From the beginning, when there were only paths, coffee beans and other agriculture products were brought to market on the backs of mules, intelligent, hard working animals, capable of carrying heavy loads while negotiating the rough terrain. In place of roads, cable cars were strung between the mountains but the mule still proved the most durable means of transportation. Along with electricity, the telephone and other modern conveniences all was going to change when a new kind of pack mule was first introduced into the coffee region in 1965. It was a 1954 J3B model, four-wheel drive, flat fender jeep produced by the Willys Company, the same company that built jeeps for the U.S. government during World War ll. The Willys,(Will-is) can be considered the first SUV and as time passed, this jeep, called a “yipe” by the locals, became the iconic goods carrier within the coffee zone. Juan Valdez loved his mule but the jeans wearing new breed of cafeteros love their Willys to the point it has garnered a “cult-like devotion.” As we looked around the plaza, this gas guzzling workhorse filled every available parking place and many were doubled parked. Coming into town on Saturday, the owners had spent a great amount of time shinning their bumpers and adding after market accessories. Many were standing by their Willys with polishing rags in hand. Sort of reminded us of bike night at the local bar in Knoxville where we play trivia.
There is reputed to be over 3,000 Willys in the area, more than anywhere else in the world per capita and many are still the original 1954 model. Continue Reading >>