Tropicalia: Once Upon a Time, Brazil Protested with Psychedelic Rock & Roll
On March 28, 1968, students in Rio de Janeiro began protesting against the high price of food in a student restaurant called the Calabouço. The military regime set up by an earlier coup d’état was in its fourth year of power and President Costa e Silva’s authoritarian rule had begun to take hold. During the protests, a Brazilian teenage student named Edson Luis was shot in the chest at point-blank range by the military police, who showed up to disperse the protesters. In the wake of his death, several antimilitary demonstrations were held across Brazil, the largest being the March of the One Hundred Thousand, which took place in Rio on June 26 of that year.
At the frontlines of the march were artists from the Brazilian intelligentsia, including two young musicians from Bahia in northeast Brazil, named Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, who were at the vanguard of Tropicália—a counterculture arts and music movement that emerged in 1967 as a reaction to the dogmatic elitism of the left, the authoritarianism of the military, and the socially oblivious lyricism of bossa nova. Influenced by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but creating an amalgam of rock ’n’ roll and the Brazilian folk of the northeast, Gil and Veloso, along with Tom Zé, Gal Costa and Os Mutantes, came up with a new avant-garde style that was highly inspired by cultural anthropophagy—the “eating” of others’ ideas.
Os Mutantes, playing “Domingo no Parque” with Gilberto Gil in the 4th brazilian “Song Festival”, in 1967
Early in my freshman year, my dad asked me if there were lots of Latinos at school. I wanted to say, “Pa, I’m one of the only Latinos in most of my classes. The other brown faces I see mostly are the landscapers’. I think of you when I see them sweating in the morning sun. I remember you were a landscaper when you first came to Illinois in the 1950s. And look, Pa! Now I’m in college!”
But I didn’t.
I just said, “No, Pa. There’s a few Latinos, mostly Puerto Rican, few Mexicans. But all the landscapers are Mexican.”
My dad responded, “¡Salúdelos, m’ijo!”
So when I walked by the Mexican men landscaping each morning, I said, “Buenos días.”
Recently, I realized what my dad really meant. I remembered learning the Mexican, or Latin American, tradition of greeting people when one enters a room. In my Mexican family, my parents taught me to be “bien educado” by greeting people who were in a room already when I entered. The tradition puts the responsibility of the person who arrives to greet those already there. If I didn’t follow the rule as a kid, my parents admonished me with a back handed slap on my back and the not-so-subtle hint: “¡Saluda!”
I caught myself tapping my 8-year-old son’s back the other day when he didn’t greet one of our friends: “Adrian! ¡Saluda!”
However, many of my white colleagues over the years followed a different tradition of ignorance. “Maleducados,” ol’ school Mexican grandmothers would call them.
But this Mexican tradition is not about the greeting—it’s about the acknowledgment. Greeting people when you enter a room is about acknowledging other people’s presence and showing them that you don’t consider yourself superior to them.
When I thought back to the conversation between my dad and me in 1990, I realized that my dad was not ordering me to greet the Mexican landscapers with a “Good morning.”
Instead, my father wanted me to acknowledge them, to always acknowledge people who work with their hands like he had done as a farm worker, a landscaper, a mechanic. My father with a 3rd grade education wanted me to work with my mind but never wanted me to think myself superior because I earned a college degree and others didn’t." —
Saluden Muchachxs, saluden.
Emma Watson represents the UN, in her role as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, in Uruguay where she was campaigning for a higher representation of women in politics.
female warrior princess