They were the consolation

Image: Jake Michael Singer


Commentary on the recently released book by Lúcia Helena Gama

The title of the book may sound strange, but it is a quote from Adoniran Barbosa, in the epigraph:

How many elbow pain
I drank in my life
Espadona and Parreirinha
Ponto Chique, Avenida,
Other bars in Ipiranga
They were consolation.

With the subtitle Sociability and culture in São Paulo in the 1960s and 1970s, the volume continues the project of the author, Lúcia Helena Gama, who addressed a similar scenario in the 40s and 50s (In the bars of life, Senac).

The work basically consists of interviews with various characters who lived through the period, as well as testimonials and comments found in various publications, from newspapers and magazines to chronicles and literary texts. They are actors, musicians, writers, journalists and students from different backgrounds, who gravitated around the bars, restaurants, bookstores, theaters and cinemas of the time, creating an effervescent scene of creation, controversy and political unrest.

The 1960s marked the displacement of this cultural epicenter, very focused on the USP faculties, still on Maria Antônia street and surrounding areas, Mackenzie, the bars in Praça Roosevelt and Centro Novo, and the beginning of the bohemian occupation of Pinheiros and Vila Madalena, motivated by the move from USP to Butantã. PUC, although relevant, is located in a residential neighborhood, so its students also went to the same theaters and bars in the Bexiga-República-Consolação triangle.

Music, or rather, bars with live music, played a fundamental role in the intellectual agglutination of the period, which saw the emergence of the great Festivals of All time lap record, the so-called MPB and protest music. Never have popular music, theater and cinema been so identified around a political project that mixed – in many, sometimes conflicting, ways – invention, nationalism, revolution of customs and class struggle. Not surprisingly, this was also the period in which the left-wing camp fragmented, and the 1964 coup found support in a middle class frightened by the changes that that bunch of deviants and transgressors of the “old order” loudly announced in their demonstrations.

It is also the emergence of identity movements, of Black Power, female emancipation, sexual freedom provided by the emergence of the contraceptive pill, and television becoming the largest media on a global scale, for better and for worse.

There are testimonies from Plínio Marcos, Maria Adelaide Amaral, Walnice Nogueira Galvão, Marika Gidali, Ugo Giorgetti, Mouzar Benedito, Maria Rita Kehl, Ignacio de Loyola Brandão, Olgária Matos, Roberto Freire, Celso Frateschi, Nair Benedicto, Idibal Pivetta, Rudá de Andrade , Milton Hatoum, Vallandro Keating, Luiz Roncari, João Signorelli, Rita Lee, Dagomir Marquezi and Izaías Almada, among others.

Lúcia Gama sews the interviewees together, creating a character who wanders from bar to bar, meeting the interviewees. Everyone speaks in the present tense (“I'm coming from Minas Gerais to study”, “I'm looking for work in the theater”), which creates a curious effect. The author revealed that the texts were adapted to create an effect of being in real time, seeking to maintain fidelity to the facts.

Some repetitions are inevitable, in several statements. Since everyone was in the same bars, canteens, theaters and cinemas, the names of places, events and people came back to the fore. Perhaps a rigorous edition would reduce the book's almost 500 pages, but it would imply a loss of authenticity. It is understandable that if everyone went to Teatro de Arena and then stretched out at Redondo or went to listen to MPB at Galeria Metrópole, in the 1960s, this would appear in many statements.

In the final third of the book, which covers the period of the dictatorship, the ramifications of desires (or divisionism, as an old member of the Party would say) are deepened. The gay movement (there was still no acronym LGBT and its derivations), Jovem Guarda creating a new public and new places of affluence for São Paulo's youth (Rua Augusta), women standing out in various areas and demanding more, the black movement stimulated through television contact with the world (Black Panthers, Mohammed Ali, Angela Davis), and the Vietnam War, May 68, Flower Power, Woodstock, Tropicália, Che Guevara, Araguaia, censorship, impeachments, dictatorship.

Lucia Gama inserts a few paragraphs about the historical situation, guiding the speeches. It is clear that the various possible meanings of the construction of an oral story, experienced by the characters, create multiple layers of perception. In a turbulent scenario, isolated voices reveal existential, political, sexual, ethical, aesthetic and behavioral dilemmas.

For those who know the geography and history of São Paulo, the book allows for several memories, especially if you lived there during the period covered. There are theaters and bars that still persist. More melancholic is the situation of those who seek out the aforementioned bookstores or cinemas, all of whom are victims of the “power of money that builds and destroys beautiful things”.

And, for those who don't know, the book is a good opportunity to understand how the country's largest metropolis rivaled the federal capital in the years covered, becoming the epicenter of cultural and social movements that still show their marks, albeit fragmented, in the Brazil in the XNUMXst century.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.


Lúcia Helena Gama. They were consolation: sociability and culture in São Paulo in the 1960s and 1970s. São Paulo, Edições Sesc, 2023, 496 pages. []

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