Off a dirt road a little while outside Montevideo, in a farm house live one man and his three-legged dog, Manuela. If not for the two meager policeman stationed just outside the home, it’d be almost impossible to tell this man from any of the other farmers of the Uruguayan countryside. But, indeed, this is the home of Jose Mujica, the President of Uruguay, and a man who has committed himself to an austere life.
While this may seem surprising or strange for a world leader, but this choice is more than in line with the Mujica’s past:
Elected in 2009, Mujica 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 14 years in jail. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.
Those years in jail, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life.
“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,” he says.
Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a “blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world”.
On the farm, he and his wife grow flowers. And though Mujica has a presidential salary and official statehouse, he has opted to donate 90% of that salary to charities and life on his farm. For the vegetarian Mujica, this is both a statement on sustainability and economic values as well as a more comfortable way of life. And while this way of life might prevent him from hobnobbing with the other political elites, at 77, that isn’t much of a concern for President Mujica.
More coverage from the BBC in a video below that highlights his unassuming way of life.