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Tu Vez Blast-From-The-Past Truck: Juan Valdez

Marty McFly and Doc Brown had the Delorean to go travel through time; We have the Tu Vez Blast-From-The-Past Truck. Every week, we’ll hop in our time traveling machine, gun it to 88 MPH, and go back in time to bring you the best from the good ol’ days. Will it be a clip from an old telenovela? An old school music video? Stick around and find out!

By Jack Tomas

When I was a little kid, one of my favorite commercials was for The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. These commercials featured a Colombian coffee farmer named Juan Valdez and his trusty burrito Conchita talking about how awesome Colombian coffee is. I don’t know why I liked them so much. They weren’t selling toys or candy and I wouldn’t start drinking coffee until I was in my angsty late teen years. Maybe it was because I saw a Latino face on TV at a time when that was rare. Or perhaps it’s just that he had a pet donkey. Either way, Juan Valdez is an iconic figure.

There is no “real” Juan Valdez. He was a character designed by the Doyle Dane Bernbach ad agency in 1959. The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia wanted to promote the superiority of Colombian coffee. At the time, a lot of coffee companies claimed to use Colombian beans, when in reality they used a mix from different places. I imagine a “Mad Men” style office environment and a Don Draper type in a suit saying, “Why don’t we just get some brown guy called Juan to talk about the coffee. He can have a donkey too, kids love donkeys.” And so it was. Jose F. Duval was the first Juan, playing him in print ads until 1969. He was succeeded by Carlos Sanchez, whose iconic mustache led the brand into the 21st century.

Sanchez retired in 2006 and was replaced by Carlos Castañaeda. No, not the guy who writes the books about taking peyote. This Carlos is an actual coffee grower. Today, there are several Juan Valdez Cafes all over the world that sell the National Federation’s brand. The coffee is pretty friggin’ good. If you go to a Juan Valdez Cafe, check out the cafe campesino that has cloves, cinnamon, and cane sugar in it. They were also way ahead of their time, being free trade and offering incentives to growers decades before trendy American coffee companies made it popular. The branding worked, as Colombia is usually the first country people associate with coffee production.  It’s all because of a fictional mustachioed man and his trusty burrito.

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