As in other parts of the world, 1968 was an eventful year in
Brazil. After four years under a military dictatorship there was a brief spring of popular
discontent. Songs defied the status quo, students went to the streets to protest.
Demonstrations were violently repressed and artists were silenced. In a final response,
the military shut down Congress, imposed censorship, and banned, exiled and jailed those
it considered a threat.
By Kirsten Weinoldt
"They thought that they could change society permanently. They really believed
in the perfection of society and perhaps in the perfection of man, and we know over and
over again throughout history, Utopianism is a very dangerous business. It leads directly
to coercion and violence."
Judge Robert Bork, former Supreme Court Nominee, speaking for a PBS program about
1968. (Aired July 27, 1998)
"The moral content is the best legacy the 1968 generation could leave to a
country all the time governed by the lack of memory and the absence of ethics."
Zuenir Ventura, author of 1968, O Ano Que Não Terminou (1968, The Year That
"My story and that of my generation are told with a double intent. On the most
immediate plane, it was a search for individual freedom and personal happiness. On a
greater scale, it was a revolutionary search for a more just and humane society. On all
levels, this search was an obligation to a passionate fight against
regressioninternal as well as external." Luiz Carlos Maciel in his book Geração
em Transe (Generation in Crisis).
Just as the planets from time to time move, at their own pace, into certain significant
constellations which bode natural disasters and destruction, so do worldwide political
events start to form a maelstrom into which, helplessly, the destiny of a generation is
pulled. Such a maelstrom was nineteen-hundred-and-sixty-eight. The seeds were sown in many
ways by a multitude of people and circumstances, starting at different times and headed
for an inevitable collision course.
If one subscribes to a theory of a judgmental God seeking to teach his subjects a
lessonas happened with Sodom and Gomorrah as well as Noah and the great flood, so
might this be such an example. Perhaps the Almighty looked at mankind, remembering Sodom
and Gomorrah, and said, "Enough," and proceeded to set the dominoes in motion,
soon enveloping a hapless planet Earth and leaving her population scratching its
It was a time at which unemployment was at its lowest, social welfare on the rise in
the developed nations, and personal liberties at an all-time highthe sexual
revolution in full swing. And yet, underneath it all bubbled and simmered discontent like
the volcano waiting to erupt. And erupt it did.
Long a source of controversy and dissent, the Vietnam War took a new turn during the
New Year’s celebration of that countrythe so-called Tet. The offensive by the
Vietcong escalated the war to a new level and was, in fact, the beginning of the
endan end that was not to come still for several yearstoo many years.
1968 had brought civil rights legislation to Americans of African descent, but it was
seen largely as an act of lip service in a deeply racist society. This was exacerbated by
the Vietnam War, where the uneven ratio of blacks to whites was seen as a nation sending
her "disposable" people to be killed in disproportionate numbers. Then came the
great blow to a people struggling for equal rights when their leader, Martin Luther King,
by many compared to Gandhi, was assassinated in April of that fateful year. Two months
later came yet another shocking murderthat of Robert Kennedywho had just won
the California primary election.
Blacks and other poor people marched on Washington, sanitation workers struck, leaving
a paralyzed and smelly New York. Firemen and teachers staged savage strikes, and American
intellectuals such as Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, and James Baldwin led a protest by the
elite, asking the question, "Why should we pay taxes to finance the evil war against
The entertainment industry was inundated with rebellion and self-destruction during
this period. Singers Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison, as well as Rolling
Stone Brian Jones, laid the foundation of drugs and alcohol that would kill them a year or
so later. The Czechoslovakian springa hopeful attempt at a fledgling
democracywas crushed by Soviet troops aided by other Warsaw-pact countries. It led
to further protests in an already turbulent world.
In France, the name of a French-German student became a household word. Daniel
Cohn-Bendit was the leader of the Parisian barricades, which fought the police in violent
demonstrations. He says today of those times, "We wanted a direct democracy, we
wanted to change the language and style of lifewanted a liberation of customs, the
enthusiasm of solidarity, and the happiness of overcoming selfishness."
Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican writer, who participated in the Parisian spring, says of
the events, "What we had there was an extraordinary sense of brotherhood and
sisterhood. There was this capacity to embrace people in the streets. There were couples
kissing. There were couples who fell apart because they did not share political views.
Paris was divided by the river Seine, as never before. On the left bank, the
revolutionariesthe dreamers. On the right, the conservatives, the financiers, the
money people, the bourgeoisie, so the city was divided as much as in Les Misérables in
Victor Hugo or in any of the great occasions of this city that seems to need a great
revolutionary explosion from time to time."
