Agreed. It is possible to imagine a situation where "these were" works, like: "these were good shoes but now they are ruined," but this would require the item in question to still be present. Once tears are cried they tend to no longer exist, so "those were" would make much more sense in English.
Yes, it is abstract, and such sentences require the reader to think using various interpretations. I imagine that was the point of this exercise.
The shift in your expectation is what makes you learn the subtle distinctions. For one thing, it sparked this conversation. What "makes most sense" in English is irrelevant in this case. (Think about what you read, catch the errors your automatic English brain has made, correct them, and imagine an interpretation where the sentence makes sense) is a better way to learn than just reading what you expect it to mean.
A quote from this source: http://www.spanishdict.com/guide/demonstrative-pronouns-in-spanish
"In the past, demonstrative pronouns were always written with a tilde (written accent) to differentiate them from demonstrative adjectives. However, la RAE (Real Academia Española ), the institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language, has ruled that the tildes are no longer necessary."