I was notified of this via email from my friend, Tom. It’s a sad, sad day for coffee lovers everywhere:
BOGOTA, Colombia (May 31) – Juan Valdez is retiring. Long live Juan Valdez! The ambassador to the world for Colombian coffee, Carlos Sanchez, is hanging up his trademark poncho after four decades of playing the role of “Juan Valdez.”
Now the national federation of Colombian coffee producers, owners of the Juan Valdez trademark, is searching for a man to inherit that poncho.
Sanchez and his trusty mule Conchita have promoted Colombian coffee since 1969 with a leather bag, bushy mustache and straw hat typical of rural Colombia. That Juan Valdez trademark has become one of the world’s most recognizable, and the fictional figure has become one of the most famous Colombians of all time.
For a country so closely allied in the global mind with drug traffickers and terrorists, Colombians have been grateful to Valdez for presenting another side to their country.
“I feel like a flag, I feel like I’ve represented the country,” said Sanchez in a press conference, at times struggling to hold back tears as he talked of his joy at playing the role of a generation. “There is a big sense of gratitude from Colombians abroad for this.”
Sanchez, 71, said his advancing years made it hard to keep up a strenuous schedule traveling all over Colombia and the world promoting coffee.
Juan Valdez is to coffee what Mickey Mouse is to Disney. Happy trails, Juan.