José Mujica

On this date in 1935, José Alberto Mujica Cordano, 40th president of Uruguay, was born in Montevideo. When Mujica was 7, his farmer father went bankrupt and died shortly after. Mujica worked delivering baked goods and as a teen was an avid bicyclist. Politically involved as a youth, he joined the Tupamaros, revolutionaries fighting Uruguay’s brutal dictatorship in the 1960s. He was imprisoned for 14 years, many spent in solitary confinement. He was freed in 1985, as the dictatorship waned, under a general amnesty.

First elected to the Senate in 2000, Mujica served as agriculture minister from 2005-08 before winning the presidential election in 2009 as a member of a coalition of left-wing parties. He led a party known as the Movement of Popular Participation (MPP) that he formed with fellow Tupamaros. During his presidency from 2010-15, the economy prospered and gay marriage, abortion and marijuana were legalized. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

He was often referred to as “the world’s poorest” and “the world’s most humble” president since he donated 90% of his salary to charity, making his income similar to the average wage. Never taking residence in the presidential house, Mujica lived in a one-bedroom house on a small farm on the outskirts of Montevideo with his wife Lucía Topolansky and their three-legged dog Manuela.

Photo: Vince Alongi

Freedom From Religion Foundation