Juan Valdez and his mule Conchita have become one of the world’s most recognized advertising symbols. Juan Valdez represents the small coffee farmer transporting merchandise such as coffee, maize, wheat, or fruit with the help of a pack of animals such as mules, donkeys and horses.
What is a mule anyway?
- The mule is a cross between a donkey stallion, also called a jack, and a horse mare.
- Hinnies are a cross between a stallion horse and donkey jennet or “jenny.”
- Hinnies and mules are classified under the term Mule.
- They can be a male or a female. They are sterile and cannot reproduce.
- Mules have ears smaller than donkeys.
- Mules tend to be longer and shaped as their horse parents.
- The head, hip and legs usually take after the jack.
- Mules have thin forelock hair, coarse mane hair and a tail like the horse parent.
Why have mules been the traditional animal in the coffee mountains of Colombia?
- Mules are great working animals.
- They are very adaptable to the difficult terrain of Colombian coffee growing regions.
- Roads are not available in many of these remote areas.
- By nature, mules do not put themselves in danger.
- They have a way of telling humans when something is not right, a valuable instinct in mountainous areas.
- Mules are very intelligent and do their best for their owners.
- Although mules are working animals, they become members of the families who own them.
- Without the mules, coffee farmers in these remote areas cannot transport their merchandise and make a living.
- Coffee farmers spend much time alone with their mules working the farm. It is very common to see farmers caressing and caring for their mules.
- The mule becomes a coffee farmer’s best friend. There is a strong bond between man and animal for mutual safety and independence.
- It is therefore very fitting for Colombian coffee’s iconic image to have a coffee farmer with his mule.
Who is Conchita?
- Conchita is Juan Valdez’s mule, probably the most pampered and famous mule in the world.
- The mule twitches ears and welcomes a sugar cube or two at events.
- Conchita lives a privileged life, walking on carpets at events. She is a crowd pleaser.
- Conchita is Colombia’s coffee mascot. She adds emotional appeal to the iconic image of the smoothest, richest coffee in the world.
Sometimes Juan Valdez makes appearances without Conchita. When this happens, he travels with a professional folkloric dancing group wearing all the beautiful and colorful attire of specific Colombian regions.
Personally, I prefer to see Juan Valdez with Conchita. There is something very special about tradition, particularly when the coffee farmer and his mule travel the world on behalf of hundreds of thousands of coffee growers in the homeland.
If you want to meet Juan Valdez in person and have a picture taken with Conchita, check out his travel itinerary. Who knows? He may be touring a large city near you.
- You could just spot him on a street near a main intersection or public event with Conchita walking along his side.
- If this appeals to you, go to: http://www.whatsbehindthebest.com/tourmap.html
For now, what about enjoying a cup of Organic Colombian Supremo?