Latin American Studies

Excellence in Scholarship and Learning




Stephen Gregory is a retired Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies at the University of New South Wales, where he is currently an Honorary Research Fellow. Dr Gregory, who now lives permanently in Montevideo with his Uruguayan wife Lilian, is the author of Intellectuals and Left Politics in Uruguay, 1958–2006 (Sussex Academic Press, 2009) and El rostro tras la página: Mario Benedetti y el fracaso de una política del prójimo (Montevideo, Ed. Estuario, 2014).

Toward the end of his administration (2010–2015), then Uruguayan President José ‘Pepe’ Mujica made headlines across the world with a couple of unusual speeches at United Nations assemblies in Rio de Janeiro and New York that were heatedly anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist, anti-globalisation and anti-climate change – all fuelled by a libertarian socialist concept of freedom. This Sancho Panza-like figure was not only one of the few presidents of developing countries not to have somehow got personally rich while in government, but was known to live modestly as a practicing farmer and gave away two-thirds of his salary to his left-wing political organisation and to social housing projects. Even more bizarre was the fact that he had become president of the country whose government he had tried to overthrow forty years earlier in a revolutionary guerrilla war, an exploit for which he spent over a decade in military jails after being shot, severely wounded and tortured.

This book is an introduction to the politics and philosophy of an unrepentant permanent militant whose evolution took him from defeated guerrilla warrior to successful presidential candidate without inconsistencies or betrayals, whatever his adversaries from right and left may claim. The study sets Mujica not only in his Uruguayan and Latin American context but also within an International Left that is coming out of mourning for the loss of so-called existing socialism as they search for solutions to lessen the damage done by rampant neoliberal economics and to find creative alternatives. Stephen Gregory’s polemic is essential reading for all those interested in discovering Uruguay’s unique position in a Latin America where the political right is in decline and leftist governments are moving to the middle ground.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-789-6
Paperback Price: £22.95 / $29.95
Release Date: February/March 2016
Page Extent / Format: 172 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



A Portly Knight and His Far From Average First Lady

Chapter One
Flower Power
A Political Apprenticeship
Fire Power

Chapter Two
A Tupamaro Persona?
The Left Before Taking Power
Horizontal and Egalitarian or Vertical and Hierarchical? Parliament and the Problem of Representation

Chapter Three
Uruguay after the Deluge
From Deputy and Senator to Minister
The Presidency and After

A Left Alternative?
The Philosopher Takes Power while the Politician Thinks
What is Left?


Long a scholar of Uruguayan intellectuals and their involvement in the country’s political affairs, Gregory makes a case that Mujica is much more relevant to the modern world than an eccentrically dressed national president who storms the international media with fiery speeches on consumerism, environmental vandalism, and climate change. This is not an academic study, he warns, nor based on new information, but a review for non-specialist anglophone readers on the local relevance and potential world-wide relevance of his activities and thinking.

Reviewed in Bulletin for Spanish Studies, XCV (2018), by Francesca Lessa

Reviewed in Hispanic American Historical Review 99:1  (2019), by Michael Kenneth Huner, Grand Valley State University

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