In other European countries rebellion took a different path. Anti-system terrorism
emerged in Italy with the Red Brigade, and in West Germany the population came to fear the
Baader-Meinhof gang. In the United States, "Yippies," under the leadership of
Abbie Hoffman, disrupted the Democratic Convention in Chicago. They were later tried as
the so-called `Chicago 8′ and were eventually found not guilty. The Black Panther party,
tired of racism and empty promises, struck out at the oppression. At the same time Charles
de Gaulle won a spectacular victory for conservatism in France, and Richard Nixon was
elected president just months after the deaths of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
Mexico, also, was deeply touched by the unrest enveloping the Earth. This manifested
itself in the events of October 2, which became known as the Night of Sorrow. Student
unrest had been building all summer. It came to a head on that October evening when
hundreds of young men and women gathered in a city square. They were challenging an
authoritarian government, which claimed to be democratic. Soldiers with fixed bayonets
surrounded the students. A helicopter hovering over-head opened fire, killing some 500
young people in the same square where, in 1521, Aztecs had been massacred. It was the
worst, single disaster of 1968. It was also largely unknown around the world, as the
Mexican government shrouded it in secrecy. But it became a turning point. In one single,
fell swoop the Mexican government had lost whatever legitimacy it might have had. Carlos
Fuentes says, "From this terrifying event in which over 500 young men and women died,
a new Mexico was born."
Brazil, naturally, was affected by the happenings in other parts of the world. At the
same time, the country had dealt with its own problems for the past four years prior to
1968. On March 31, 1964, the Brazilian military overthrew the government of João (Jango)
Goulart, a president who had the support of the Left and of the most progressive layers of
Brazilian society. He had been president since 1961, when President Jânio Quadros
resigned. Goulart, who was his running mate, then assumed the office.
The generals who staged the coup d’état stated that they would only stay in power for
a year, while they `reorganized the country,’ and new elections would be held for the
presidency. Meanwhile, they appointed General Humberto Castelo Branco to head the country,
making him the first of a succession of generals holding the position of president. As it
was, the military stayed in power for 21 years, until they allowed the Brazilian congress
to elect a civilian president in 1985.
For a couple of years after the takeover, there was still some peaceful resistance.
However, because the political rights of most union leaders and opposing politicians had
been cancelled, artists, students, and journalists became the spearheads of resistance and
protests. In the streets, students held demonstrations, in the beginning demanding better
universities, and later democracy and elections. The biggest protest took place in Rio
with over 100,000 participants. This kind of protest march was met with violence by the
By the end of 1968, the political scene was chaotic and the population polarized.
Fights between rightist and leftist students were frequent. Right-wing terrorist groups
like the MAC, the Anti-Communist Movement (Movimento Anti Comunista ) and the CCC, the
Communist Hunter Command ( Comando de Caça aos Comunistas) struck down anything that
appeared subversive to the military government. Artists and intellectuals were some of
their favorite targets.
In Brasília, congressman Márcio Moreira Alves gave a speech before the chamber of
deputies, proposing a boycott against the September 7th Independence Day
celebrations. The senior officers of the military considered his words offensive to the
armed forces and wanted to put him in jail. Congress, however, denied permission for Alves
to be tried. That was the excuse the government needed for a second and more profound
coup. On December 13th, 1968, the military implemented Institutional Act No. 5,
and Brazil was plunged into the most repressive dictatorship of its history. Congress was
closed, all civil rights were banned, making it legal to keep anyone in jail without a
trial. All forms of press and the arts had to undergo censorship before reaching the
public. Acting president General Costa e Silva now had dictatorial powers.
People from all walks of lifepoliticians, artists, students, and
intellectualswere detained and tortured. Many `disappeared’ and never returned.
Hundreds or even thousands of citizens were killed. A total number is not known. Others,
again, were forced into exile. There were some guerilla groups attempting to rise up
against the government, but without success. Act No. 5 stayed until 1978 when it was
finally revoked. The next year, political prisoners were granted amnesty. It was not until
1989, however, that Brazil would again have direct elections for the presidency.
Those events starting in 1964 were the catalyst for what was to happen in 1968. It
might be prudent at this point to look at a chronology of events that made the year one
that people cannot and will not forget. While protests and riots had been taking place in
Europe since the beginning of the year, it didn’t start until March in Brazil.
March 28thGroup of Rio Polícia Militar invades university restaurant
Calabouço. Édson Luís Lima Souto, 18, a student, is killed.
March 29thFifty thousand people attend the funeral of Édson Luís in Rio
April 1stStudents occupy the University of Brasília (UnB).
Manifestations in Rio result in one death and several people injured; in São Paulo,
protest march divides the students: one group defends a confrontation with the police, and
the other is for dispersal. The latter wins out.
