Person of the month: José ”Pepe” Mujica

We are passionate about many things; we love our career, we love travelling, we love people, we love the planet, we find beauty in simplicity of things, and the most important we believe in people….. we weren’t born with all these passions and thoughts, we have been inspired by many people. It is therefore that, from now onwards, every month , we are going to write about people who inspire us; people who do great things for the planet and for other people; and people who are a role model.

I would like to start the serie of ”The person of the month” with  José ”Pepe” Mujica, current President of Uruguay. What do I like about Mujca? Why has he inspired me? why do I think he is a role model?  The answer is simple, I like that he actually practices what he preaches; and I like that he appreciates simple things in life such as love, time and happiness.


Pepe Mujica was born on the 20th May, 1935 in Montevideo, Uruguay.  He spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution. He was shot six times and spent almost 15 years in jail. He was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy. Those years in jail helped shape his outlook on life. From that experience, he says “I learned that you can always start again”.

Although Mujica’s life story is very interesting, I only would like to focus on the present, how he lives, what he says and what he does.

Mujica has been labelled as ”the poorest president in the world” because of his austere lifestyle and the fact that he donates about 90% of his monthly salary ($US 12,000). Mujica’s lifestyle is completely different to the usual lifestyle of any president, or any politician. Mujica has refused to live in the Uruguayan presidential palace, instead, he lives in his countryside house. He lives with his wife, a three-legged dog called Manuela and only two police officers who watch outside. When people asks him about his austere lifestyle, he usually answers as follows:

“I’ve lived like this most of my life”,“I can live well with what I have”
 “I do fine with that amount; I have to do fine because there are many Uruguayans who live with much less” Huffingtonpost
“I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more”. “This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself” . “I may seem a mad and eccentric old man. But this is a free choice.” BBC
The first time I heard Mujica talking was at the Rio +20, United Nation conference on sustainable development. I wasn’t there, I watched it on YouTube -I’ve seen it about 10 times to be honest-. During his speech he talked about environment and development; he said that the current global crisis is not an ecological crisis but a political one. He also talked about consumerism and the way we are developing our countries. I liked every word he said but when he talked about what is fundamental in life, he really touched me…..
 ”Because we do not come into this planet simply to develop, just like that, indiscriminately. We come into this planet to be happy. Because life is short and it slips away from us. And no material belonging is worth as much as life, and this is fundamental. But if life is going to slip through my fingers, working and over-working in order to be able to consume more, and the consumer society is the engine -because ultimately, if consumption is paralyzed, the economy stops, and if  economy stops, the ghost of stagnation appears for each one of us-, but it is this hyper-consumption that is harming the planet.”
”And one asks this question: is this the fate of human life? These things I say are fundamental: development cannot go against happiness. It has to work in favor of human happiness, of love on Earth, human relationships, caring for children, having friends, having what is fundamental for our life. Precisely because this is the most precious treasure we have; happiness. When we fight for the environment, we must remember that the first element of the environment is called human happiness.”
You can watch here the whole speech:

Watch also ”Talk to Al Jazeera : Jose Mujica: ‘I earn more than I need’ ”

Mujica was asked about what is the secret for happiness?  and his answer was as follows:

To live in accordance with how one thinks. To talk to the man you carry inside. it’s the companion we carry to our grave. Be yourself and don’t try to impose your criteria on the rest.

Mujica is supported by many but he is also highly criticized. He is mainly criticized because he is in favor of  legalization of abortion, gay marriage and the consumption of marihuana. Refering to the consumption of marihuana he says: “Consumption of cannabis is not the most worrying thing, drug-dealing is the real problem”. Yesterday, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana (See more info here). I have to say that I totally agree with this decision, and I hope other countries follow this example.

I am not the only person who likes and who admires Mujica, I have had this conversation with many people and we all agree that he is an amazing person. I always say I would like a president like him in my country.  Famous people also agree. For instance, René from Calle 13, and Steven Tyler from Aerosmith say that Mujica is an exceptional man, and say that there should be more presidents like him.

Residente Calle 13 says: I don’t support any President but Pepe Mujica is the execption. Check this out! I wish Puerto Rico was ruled by a Mujica”

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.39.38 PM Calle13 Twitter 

71007La estrella

Steven Tyler and his band, Aerosmith, visited Mujica in Montevideo. Tyler called Mujica “one of the best presidents in the Americas” adding that more presidents should be like him. Tyler expressed admiration for Mujica’s work on marijuana legalization and helping the poor. Tyler also said  “Your president is a freedom fighter and in many ways we fight for freedom ourselves with music” Hemp News 

imagesEl Comercio

Related posts:

The wisdom of simplicity: The fisheman and the businessman 

@ivettemb & @jeffinergon


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