the examiner

The story of the most famous Colombian of them all -- Juan Valdez

Aug 05--I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Juan Valdez, the one Colombian most Americans can probably name, is not a native Colombian. Shocking, I know.

It turns out Juan was born in New York City in 1960. You probably thought he was older than 49, too. It seems like he should be. After all, we’ve been watching Juan and his faithful mule, Conchita, bringing the coffee beans down from the mountains of Colombia for years and years.

Juan Valdez was not born in a hospital, but in the offices of the DDB ad agency. The “Mad Men” there created Juan for one of their clients, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, which was founded in 1927.

The idea behind the ad campaign, which became one of the most successful and long-running in history, was to distinguish coffee made with 100 percent Colombian coffee beans from those using coffee beans from other countries.

From 1960 to 1969, Juan Valdez was portrayed by José Duval, who was not Colombian. He was born in Havana, Cuba and came to the United States at the age of 20 to pursue a career as an opera singer. He appeared in a touring production of “Die Fledermaus” for New York City’s Metropolitan Opera and then branched out into musical theater and movies. He died in 1993 at the age of 72.
Read more here.
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