José Mujica is no ordinary president. He lives on a small farm with his wife and three-legged dog. He drives a light blue, 1987 VW Bug. When he served as president of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015, Mujica donated 90% of his $12,000 per month salary to charities that worked to support small businesses and those living in poverty. It’s no wonder the citizens of Uruguay affectionately called him “Pepe.” But others around the world called Pepe Mujica “the world’s poorest president.” Pepe dismisses this nickname stating, “I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle and always want more.” Readers should know that Pepe is also known for unapologetically speaking his truth even if his words cause discomfort.
On a bright June morning in 2012, Pepe Mujica woke up, drank some tea, fed his animals and then headed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to deliver a speech to United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Pepe planned to speak more of his truth to other leaders from around the world. He warned the audience as he began that he was “going to speak forcefully this evening and ask some hard questions.”
Throughout his speech, Pepe talked about climate change, consumerism, desire and humanity. Pepe cautioned the audience that “economic growth and progress must add to human happiness, not take away from it.” He listed “having satisfying relationships with others; raising children; making friends; spreading love in the world” as the foundation of human happiness. When he was done speaking, the audience cheered for Pepe and his words.
The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out (2020) comprises the text of President José “Pepe” Mujica’s speech at the United Nations Conference. Poignant, honest and insightful, Mujica touches on topics that, as one reader told me, “keep me up at night.” Complementing the narrative, Gaku Nakagawa’s minimalist illustrations with muted colors characterize Mujica’s quiet, frugal lifestyle in Uruguay. Fascinatingly, holding the book and feeling the pages with each turn added to my experience of reading The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out. The sturdy cover and thicker pages subliminally convey the importance of Mujica’s speech. The message from the publisher, Enchanted Lion Books, is deliberate. This book is a treasure. A story to be shared for many years to come.
José Mujica still lives on a small farm outside of Montevideo with his wife and dog. He still drives his light blue VW Bug. And even though he is no longer president, the citizens of Uruguay still call him Pepe. Clearly, Pepe Mujica has found the human happiness many of us are searching for. -Recommended by Mary L. Fahrenbruck, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University.
Title: The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out
Illustrator: Gaku Nakagawa
Translator: Andrew Wong
Copyright: Illustrated edition (August 18, 2020)
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books
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