In the Colombian capital of Bogotá, ajiaco is a popular dish typically made with chicken, three varieties of potatoes, and the Galinsoga parviflora herb commonly referred to in Colombia as guascas. In Cuba, ajiaco is a hearty stew made from beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, and a variety of starchy roots and tubers classified as viandas.
The exact origin of this dish has been debated by scholars. In his book Lexicografia Antillana, former president of Cuba Alfredo Zayas y Alfonso stated that the word "ajiaco" derived from "aji", the native Taíno word for "hot pepper." Cuban ethnologist Fernando Ortiz stated that ajiaco was a meal typical of the Taíno, and was an appropriate metaphor for Cuba being a melting pot. In the Cuban city of Camagüey, the San Juan festival begins with the making and serving of ajiaco. La Calle magazine of Cuba stated that the inhabitants of the village of Santa María de Puerto del Príncipe began the tradition of making ajiaco using their own cooking ingredients, donations from passersby, surplus from farmers, and surplus slave provisions. Ajiaco is believed to have become popular in Cuba during the 16th century, particularly among rural Cubans, although it was occasionally enjoyed by the upper class.