Book Club / Culture

Yung Pueblo on his new book ‘Lighter’ and the words he lives by

yung pueblo lighter

Lately, life feels a little like standing in the middle of a raging cyclone made up of steaming sewerage. Maybe that's a touch dramatic. But in the words of Timothée Chalamet, "it's tough to be alive right now". When it all gets too overwhelming, it would seem counterintuitive to turn to social media for comfort. But, believe it or not, there is a corner of Instagram shielded from news of global political instability, endless celebrity drama and general world chaos.

The Instagram page of Ecuadorian poet and philosopher, Yung Pueblo, has become a safe haven for more than 2.5 million users. It's a place of reflection, where Yung Pueblo – or Diego Perez (his government name) – regularly uploads snackable and to-the-point stanzas of poetry or bulletins attempting to make sense of human behaviour and relationships.

A recent example of a Yung Pueblo post features a white background emblazoned with the line, "all mental tension comes from not letting go." The caption goes further in depth with an explanation about stress and anxiety, and a particularly sound caveat that, "the words in the image do not apply to those with mental illness or severe forms of trauma."

Some will slot his words under the "self-help" category, but you won't find dogma pitched as advice here. Rather, the gentle observations of a person who prioritises looking inward and outward in equal measure.

When I speak to Perez, it's Sunday evening in Boston. His wife is sick with Covid-19 for the first time, having avoided contracting the virus since the pandemic first took hold, and he jumps on Zoom between tending to her. Despite the late hour and circumstances at hand, Diego Perez is entirely, unshakably present.

This is to be expected of someone who has spent the last decade devoting two hours per day to meditation and attending frequent retreats. It's during meditation that his ideas arrive. Other times the pieces are stimulated by personal observations of himself, or patterns Yung Pueblo sees occur "repeatedly around me." Then there are the moments when they're prompted by conversations with is wife, when they both check in and "ask each other what we've been learning."

Usually the idea comes first. Then it's up to Perez to tease out the words, a process he likens "to putting together a puzzle." Perez didn't come to poetry in the typical fashion, he never busted out an English literature degree, in fact he majored in Economics at Wesleyan University. "A lot of what I write is from my personal experience," Perez explains, and he's been candid about how his time at university was marked by personal struggles with addiction.

"I think other people can relate to it. Because the same way that I feel sadness, and I feel anxiety, other people feel sadness and anxiety. We're all moving through the same spectrum of emotion. So I think we can really relate to each other's difficulties."

Perez has just published his third book, Lighter, which dropped on October 5. "It's the book I've always wanted to write", he tells me. The first two, Inward and 2021's New York Times bestseller Clarity & Connection, are a mixture of poetry and prose. Whereas Lighter is a non-fiction read with twelve chapters that dig into personal transformation, healing and "embracing your own evolution." "I've always wanted to have more space to really talk about emotional maturity, to go deep into what self love means and to really flesh out the important parts of relationships," Perez says.

The author is using the extra breathing room in Lighter as an opportunity to draw on his experience emigrating to the US from Ecuador and the extreme poverty that followed, too. "When we talk about personal growth and spirituality, oftentimes we don't see the connection between how economic forces deeply impact how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about the world, and it requires a lot of healing."

At a time when intersectionality has mainstream appeal and we're continuously unpicking the ways in which power is entrenched by privilege, it's a salient point essential to pushing the conversation forward. Especially since there's currently a pay-to-play mindset placed on self-development, and the key to accepting yourself comes pre-packaged from wellness brands like Goop. "So I took this as an opportunity to say, "you know, I had wonderful parents," the traumatising point of my life was actually poverty. And it was horrible. So getting to write about that felt really empowering."

Ultimately, Perez tells me, "my goal as a writer is to write things that are hopefully useful to people". It's a good rule of thumb when you remember the scale of the philosopher's following. People are coming to him, most likely at a time when they're emotionally vulnerable and with that comes a certain responsibility, one Perez doesn't take lightly.

"I don't want to just throw anything out there. I don't do any ads or anything like that. I try to be really careful with the attention that people give me." You really feel that when you wander over to Yung Pueblo's page, that sense of a duty of care that other nooks on the internet so sorely lack.

It's time to wrap things up, and my final question for Diego Perez is a predictable one for anyone who has found themself in the position of teacher. Does he have any words to live by? They're unsurprisingly, almost maddeningly simple. Embrace change.

"That's probably the key thing. When I meditate, it's really to understand the truth of change. And we do that by observing reality within the framework off the body. Even outside of meditation, I find that whenever I'm mentally struggling it's because there is a resistance to change. If something pleasurable is gone, or something difficult is happening, there's still this sort of tension building up because you either want the pleasurable thing to last forever, or you want the the difficult thing to never happen. In both cases, you're not embracing change."

Lighter by Yung Pueblo was published on October 5. Find it at your local bookstore, now.

Stay inspired, follow us.