April 4th7th day mass for Édson Luís Lima Souto, in Rio.
Priests form a human chain to protect the students.
April 18thUniversity of Nanterre in the outskirts of Paris is closed.
May 3rdStudents occupy the building of the Medical Faculty in Belo
In Paris, the dean of the Sorbonne sends for the police to patrol campus.
May 5thPolice arrest 117 students at the Medical Faculty in Belo
May 7thSeven thousand students fight with police in Paris.
May 8thStudent uprisings in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and
May 13thGeneral strike in France and a protest march in Paris.
May 14thThe Sorbonne and the University of Milan are occupied by
May 22ndFrance comes to a halt. Ten million people are on strike.
June 2ndThe PUC, Pontifícia Universidade Católica, in São Paulo, is
taken over by students.
June 11thViolence returns to the streets of Paris. A worker and a student
June 12thStudents invade the rectory of USP, Universidade de São Paulo.
June 17thPolice invade the Sorbonne and remove students who have occupied
the building for 47 days.
June 21stRiots in Rio on the day that became known as Bloody Friday:
Officially two killedincluding a policeman with a brickand dozens injured.
Medicine students on duty in hospitals count 28 cadavers.
June 24thUSP Law School is occupied by students.
June 26thProtest march of 100,000 in Rio.
Bomb attack by the VPR, Vanguarda Popular Revolucionária, The People’s Revolutionary
Vanguard, kills a guard, Mário Kozel Filho, at army headquarters in São Paulo.
June 28thProtest march ends in serious riots in Porto Alegre.
July 3rdDemonstrations with two thousand participants in São Paulo.
July 4thIn Rio, another march with ten thousand students.
July 5thGama e Silva, Attorney General, prohibits protest marches.
July 17thStudents occupying the Faculty of Law in São Paulo are removed
by police. The PUC in São Paulo is cleared at the same time.
August 28thDemonstration in São Paulo results in 500 arrests.
August 29thUnB (University of Brasília) is invaded by police. Students
September 2ndRepresentative Márcio Moreira Alves makes a vehement
pronouncement in the House of Representatives against the invasion at UnB. He proposes
that the population boycott Independence Day celebrations as a protest against repression
and torture, holding the armed forces responsible for the crisis in the country.
October 2ndConflict in Rua Maria Antônia between students at USP and
October 3rdNew incidents at Maria Antônia result in the death of a
student, provoking a demonstration, which is struck down by police. 34 students are
October 4thIn São Paulo, ten thousand people accompany the dead student
to the funeral.
October 9thProtest ends with a hundred people imprisoned, among them a
October 12thPetition to prosecute Representative Márcio Moreira Alves is
brought before the STF (Supremo Tribunal FederalFederal Supreme Court).
Accused of being a CIA agent North American captain Charles R. Chandler is assassinated
with machine gun fire.
October 14thPolice invade a site in Ibiúna, SP, the domain of the
clandestine conference of UNE (União Nacional de EstudantesNational Student Union).
Imprisoned are 10 journalists and 720 students.
October 23rdin Rio protest results in two deaths.
December 13thThe House denies by 216 votes to 141 the petition to
prosecute Márcio Moreira Alves.
December 13thPresident Costa e Silva decrees the AI-5 (Institutional Act
No. 5) and closes the national congress
Perhaps the history of a country is best explained through the individual stories of
her people. We cannot look at those who "disappeared," as their voices were
forever silenced long ago. Nor can we hear the large masses who suffered in silence. But
we can observe those who spoke up and "made noise," those who suffered and
survived to speakin their many, varied wayssome of them choosing silence as
their response to the happenings of the sixties. The culture of a country reflects the
sentiments of the people, and it is through the expressions of artists in various pursuits
and the reactions of the audience, that we most profoundlyalthough not always
immediatelysee the changes in society.
Recently, an exposition at CCBB (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil) in Rio featured
memorabilia of the year that will not die in the minds of many, both in Brazil and
elsewhere. Case in point. The American network PBS (Public Broadcasting System) featured a
one-hour documentary on July 27th on the events that shaped that year.
The exhibit brought to the public a collection of photos, film programs, documents, record
covers, as well as newspapers and magazines.
Among the items in the expo, which has the support of Jornal do Brasil, is the
program from Chico Buarque de Holanda’s play, Roda Viva, the contents of which are
mentioned elsewhere in this article. The playa symbol of that generationwas
directed by José Celso Martinez Corrêa, one of the great theater directors of Brazil.
Considered subversive, the play was an easy target for military barbarism, which twice
attacked the cast. At the time, Marília Pêra was substituting for actress Marieta Severo
when the show went to São Paulo. She remembers with clarity the scenes of horror of a
night at the Teatro Ruth Escobar.
