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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 May 2006, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Colombian coffee icon steps down
Juan Valdez dreams of coffee. Photo: Courtesy Cafe de Colombia
Juan Valdez - one of the most famous Colombians of all time
The actor who portrayed fictional Colombian coffee icon Juan Valdez for four decades has hung up his trademark poncho for the last time.

"It's pretty nostalgic," said Carlos Sanchez, 71, who for 37 years promoted coffee as the moustachioed farmer.

Juan Valdez has played a role in presenting a positive side of Colombia to the world, correspondents say.

And he will live on, because Colombia's coffee federation is set to unveil his third incarnation in June.

Juan Valdez, with his leather bag, straw hat and poncho, and accompanied by his faithful mule Conchita, embodied rural Colombia.

Cafe de Colombia logo
Colombia's coffee federation uses the logo as a seal of guarantee

First created in 1959, he was found roaming the countryside in search of the finest coffee beans.

Ever the quintessential Colombian coffee farmer, he turned up at sporting events, and poured a coffee for Jim Carrey in the film, Bruce Almighty.

The logo showing Juan and Conchita first appeared in 1981 as part of efforts to advertise one of Colombia's main exports.

"I feel like a flag, like a national anthem," said Mr Sanchez as he told a news conference about his memories of playing the iconic coffee grower since 1969, including meeting Bill Clinton and the Spanish royal family.

Carlos Sanchez who has played Juan Valdez since 1969
Carlos Sanchez spoke of his great pride in being Juan Valdez

Mr Sanchez said touring the world advertising Colombian coffee had become too tiring.

From a field of 400, Colombia's coffee federation has narrowed the choice to replace Mr Sanchez down and will announce the new Juan Valdez in June.

The younger Juan will be "humble but proud of Colombia's coffee", Gabriel Silva, president of the National Federation of Coffee Growers said.

He will be used to promote the drink to today's consumers, focusing on its quality and the fact that it is grown in environmentally sound conditions, Mr Silva said.

But some things will not change.

"He has to have a bushy moustache," Mr Silva said.

Country profile: Colombia
29 May 06 |  Country profiles

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