September 1998
Cover Story

for ever

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.

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 Didn't End)

"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 regression—internal 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 lesson—as 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 collective head.

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 high—the 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 country—the so-called Tet. The offensive by the Vietcong escalated the war to a new level and was, in fact, the beginning of the end—an end that was not to come still for several years—too 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 murder—that of Robert Kennedy—who 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 Vietcong?"

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 spring—a hopeful attempt at a fledgling democracy—was 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 life—wanted 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 revolutionaries—the 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."

A Stronger

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 military.

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 life—politicians, artists, students, and intellectuals—were 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 28th—Group of Rio Polícia Militar invades university restaurant Calabouço. Édson Luís Lima Souto, 18, a student, is killed.
March 29th—Fifty thousand people attend the funeral of Édson Luís in Rio de Janeiro.
April 1st—Students 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 4th—7th day mass for Édson Luís Lima Souto, in Rio. Priests form a human chain to protect the students.
April 18th—University of Nanterre in the outskirts of Paris is closed.
May 3rd—Students occupy the building of the Medical Faculty in Belo Horizonte.
In Paris, the dean of the Sorbonne sends for the police to patrol campus.
May 5th—Police arrest 117 students at the Medical Faculty in Belo Horizonte.
May 7th—Seven thousand students fight with police in Paris.
May 8th—Student uprisings in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and in Mexico.
May 13th—General strike in France and a protest march in Paris.
May 14th—The Sorbonne and the University of Milan are occupied by students.
May 22nd—France comes to a halt. Ten million people are on strike.
June 2nd—The PUC, Pontifícia Universidade Católica, in São Paulo, is taken over by students.
June 11th—Violence returns to the streets of Paris. A worker and a student are killed.
June 12th—Students invade the rectory of USP, Universidade de São Paulo.
June 17th—Police invade the Sorbonne and remove students who have occupied the building for 47 days.
June 21st—Riots in Rio on the day that became known as Bloody Friday: Officially two killed—including a policeman with a brick—and dozens injured. Medicine students on duty in hospitals count 28 cadavers.
June 24th—USP Law School is occupied by students.
June 26th—Protest 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 28th—Protest march ends in serious riots in Porto Alegre.
July 3rd—Demonstrations with two thousand participants in São Paulo.
July 4th—In Rio, another march with ten thousand students.
July 5th—Gama e Silva, Attorney General, prohibits protest marches.
July 17th—Students occupying the Faculty of Law in São Paulo are removed by police. The PUC in São Paulo is cleared at the same time.
August 28th—Demonstration in São Paulo results in 500 arrests.
August 29th—UnB (University of Brasília) is invaded by police. Students are shot.
September 2nd—Representative 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 2nd—Conflict in Rua Maria Antônia between students at USP and Mackenzie University.
October 3rd—New incidents at Maria Antônia result in the death of a student, provoking a demonstration, which is struck down by police. 34 students are detained.
October 4th—In São Paulo, ten thousand people accompany the dead student to the funeral.
October 9th—Protest ends with a hundred people imprisoned, among them a priest.
October 12th—Petition to prosecute Representative Márcio Moreira Alves is brought before the STF (Supremo Tribunal Federal—Federal Supreme Court).
Accused of being a CIA agent North American captain Charles R. Chandler is assassinated with machine gun fire.
October 14th—Police invade a site in Ibiúna, SP, the domain of the clandestine conference of UNE (União Nacional de Estudantes—National Student Union). Imprisoned are 10 journalists and 720 students.
October 23rd—in Rio protest results in two deaths.
December 13th—The House denies by 216 votes to 141 the petition to prosecute Márcio Moreira Alves.
December 13th—President 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 speak—in their many, varied ways—some 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 profoundly—although not always immediately—see 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 play—a symbol of that generation—was 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 Paulo Rangel.

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 forecast—a climate of rain and thunderstorms, a metaphor for the squeeze of the regime that was yet to follow.