"Early on, at the beginning of the presentation, we noticed the presence of
several good looking young men in the orchestra seats. We didn’t imagine that they were
soldiers in civilian clothes. After the play was over, I was in one of the women’s
dressing rooms when I heard a ruckus. They had begun breaking up the theater, the
orchestra section, the set, and had already grabbed the men in the dressing room next to
us," remembers the actress.
One of the actors was Pedro Paulo Rangel who at 19 was making his debut in the theater.
"When the soldiers broke down the set by force, we were all in the dark, being
beaten, and not knowing why," confirms the actor who, looking back 30 years later,
believes that there was much ingenuity in the play. "The story was simple, and there
was a lot of humor, but we were messing with some important symbols," says Pedro
In Roda Viva, a singer invented by the media, does everything to become famous.
He begins with iê iê iê (the nickname of the style of music created by the Jovem
Guarda, the Young Guard, led by Roberto and Erasmo Carlos). When he does not achieve much
success, he goes on to sing protest songs. A bandit’s headgear with the Soviet hammer and
sickle, made the military’s eyes pop. In search of stardom, the singer ends up dying in
front of the cameras when, ironically, his wife is elevated to the state of idol, dressed
like Nossa Senhora Aparecida (the patron saint of Brazil).
"All that was a joke," says Pedro Paulo Rangel, who would still be attacked
later in Porto Alegre, when a group of soldiers stopped the bus coming back from Rio and
beat up the cast. Joke or not, the play offended the military regime. For the attack in
São Paulo were gathered members of the CCC (Comando de Caça aos Comunistas). As they
were in civilian clothes, all used a black glove on the right hand so that they might
recognize each other. When Marília Pêra heard the noise, she tried to go and see what
was happening. A pregnant chambermaid, who ended up losing the baby during the episode,
cried to her to stay in the dressing room. Marília still had time to witness this scene:
two soldiers grabbed the head of Eudósia Cunha, who was part of the chorus, and beat it
against the wall.
It did not take long for the soldiers to reach Marília Pêra. After breaking down the
door to the dressing room, they made her run past the soldiers down the corridor. There,
she says, she only escaped being beaten by having the good sense to go slowly. Those who
ran, were beaten. The savagery from start to finish, lasted less than five minutes.
"It was all very quick and staged, in spite of not being an official attack."
Afterwards, Marília and the rest of the cast went on a marathon, trying to file a
complaint at various places, but the only result was further threats of death by
telephone, if they continued in the play. These are the memories of the actress, who
during the dictatorship still would be in prison two days because of the play, A
Moreninha, (The Little Dark One), and who would be accused of drug trafficking and
detained when she was doing the play The Criminal Life, two years later.
1968 created many stories, characters and figures. There are many people who try to
find themselves in the photos of the expo, tells the producer Cirlei de Hollanda. Mounted
on the first floor of CCBB, the show portrays such things as the protest march of 100,000,
Bloody Friday, and wake of student Édson Luís, killed in the restaurant do Calabouço.
The assassination served as a detonator for a whole year of protests, not just at
universities and secondary schools, but of fathers, mothers, intellectuals, and workers.
There are 30 photos, which try to give a didactic perspective of that era, in which
many of the visitors were not even born, says the curator of the show. In the expo, there
is still the front page of Jornal do Brasil of December 14th, 1968, the
day after the AI-5 (Institutional Act No. 5), announcing the weather forecasta
climate of rain and thunderstorms, a metaphor for the squeeze of the regime that was yet
In another room of the exhibit, the public can view the works of artists who marked the
difficult years with their work. Among them are Hélio Oiticica, Carlos Vergara, Nelson
Leirner, and Rubens Gerchman.
The most difficult thing with the task of writing about nineteen-sixty-eight, is
knowing when to stop. One could write a bookand many haveabout the subject.
Instead, we made the choice of talking about some of those icons of Brazilian culture, who
were affected by as well as affected the military regime. These are some of their stories:
Singer-songwriter Geraldo Vandré was another musician who was shaking and stirring the
music scene in a radical way. Vandré, whose first guitar teacher was the great João
Gilberto, was born in 1935 in João Pessoa, Paraíba. From the start, he incorporated
various aspects of Brazilian music in his own. He said himself, that he interpreted music
in "an ideological more than a formal way," meaning that they served to create
protest songs that had strong, angry lyrics.
Vandré’s "ideological" adaptations had a distinctly progressive edge. In
1966 and 67, he worked with Quarteto Novo, now a legendary group that included Hermeto
Pascoal on flute. He early showed his social conscience in the work "Disparada"
(Stampede), which told the story of a northeastern vaqueiro (cowboy) who is enraged
that he and the other vaqueiros are treated like cattle. One day he rebels against
the rancher. His fiery protest songs made Vandré a national hero who, armed with his
guitar, was perceived as a serious threat by the military government.
