Carlos Sánchez may not have knocked on your front door every morning with a steaming mug of Colombian coffee, but when the Colombian Coffee Federation created a mustached “Juan Valdez,” he became a household name around the world synonymous with the country’s most famous bean – Arabica.
During almost four decades, Juan Valdez and his mule Conchita, ventured from their idyllic plantation to meet royalty, heads of state, laden with sacks of red hand-picked cherries and dressed in the typical attire of cafeteros. From witty advertising campaigns to photo opportunities with U.S Presidents, “Juan Valdez” was considered to be a larger-than-life persona and embodiment of the grounded values of the country’s dedicated coffee farmers.
Even though Carlos Sánchez was not the first Juan Valdéz, (a role that went to Cuban actor José Duval when the campaign was launched in 1959), he did play the part most of his adult life, until stepping away from the limelight in 2006.
On December 29, Carlos Sánchez passed away in Medellín and confirmed in an email last week by the National Federation of Coffee Growers. No cause was given for his death. “Carlos Sánchez left us, his whole life proudly embodying the character of Juan Valdez around the world, a tribute to his memory and an eternal gratitude from the coffee growers of Colombia for their devotion and hard work in favor of the Colombian producers,” wrote Roberto Vélez Vallejo, general manager of the Federation in the official statement. Sánchez was 83.
Born in Fredonia, a coffee-growing town in central Antioquia, Carlos Sánchez never worked as a farmer, turning to painting and acting instead before assuming the heavy burden of promoting the legitimate harvest of a country that was quickly becoming synonymous with drug trafficking and violence. Recognizable always with his white Aguadeño sombrero and poncho, Sánchez even turned up in Hollywood where he made a cameo appearance with Jim Carey in the 2003 film “Bruce Almighty.”