A hearty platter of sausages, meats, rice, fried plantain and avocado, among other things. Another favorite is a simple calentao which is reheated beans, rice and the usual Paisa trimmings. Some fondas are faithful to the tradition and recreate a tienda, or store, usually on one wall. A tienda has everything from flour to horseshoes. If you see a traditional huge silver samovar being used, this makes the best coffee and you know you’re in luck!

Finding Fondas

To find the more authentic fondas, head for the principal parque (plaza) of any town and chances are, there’s one. In cities, head to the “zona rosa” (entertainment district) and you’ll likely find bars that are fonda inspired. They tend to be pricy and they play all kinds of music including Mexican rancheras, which you would never hear in the real fondas! Dancing may be part of the deal and I’ve seen people go nuts and gyrate in narrow aisles or even jump on tables once the alcohol levels reach a certain point. It’s quite a sight to behold as young and old get equally wild!

Make sure you include a stop at a fonda when you visit a pueblo or city in Antioquia or the Eje Cafetero, and take photos!

Photos: from a fonda next to the Parque de Sabaneta, Antioquia. Copyright Colombia Dreaming.

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