Brutal Tears: a musical overview of Brazilian dictatorship

From 1964 to 1985 Brazil went through a dictatorial regime as many other countries in South America did at that time. More than 8000 indigenous people and 400 urban citizens were murdered. 210 people remain missing until today. The common words used to describe that time are violence, brutality, censorship, fight and resistance. The images we find are either very institutional or very brutal. In my research I couldn’t find a single image of a person crying.

I asked myself: knowing how fundamental music is for my culture, especially during that period, could I find the act of weeping in the lyrics of the songs released back then? More than that, would it be possible to briefly explain the history throughout these musical tears?

After a couple of years of political tension in Brazil, João Goulart (or Jango) became president. He was the vice of Jânio Quadros, which resigned due to unclear reasons. Not satisfied with the ongoing project of Jango, the military force, supported by conservative (mainly rich) civilians and the United States, successfully coordinated the coup d’état as Jango had no political or military support at that point. Jango intended to instaure basic reforms such as rental control to solve the Brazilian debt and it was seen by the conservative (and US) as a “communist threat”.
Year by year, dictator after dictator, the regime got more violent and censorship more strict. Many artists, writers and intellectuals were exiled, as some stayed and resisted through art.

I respect my tears very much

But even more my laughter

I inscribe, thus, my words

In the voice of a sacred woman

Unholy cow, put your horns out and above the herd

“Vaca Profana” – Gal Costa

After the Amnesty Law in 1979, the “Diretas Já” movement in 1984 and many negotiations (as most events in our history), the Brazilian dictatorial regime ended officially in 1985 but the way it happened gave space for a cultural amnesia that led to a recent movement claiming for military intervention again. Thanks to artists, we can trace back the history to not forget completely how absurd it was.


Am I depressed or just a foreigner?

I am the foreigner

And one can see that

I do not speak

Just like you

I come from the beetroot

Where the aubergines get purple at dawn

They are like me

All terrified

We were shifted without our roots

The original title of this post was “Am I depressed or just a migrant?” but the remembrance of feeling the same way I do feel now when I was in Brazil led me to rethink my words.

Migrating is a condition, a shared lonely experience, a challenge for anyones self-esteem. However, I feel that once you’re a foreigner, you’ll always be, no matter where you are. If back in Brazil now, I wouldn’t be an immigrant anymore, but I’d still feel like a foreigner as I felt before.

When you leave for your own will and not for “major” reasons – as war or natural hazards – the thought “how would it be like if I had never moved?” or “what if I come back?” are like small bugs following you around from time to time. Then you remember that there was a reason to leave so much behind. Life starts to be a matter of balancing reasons.

In times like these, I go back to “Cavalo”, music album by Rodrigo Amarante, that used to be my company during my first foreigner crisis.

Rodrigo Amarante was guitarist in one of the most famous bands of the 2000s in Brasil, Los Hermanos. When the band came to an end, he moved to Los Angeles. He went from huge celebrity to unknown small artist and it took some years until he released his first album solo, “Cavalo”, that has this in-between identity issues as one of the big topics.

Being a multilingual album, Cavalo brings a half (sometimes not) – understanding experience. Something so ordinary living abroad. Words cannot afford the meaning of some everyday conversations.

The songs are melancholic but beautiful, like some lonely nights in Weimar. They remind me that to accept my necessity of movement, though painful, is vital.


The difficulty of portraying male tears

Since I came to create images with Midjourney, I’ve been trying to test the limits of this AI. Let’s leave all the controversies aside for a moment to use it as tool, to reflect on the inevitable bias of this platform.

Trying to escape from surreal intergalactic scenes and the fashion images I’ve been scrolling on my Instagram, I was looking for subjects that were not just hard to materialise but also hard to imagine – at least in my limited mind.

Back in Brazil, I always wanted to do a photoshoot of men crying but as I didn’t want to use models – and we do have a very macho culture – I couldn’t even imagine being successful with this project. This then felt like a good prompt: Man crying.

/imagine Man crying with tear in his red eyes, smooth face, chiaroscuro, crowd unfocused, many televisions turned on, detailed facial features
/imagine Man crying with tear in his red eyes, smooth face, chiaroscuro, crowd unfocused, many televisions turned on, detailed facial features

Let’s start with the referential being. If you ever tried AI you might have noticed how unlikely it is to get a non-white subject if you don’t explicitly describe a body that it not white. This annoyed me in every trial, always getting a white male if I’d just typed “man”.

Now think about your own visual culture. Films, photographs, videoclips – how many times have you watched a black or latin man crying? What was the context? How was the facial expressions? Smooth? Desperate?

Man from Colombia crying with tear in his red eyes, chiaroscuro, street, houses, televisions turned on, wide angle, long shot

Then I wanted to check what a Colombian man looks like on Midjourney. The prompt “red eyes” was a trap, I know.

As a human being we know that red eyes could state that one has cried for a long time even if there’s not apparent tears on their eyes anymore. But that’s too subtle to prompt.

Instead of getting red iris, as I would assume I would get, the red came mostly as bruises and the smooth crying expressions I was looking for never came out. This reminded me that the few times I saw a man crying (not in person) were in catastrophic scenarios.

Reading “The Will To Change” by Bell Hooks I felt like getting deeper with understanding how do I deal with male feelings, therefore, male tears. Being daughter of a father who cries A LOT, my experience with male tears was pretty singular comparing to the general visual culture I had and I confess it didn’t make me better dealing with them.

But I know that images can help us to empathise and, after this exercise, I may go back to the “crying men” project to at least help me to enlarge my own visual culture.



As I begin to write this, my heart beats faster and I cannot recognize what’s this hesitating feeling I have. It should be understandable the using of medicine to heal some inconvenient aspects of your body but the guilt I feel comes with the memory of my not so understandable reasons.

So here comes a confession shaped as an assignment: I started getting medicine to be able to stop crying. And because crying means to be weak, then to have to take medicine to stop doing so makes me the weakest of all.

But what I learned researching on my body is that it could feel very freeing to be weak.