If ever you find yourself forced to hitchhike in Uruguay, don’t be surprised if you have some trouble getting a lift. But when you finally do, don’t be surprised either if your lift turns out to be a rather familiar elderly gentleman:
On January 5, Gerhald Acosta was working, like he does every day, at the cellulose plant of Montes del Plata, south of the River Uruguay, in the southwestern part of the country. But when he arrived they told him that since his identification document was out of date, he couldn’t get in, Acosta told the newspaper, El Observador.
A comrade took him as far as the highway, where in the middle of the austral summer the sun was beating down hard, and Acosta started to walk, thumbing for a ride with the hope that someone could bring him to the nearest city.
“I walked a bit and during that time some 25 or 30 cars passed, and no one stopped for me, which I understand, because that’s what things are like right now,” said Acosta, referring to public insecurity in the land.
Suddenly, a truck with an official licence plate and a car right behind it stopped on the highway, and the driver asked where he was headed.
“I told him what had happened to me, and that I was headed for Juan Lacaze. He told me they could take me as far as (the presidential estate) Anchorena, and that I should get into the truck that was in front. When I got in, I said: ‘I know this woman’. It was Lucía Topolansky (Uruguayan senator and wife of the president), with her dog, Manuela, and Pepe (Mujica) was seated in front. I couldn’t believe that the president himself was driving me,” Acosta said.
“The trip was short, but they were very friendly. When I got out, I thanked them profusely because no one helps anyone on the highway, much less a president,” Acosta added.
“In the end I lost a day of work, but the experience was worth the trouble,” Acosta concluded. His story came to light because he told it on Facebook, along with two photos he took inside the vehicle with the presidential couple, and the comment “The only ones who stopped, really awesome people”.
With his direct style, frank and free of protocol, and progressive laws such as that regulating the sale of marijuana, Mujica — who leaves power on March 1 — has gained a privileged place in the world, which has even seen him nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
So there you have it. Pepe Mujica, quite possibly the world’s coolest president, did it again.
You’d think he does this sort of thing all the time, wouldn’t you?