Vandré’s masterpiece, and the one for which he will always be remembered, is "Pra
Não Dizer Que Não Falei de Flores" (Not to Say that I Didn’t Speak of Flowers), a
song also known by the shorter name "Caminhando" (Walking). Brazilian journalist
Millôr Fernandes considered it a Brazilian Marseillaise, a true national anthem.
"Caminhando" took second place in Rio’s third international song festival in
1968. The song was immediately banned by the censors for ten years. General Luís de
Franca Oliveira presented his reasons for the prohibition of "Caminhando" in the
defunct Rio’s daily Correio da Manhã (Morning Post), October 10th 1968,
citing its "subversive lyrics, its offensiveness to the armed forces, and the fact
that it would serve as a slogan for student demonstrations."
He turned out to be right. After it was banned, it never ceased to be sung wherever
people resisting the dictatorship gathered. It was still present at protests at the end of
the 70’s when Brazilian society started to challenge the government, demanding a return to
democracy. After Act No. 5 was invoked, Geraldo Vandré had to leave Brazil in order to
ensure his own safety. From 1969-’73, he wandered through Chile, Algeria, Greece, Austria,
Bulgaria, and finally Francewhere he made his only record during this time. When he
returned to Brazil in 1973, he was arrested as soon as he arrived. A month later, he
appeared on a national news program saying, among other things, that he hoped he could
integrate his latest song with the new Brazilian reality, and that the connection made
between his music and certain political groups had been made against his will.
Most likely, this public statement was a sacrifice he had to make to be allowed to stay
in the country. Subsequently, there were no more new songs from him, and he got rid of the
stage name, Vandré. After 7 albums, his short career was over. Finally, there was Geraldo
Dias, the lawyer. But he will always be remembered as the author of protest songs that
made Brazilians stand and fight for what they believed was right.
Pra Não Dizer Que Não
|Not to Say that I Didn’t|
Speak of Flowers
Caminhando e cantando e seguindo a
Pelos campos a fome em grandes plantações
Há soldados armados, amados ou não
Nas escolas, nas ruas, campos,
Os amores na mente, as flores
|Walking and singing and following the song|
We’re all the same, arms linked or not
In the schools, in the streets, fields,
Walking and singing and following the song
In the fields the hunger on great plantations
There are armed soldiers, loved or not
In the schools, in the streets, fields,
The lovers in mind, the flowers
The 1966 TV Record festival ended in a tie for first place between Geraldo Vandré and
another young singer-songwriter, Chico Buarque de Holanda. A member of a prominent family
of intellectualshis great uncle Aurélio was responsible for the dictionary used by
all of Brazilian societyhe soon became popular with his lyrical songs. In fact, he
was often touted as the heir-apparent to great samba-canção composers like Noel
Rosa. His popularity was one of the few things a polarized Brazilian society could agree
Every woman wanted to marry him, and every man admired him. To many, he appeared to be
the true defender of traditional music against the furious attack of protest songs and the
revolution proposed by Tropicália led by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, and the
electric guitars of Jovem Guarda led by Roberto and Erasmo Carlos. In a time of such
social strife, Chico Buarque’s traditional and doubtlessly beautiful music recalled a time
when things were more secure and pleasant for the population. It did not matter where one
came from in Brazilian society, all liked the handsome, green-eyed young singer with the
nasal, Carioca (from Rio) voice. That is, until 1968. It is possible, that if he
had known the reaction to his play Roda Viva, he might not have written and
produced it. He ended up paying dearly for it.
Chico did not like being idolized. He felt used and abused, and his answer to his fans’
blind devotion came with this play. The expression roda viva means commotion. The
drama tells the story of a young pop star who is literally devoured by the public. During
the performances of the play, actors offered "pieces" of the star’s
"liver" to the audience. That caused a scandal and an extreme backlash from
conservatives as well as fans who felt insulted. Roda Viva marked the death of
"nice guy" Chico Buarque.
Perhaps because of his family, he was not as severely punished as others had been, but
he did take off for Italy and did not come back for over a year. After his return, he was
a favorite target of censors. In 1971, only one of every three songs he wrote was
approved. Some were prohibited after being published, and others were published under
various pseudonyms. One of the songs prohibited after its publication was "Apesar de
Você," (In Spite of You), was actually banned after it became a hit. The censors
must have missed the irony in the lyrics. In hindsight the words obviously are directed
toward the government.