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 book—and many have—about 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:

Geraldo Vandré

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 France—where 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
Falei de Flores
or Caminhando

Geraldo Vandré

Not to Say that I Didn't
Speak of Flowers
or Walking


Caminhando e cantando e seguindo a canção
Somos todos iguais, braços dados ou não
Nas escolas, nas ruas, campos,
Caminhando e cantando e seguindo a canção

Vem, vamos embora que esperar não é saber
Quem sabe faz a hora não
espera acontecer

Pelos campos a fome em grandes plantações
Pelas ruas marchando indecisos cordões
Ainda fazem da flor seu mais
forte refrão
E acreditam nas flores vencendo


Há soldados armados, amados ou não
Quase todos perdidos de armas na mão
Nos quartéis lhes ensinam uma
antiga lição
De morrer pela pátria e viver
sem razão


Nas escolas, nas ruas, campos,
Somos todos soldados, armados ou não
Caminhando e cantando e seguindo
a canção
Somos todos iguais, braços dados ou não


Os amores na mente, as flores
no chão
A certeza na frente, a história na mão
Caminhando e cantando e seguindo
a canção
Aprendendo e ensinando uma nova lição


Walking and singing and following the song
We're all the same, arms linked or not
In the schools, in the streets, fields,
construction sites
Walking and singing and following the song

Come, let's go away hoping is not knowing
Those who know will take action and not
wait for it to happen

In the fields the hunger on great plantations
In the streets hesitant lines are marching 
Still they make of the flower the
strongest refrain
And believe that the flowers can defeat
the cannon


There are armed soldiers, loved or not
Almost all lost with weapons in hand
In the barracks they teach them an
ancient lesson
To die for their country and live
without reason


In the schools, in the streets, fields,
construction sites
We're all soldiers, armed or not
Walking and singing and following
the song
We're all the same, arms linked or not


The lovers in mind, the flowers
on the floor
Certainty ahead, history in hand
Walking and singing and following
the song
Learning and teaching a new lesson


Chico Buarque

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 intellectuals—his great uncle Aurélio was responsible for the dictionary used by all of Brazilian society—he 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 on.

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
Amanhã há de ser
Outro dia
Eu pergunto a você
Onde vai se esconder
Da enorme euforia
Como vai proibir
Quando o galo insistir
Em cantar
Água nova brotando
E a gente se amando
Sem parar

In spite of you
Tomorrow will be
Another day.
I ask you
Where you will hide
From the immense euphoria
How will you prohibit
When the rooster insists
On singing
New water springing up
And we loving each other
Without stopping

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 Brazil.


Chico Buarque de Holanda


Nos seus olhos fundos
Guarda tanta dor
A dor de todo esse mundo
Eu já lhe expliquei que
não vai dar
Seu pranto não vai nada ajudar
Eu já convidei para dançar
É hora, já sei, de
Lá fora amor
Uma rosa nasceu
Todo mundo
Uma estrela caiu
Eu bem que mostrei
Pela janela,
ói que lindo
Mas Carolina não viu

Nos seus olhos tristes
Guarda tanto amor
O amor que já
não existe
Eu bem que avisei, vai acabar
De tudo lhe dei
para aceitar
Mil versos cantei pra
lhe agradar
Agora não sei como
Lá fora, amor
Uma rosa morreu
Uma festa acabou
Nosso barco partiu
Eu bem que mostrei a ela
O tempo passou na janela
Só Carolina não viu

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
enjoy yourself
Out there, love
A rose was born
The whole world danced
the samba
A star fell
And though I showed you,
Through the window,
how lovely
But Carolina didn't see

In your sad eyes
You keep so much love
A love that already
doesn't exist
I warned you, it will end
I gave you everything to
accept it
1000 verses I sang to
please you
Now I don't know how
to explain
Out there, love
A rose died
A feast ended
Our boat departed
And though I showed her
Time passed by the window
Only 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
Tragar a dor, engolir
a labuta
Mesmo calada a boca
resta o peito
Silêncio na cidade não se escuta
De que me vale ser
filho da santa
Melhor seria ser filho da outra
(to rhyme, the world here should
be puta (whore) and not outra)
Outra realidade menos morta
Tanta mentira, tanta força bruta

Como é difícil acordar calado
Se na calada da noite eu
me dano
Quero lançar um grito desumano
Que é uma maneira de ser escutado
Esse silêncio todo me atordoa
Atordoado eu permaneço atento
Na arquibancada prá a qualquer momento
Ver emergir o monstro da lagoa

Pai, afasta de mim esse cálice
Pai, afasta de mim esse cálice
Pai, afasta de mim esse cálice
De vinho tinto de sangue

De muito gorda a porca já não anda
De muito usada a faca já não corta
Como é difícil, pai, abrir a porta
Essa palavra presa na garganta
Esse pileque homérico no mundo
De que adianta ter boa vontade
Mesmo calado o peito
resta a cuca
Dos bébados do centro da cidade

