Thursday, June 1, 2006


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.

In searching for a replacement, the federation sent teams across the streets, farms and - of course - cafes in the coffee region in the west of the country. With the help of U.S. consultants, they narrowed down 400 contenders to 10. It will announce the new Juan Valdez, the third incarnation, by the end of June.

"Of course he must have a mustache," joked Gabriel Silva, the general manager of the federation. Sanchez nodded in approval and stroked his own impressive mustache.

"This is not a beauty contest," said Silva.This was quickly confirmed when images of the casting call showed dozens of mustached men, some with notable paunches, doing their impressions of Juan Valdez.

Asked what he wants to do now he's retired, Sanchez said "paint like a madman."

[edited from the AP story]

The story mentions that Carlos Sanchez was the second man to portray Juan Valdez; Jose Duval was the first. But I'm sure the general public watching the ads never noticed the difference when the role was recast.

Upon closer examination of the two versions, I'm sure people would be able to tell one from the other. As I'm sure they will be able to tell the difference between Mr. Sanchez and his successor if pressed to examine them both.

Now it could be argued that Juan Valdez is an Immortal, as found in the TV shows 'Highlander' and 'Highlander: The Raven', and therefore the same man throughout the run of these commercials. But I think we should cite Occam's Razor and go for the easier splainin: in this particular branch of the Valdez family, it is tradition that the oldest son is named Juan. And we will be seeing "Juan Valdez: The Next Generation" in these new blipverts.

Of course, this doesn't explain his seemingly magical ability to teleport himself (and his mule Conchita) into supermarkets all over the United States and then back to Colombia to trod the hills of its coffee country. But that's some kind of genetic talent that is also passed down from generation to generation along with the name.......


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