Apesar de Você
Chico Buarque de Holanda
|In Spite of You|
Apesar de Você
|In spite of you|
Tomorrow will be
I ask you
Where you will hide
From the immense euphoria
How will you prohibit
When the rooster insists
New water springing up
And we loving each other
Another song, "Carolina," appears to be a tribute to a woman
and a song of a love affair gone wrong, but bears strong symbolism with the conditions in
Chico Buarque de Holanda
In your deep eyes
You keep so much pain
The pain of the whole world
I already explained that nothing
will come of it
That your weeping will not help
I already invited you to dance
It is time, I already know, to
Out there, love
A rose was born
The whole world danced
A star fell
And though I showed you,
Through the window,
But Carolina didn’t see
After some strong disagreements between Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso
and Gilberto Gil, the relationship was patched up after Caetano and Gil’s return from
exile in London. Together with Gil, Chico Buarque wrote a powerful song,
"Cálice," (Chalice). When they first attempted to perform it, police came on
stage and turned off the microphones. The song was banned, but became yet another anthem
against the dictatorship. Using powerful religious imagery, it was a metaphorical comment
on repressive times and the silencing of an entire nation. Its clever and ironic title
"Cálice" is a homophone for the phrase, "cale-se," shut up. It
was recorded in a beautiful and haunting version by Chico Buarque and Milton Nascimento.
Chico Buarque de Holanda and Gilberto Gil
Como beber dessa bebida amarga
Como é difícil acordar calado
Pai, afasta de mim esse cálice
De muito gorda a porca já não anda
Talvez o mundo não seja pequeno
Pai, afasta de mim esse cálice
How to drink this bitter drink
Another reality, less dead,
How difficult it is to awaken silent
Father, take this chalice from me
Too fat, the pig doesn’t walk
Maybe the world isn’t small
Father, take this chalice from me
The censors continued to hound Chico Buarque for the next several years.
Practically none of his songs met with their approval. Apparently beaten by the system,
Buarque recorded only covers of other people’s songs. Sinal Fechado (Red Light)
contained songs by Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Noel Rosa, Toquinho, and an unknown
newcomer, Julinho da Adelaide.
The press material for the album contained a bio of the songwriter, but he did not
actually exist. He was an alter ego for Chico Buarque. After that, composers sending
material to be censored, had to include a copy of their identification card. To this day,
Chico Buarque’s songs are loved and remembered with fondness by those who lived through
Caetano and Gil.
On Praça da Sé in Pelourinho in the Centro Histórico in Salvador, stands a bust of
Bishop Sardinha who was eaten by Indians in the early days. Caetano Veloso says in a piece
made for PBS, "Brazil was born the day the Indians ate Bishop Sardinha
(sardine)." In 1928, Paulista (from São Paulo) poet Oswald de Andrade wrote
the "manifesto of cannibalism" in which he discussed the concept of artistic
cannibalism in which impressions of other cultures are devoured and re-elaborated
"with autonomy" as Andrade said.
Singer composers Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil adopted this concept with gusto and
went with it. An ambient-art piece by Hélio Oiticica gave name to the Tropicalismo or
Tropicália movement. It shockednot just the militarybut practically everybody
else. In the late 60’s, music festivals were the craze. Commonly, the streets were quiet
on those nights when people were either attending the festivals or watching them on
television. Often, fan behavior was much like that of soccer fans. The audiences would
support their favorites with flags and applause and attempt to disrupt their
Many members of the audience were intensely nationalistic. Brazil had for a long time
been isolated from the rest of the world, and the majority of people had a strong
reverence for "authentic" Brazilian music. Therefore, when Caetano Veloso,
backed by Os Beat Boys, a rock group, performed "Alegria, Alegria" (Joy, Joy) he
was not well received. In fact, he was booed. One might say, in an editorial comment, that
revolutions happen in this waythrough shock, outrage, and emotional involvement.
Although the Tropicália movement was short-lived, it did change forever the face of MPB
(Música Popular BrasileiraBrazilian Popular Music).
If the audience was taken aback by the music and fragmented imagery in the lyrics, so
must the military and their censors have hated it. The lyrics smacked openly of disrespect
for law and order. And yet, Caetano says that he did not have major problems with the
censorsnot as many other artists had. He would have other problems.
Caminhando contra o vento
|Walking against the wind|
Without handkerchief, without
In the almost December sun
The sun scatters in crimes
In beautiful Cardinales*
In the faces of presidents
In great kisses of love
In teeth, legs, flags
The bomb and Brigitte Bardot
The sun on the newsstand
Fills me with happiness and laziness
Who reads so much news
Among photos and names
My eyes filled with colors
My breast filled with useless loves
Why not, why not
She thinks of marriage
And I never went back to school
Without handkerchief, without
I drink a Coca-Cola
She thinks of marriage
And a song consoles me
Among photos and names
Without books and without rifle
Without hunger, without telephone
In the heart of Brazil
She doesn’t even know that
I thought of
Singing on television
The sun is so beautiful
I go, without handkerchief,
Nothing in my pockets or in
I want to go on living, love
Why not, why not?