Talvez o mundo não seja pequeno
Nem seja a vida um fato consumado
Quero inventar o meu próprio pecado
Quero morrer do meu próprio veneno
Quero perder de vez
tua cabeça
Minha cabeça perder teu juízo
Quero cheirar fumaça de óleo diesel
Me embriagar até que alguém me esqueça

Pai, afasta de mim esse cálice
Pai, afasta de mim esse cálice
Pai, afasta de mim esse cálice
De vinho tinto de sangue


How to drink this bitter drink
Sip this pain, swallow this
hard labor
Even if the mouth is silent, the
chest remains
You can't hear silence in the city.
What good does it do me to be
the son of a saint
It would be better to be the son
of another

Another reality, less dead,
So many lies, so much brute force.

How difficult it is to awaken silent
If in the silence of the night I
damn myself
I want to launch an inhuman cry
That is one way of being heard.
All this silence leaves me senseless
Senseless I remain alert
In the bleachers at any minute
See the monster of the lake emerge.

Father, take this chalice from me
Father, take this chalice from me
Father, take this chalice from me
Of wine, tinted with blood.

Too fat, the pig doesn't walk
Too used, the knife doesn't cut
How hard, father, to open the door
That word sticks in the throat
This Homeric drunk in the world
What use is it to have good will
Even if the chest is silent, there are
still the brains
Of the drunks in the center of the city

Maybe the world isn't small
Nor life a consummated fact
I want to invent my own sin
I want to die by my own poison
I want to once and for all lose
your head
And my head lose your common sense
I want to sniff the fumes of diesel oil.
Get drunk until someone forgets me.

Father, take this chalice from me
Father, take this chalice from me
Father, take this chalice from me
Of wine, tinted with blood.

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 the 60's.

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 shocked—not just the military—but 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 "rivals."

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 way—through shock, outrage, and emotional involvement. Although the Tropicália movement was short-lived, it did change forever the face of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira—Brazilian 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 censors—not as many other artists had. He would have other problems.

Alegria, Alegria

Caetano Veloso

Joy, Joy

Caminhando contra o vento
Sem lenço, sem
No sol de quase dezembro
Eu vou
O sol se reparte em crimes
Espaçonaves, guerrilhas
Em Cardinales* bonitas
Eu vou
Em caras de presidentes
Em grandes beijos de amor
Em dentes, pernas, bandeiras
Bomba e Brigitte Bardot
O sol nas bancas de revista
Me enche de alegria e preguiça
Quem lê tanta notícia
Eu vou
Por entre fotos e nomes
Os olhos cheios de cores
O peito cheio de amores vãos
Eu vou
Por que não, por que não
Ela pensa em casamento
E eu nunca mais fui à escola
Sem lenço sem
Eu vou
Eu tomo uma coca-cola
Ela pensa em casamento
E uma canção me consola
Eu vou
Por entre fotos e nomes
Sem livros e sem fuzil
Sem fome sem telefone
No coração do Brasil
Ela nem sabe
até pensei
Em cantar na televisão
O sol é tão bonito
Eu vou, sem lenço sem
Nada no bolso, ou
nas mãos
Eu quero seguir vivendo, amor
Eu vou
Por que não, por que não?

Walking against the wind
Without handkerchief, without
In the almost December sun
I go
The sun scatters in crimes
Spaceships, guerillas
In beautiful Cardinales*
I go
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
I go
Among photos and names
My eyes filled with colors
My breast filled with useless loves
I go
Why not, why not
She thinks of marriage
And I never went back to school
Without handkerchief, without
I go
I drink a Coca-Cola
She thinks of marriage
And a song consoles me
I go
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,
without document
Nothing in my pockets or in
my hands
I want to go on living, love
I go
Why not, why not?

*refers to Italian actress
Claudia Cardinale

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 Paris—along 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 Brazil."

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 their rosaries.

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 Soares—Brazil's Johnny Carson, whose show Onze e Meia (Eleven Thirty), is aired on SBT daily—said 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 Neto—who wrote the Tropicália hymn "Geléia Geral" (General Jelly) in partnership with Gilberto Gil—sealed 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 Paulo—considered by many the best newspaper in Brazil—of 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 camp—a 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 that—which in him was most logical and constructive—chaotic, 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 partying."

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:

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