Who is Juan Valdez?
Juan Valdez is a fictitious character who was created in 1959 to represent the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Columbia, founded in 1926.
He is one of the most familiar faces in the advertising world, with his moustache, sombrero, poncho and his faithful mule, Lana.
In the first commercials, Juan Valdez used to wander around in the coffee fields, picking the ripe coffee berries with his hands. He was a romantic representative of thousands of Colombian "cafeteros", or "caficultores". At the same time, his image drew a great deal of criticism on its road to success.
The real cafetero in the early days of Juan Valdez lived in dire poverty. Anti-government guerrillas and narcotics traffickers endangered his already insecure life. Poisonous DDT was sprayed on his coffee fields, often, shockingly, while he and other cafeteros were at work. The National Federation failed to represent these horrors.
In later ads, Juan Valdez moved from the coffee fields to the American housewife's kitchen, handing her a personalized bag of freshly processed coffee beans.
In TV commercials, Juan Valdez was first played by actor Jose Duval. Because Duval was no longer felt to be representative, Carlos Sanchez of Medellin took his place in 1969. In the 1980s, the Juan Valdez commercials used Rolls Royce cars and luxury residences. In the 1990s, a new slogan was devised: Grab life by the beans. Dynamic pictures showed Juan Valdez surfing or snowboarding. In the late nineties, however, Juan Valdez disappeared from the public eye for several years. The Colombian government had drastically cut back on advertising.
In 2000, Juan Valdez, in the person of Carlos Sanchez, reappeared. Andres Pastrana, President of Columbia, awarded him the silver cross medal for national merit.
In December of that year, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia opened its first "Juan Valdez" Coffee shop in Bogota airport. Juan Valdez appeared in the movie "Bruce Almighty" at a cost to the Federation of $1,5 million.
At the time of writing (2004), the symbol of Columbian coffee is trying to make a breakthrough into North America. The first "Juan Valdez" coffee house was opened in September 2004 in Washington, and the second, one month later, in New York.
Ultimately, Juan Valdez is aiming at Seattle, the heart of American coffee-making. Starbucks officials stated they do not feel threatened by the famous moustache man. Gabriel Silva, manager of the Columbian Federation, said in return that the Federation would not go as far as having 8,000 or 10,000 Juan Valdez outlets, as their competition intends.