*refers to Italian actress
Gilberto Gil, Caetano’s long time friend and soul-brother, appeared
with "Domingo no Parque" which received a better reaction. Arranged by Rogério
Duprat, it did represent a musical revolt, incorporating Bahian capoeira rhythms,
electric instrumentation, and cinematic lyrics.
One of the war-cries from Parisalong with "Make love, not war" was
"Prohibiting is prohibited." "É Proibido Proibir" became the name of
one of Caetano Veloso’s songs. He presented it during the International Song Festival
backed by the rock group Os Mutantes (The Mutants), who were dressed in plastic clothes.
The negative reaction of the audience prevented Caetano from finishing the song. He broke
into an extemporaneous speech, castigating the audience. "Vocês não estão
entendendo nada, nada, nada, absolutamente nada," You are understanding nothing,
nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing. The speech became famous, but it did take some time
before it was understood. His angry words continued, "You all want to police
Brazilian music. Gil and I are here to do away with the imbecility that rules
A constant thorn in the side of the military government, Caetano and Gil continued on
their thought-provoking paths. The dictatorship, although they could find no overt threats
to national security, feared that the Tropicália movement might prove persuasive to a new
generation of Brazilians and lead them into alternative life styles involving drugs,
chaos, and free thinking. The inevitable happened. Both of them were arrested and thrown
in jail, followed by house arrest and 2 ½ years of exile in London.
Says Caetano of that time, " The military weren’t music critics, they didn’t put
Tropicalistas in jail in 1968 because our music wasn’t Brazilian enough. They did it
because it represented anarchy, violence, danger for the behavior of families, relations
between generations, respect, religion. Maybe they were right. Maybe what happened during
the 60’s was kids’ rubbish, neo-romanticism. I was so naïve. I believed good things
always had good results. We wanted to liberate everything! And then, one morning, we were
put in a cell."
Caetano found the experience almost unbearable. He and Gil were in the same prison, but
could not see each other. They were told nothing and were not allowed a lawyer. After some
time in solitary confinement where he slept next to the toilet, Caetano was moved to a
cell with so many people, everybody could not sleep at the same time. Some of the older
prisoners helped by encouraging to prayer, although the prison guards often took away
One incident (the facts of which are controversial) that might have contributed to
landing Caetano and Gil in prison, appeared in Zuenir Ventura’s book 1968, the year
that didn’t end. It tells the story of how "a certain" radio journalist,
Randall Juliano, reported about a Tropicalista show at the nightclub Sucata, telling his
audience that Caetano and Gil had sung the national anthem with obscene lyrics and defaced
the flag. Supposedly, Mr. Juliano called the attention of authorities to the show.
Caetano, in a 1992 interview with Jô SoaresBrazil’s Johnny Carson, whose show Onze
e Meia (Eleven Thirty), is aired on SBT dailysaid that he believed this was the
direct cause of his and Gil’s arrest and imprisonment, although the flag was actually part
of artist Hélio Oiticica’s portion of the show.
Gil supports this account of the events. He says he heard the story in prison of how
Mr. Juliano had announced that he and Caetano had sung the national anthem and then set
the flag on fire. Randall Juliano, as one might expect, tells a somewhat different story.
"I did a commentary on the journalistic program Guerra é Guerra (War is War),
on TV Record. I read a notice from a newspaper, I forget which one, that reported how
Caetano and Gil had performed a disrespectful act with the national symbol." He says
furthermore that he was upset with Zuenir Ventura, because he called him "a certain
Randall Juliano." "I was quite well known then," he emphasizes.
To close the circle, Zuenir Ventura commented, "He (Randall Juliano) didn’t speak
of this just once. This guy waged a campaign on radio and television. It was an official
at the barracks who told me that Caetano and Gil were imprisoned because of this campaign
by Randall Juliano." This incident was merely one small sample of the suspicion and
lack of trust among Brazilians during a time when fear of your neighbor was commonplace.
Casualties of 1968
On the 10th of November 1972, the poet Torquato Netowho wrote the
Tropicália hymn "Geléia Geral" (General Jelly) in partnership with Gilberto
Gilsealed the windows in his Rio apartment and turned on the gas. He was 28. He had
just come from a stay in a psychiatric hospital. He left a body of work, small in quantity
but vast in creativity and quality. Brazilian Rolling Stone published a full-page
portrait with the inscription: Torquato Neto 1944-1972.
