The predecessor of the arepa was a staple of the Timoto-cuicas, an Amerindian group that lived in the northern Andes of Venezuela. Other Amerindian tribes in the region, such as the Arawaks and the Caribs, widely consumed a form known as casabe made from cassava (yuca). With the colonization by the Spanish, the food that would become the arepa was diffused into the rest of the region, known then as Viceroyalty of New Granada and later became La Gran Colombia (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama) at the time of Independence.
The term arepa is pre-Columbian and most probably
comes from the word erepa which means corn
in the language of the Cumanagotos, indigenous people of Venezuela, whose descendants inhabit today the eastern regions of the country.
In eastern Venezuela, the most common variety is usually about three to eight inches (7.5 to 20 cm) in diameter and about 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick. Larger arepas can be found, made with either white or yellow maize. In the western Andes they are flatter, typically a quarter of an inch (0.6 cm) or less in thickness and three to four inches in diameter, and are made of wheat flour. An arepa can be eaten with a filling or with a topping. A filled arepa is called an arepa rellena or a Venezuelan tostada, although the latter term is not commonly used today. Also, there are plenty of sauces to season them while eating them, such as guasacaca and picante (hot sauce).
Venezuelans prepare arepas depending on personal taste or preference and the region in which they are made.