The story resembles that of other Tropicalistas. Ex-Mutantes musician Arnaldo Baptista
also received psychiatric treatment, and in 1981, he threw himself out a 4th
floor window but did not die. In an article in Folha de São Pauloconsidered
by many the best newspaper in Brazilof May ’85, author Ruy Castro says that Torquato
Neto was the ideologue of Tropicália with distinctive participation by Caetano Veloso and
Gilberto Gil. He further says in the article that Torquato Neto came to "bring
dissonance to the chorus of contentment," which he thought was the Brazilian culture
of the avant-garde of the last years of the sixties, mixing information about rock, super
8 (a mania of the time) and plastic art. In later years he was more interested in poetry
and cinema than music.
The death of Torquato Neto shocked the structure of the Tropicalistas and their
followers. But Tropicália was already driven home. In 1973 Wally Salomão organized the
material written by the author of "Geléia Geral" in "Os Últimos Dias de
Paupéria" The Last Days of the Paupers. In 1982, Wally and Ana Maria Duarte
re-issued the work, revised and expanded. And now, the publishing house José Olympio
brings to the market a 3rd version with unpublished works by the poet, exchange
of letters between him and the artist Oiticica, as well as lyrics left out of the previous
two editions. Torquato lives!
Rogério Duarte is a graphic artist from Bahia. The above mentioned Ruy Castro called
him the father of Tropicália. Duarte is, as described by Caetano Veloso in his book Verdade
Tropical (Tropical Truth), one of those rare characters whose minds are sufficiently
open and brilliant to see past personal preferences and cut through to the quick. He
criticized the left and right without discrimination when he found the seeds of oppression
in either campa fact that was seen as a threat by both. In fact, the leader of the
UNE (União Nacional de Estudantes) of whom he was a friend, gave him the nickname
Rogério Caos. The pejorative value of this nickname hurt him doubly: They called
thatwhich in him was most logical and constructivechaotic, and despised the
chaos in him, which he on another level, was capable of loving.
Rogério Duarte, a central figure in Caetano’s book, tortured by the military in 1968,
left his cell at the barracks for a room at the Pinel Hospital, a Rio infamous psychiatric
institution. And now, 30 years later, in an interview in O Globo (Rio’s leading
newspaper), he asks, "Why didn’t I die, why do the friends still quote me?" The
response for those who went along with the Tropicália trajectory, is in the strength of
this movement, which still today has seeds sprouting.
In May of this year, an article appeared in the Salvador (capital of Bahia state)
newspaper A Tarde, which compared the mindset of the college age generation of 1998
versus 1968. It quotes a number of students on their view of the current generation. João
Gomes, 20, a student of agronomy says on the subject of 1968, "That was, without a
doubt, an era marked by the movement of students and all of society. But I don’t see my
friends interested in it. Everybody just wants to watch television, go shopping, and
Another young person, Patrícia Thomas, 14, admits that she and her classmates don’t
worry much about student politics. She believes that individualism and conformist thinking
are to blame for this lack of interest in changing the establishment. "We are
submersed in our individualism," she says. Iberê Jones, 18, finds that the 90’s have
produced people who are not accustomed to political lingo, civics, and taking a stand.
"From where I am, I see my friends without the willingness to question. People just
read what is required in school, only like what the media like. We speak of civil
obligations in the classroom but not beyond."
The article was entitled "O Sonho Acabou" (The Dream Ended). Is the
conclusion, then, that it was all for naught? Personally, I’d like to think that those who
lived through the hardship paved the way for the complacency of today; I’d also like to
think that if the situation suddenly were to revert to 1968 conditions, the new generation
would find in them the strength to fight for change.
These are some of the sources without which I could not have written the above article.
I want to thank those who did all the work for me.
The Brazilian Sound by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha, Billboard Books, 1991
Why is this Country Dancing by John Krich, Simon and Schuster, 1993
Esse Cara by Heber Fonseca, Editora Revan, 1995
Geração em Transe by Luís Carlos Maciel, Editora Nova Fronteira, 1996
Verdade Tropical by Caetano Veloso, Companhia das Letras, 1997
Estado de S. Paulo (daily newspaper) from April article about protest
marches of 1968
"25 anos sem Torquato" (25 years without Torquato) by Iza Calbo, October 5th,
1997 in A Tarde, newspaper of Salvador, Bahia
Kirsten Weinoldt was born in Denmark and came to the U.S. in 1969. She
fell in love with Brazil after seeing Black Orpheus many years ago and has lived
immersed in Brazilian culture ever since. E-mail: email@example.com
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