Capoeira Legends

Capoeira is a kind of martial art style that involves music, dance and other art from apart from the basic elements of martial arts. It is a martial art style that is believed to be evolved by the slaves that were brought down to Brazil from Africa. It finds its origin back to 16th century. With the passage of time Capoeira has integrated completely into the Brazilian culture to form an inclusive cultural phenomenon in Brazil. It is the most unique art that includes various dances, fight and other artistic expressions.

Capoeira legendMestre Bimba - Born Manuel dos Reis Machado(November 23, 1899 - February 5, 1974)in Salvador, Brazil.

He started learning capoeira when he was 12 years old with a captain of a local maritime company, an African called Bentinho; even though in those days capoeira was still being persecuted by the authorities. He would later be known as one of the legendary founding fathers of contemporary capoeira

At the age of 18, Bimba felt that capoeira was losing efficacy as a martial art and an instrument of resistance and was becoming more of a folkloric activity. It was then that Bimba started to restore movements from the traditional capoeira fights and added movements from another African fighting style called Batuque, an African martial art that he learned from his father (of which his father was a champion), as well as introducing movements created by himself. This was the beginning of the development of capoeira regional.

In 1928, a new chapter in the history of capoeira began, as well as a change in the way black people (of African descent, brought to Brazil as slaves) were looked upon by the Brazilian society. After a performance at the palace of Bahia's Governor, Juracy Magalhães, Bimba was finally successful in convincing the authorities of the cultural value of capoeira, thus in the 1930s ending its official ban, in effect since 1890.

Mestre Bimba founded the first capoeira school in 1932, the Academia-escola de Cultura Regional, at the Engenho de Brotas in Salvador, Bahia. Previously, capoeira was only practiced and played on the streets. However, capoeira was still heavily discriminated against by upper-class Brazilian society. In order to change the pejorative reputation of capoeira and its practitioners as devious, stealthy and malicious, Bimba set new standards to the art.

Capoeira legend Mestre PastinhaMestre Pastinha - Vicente Ferreira Pastinha (April 5, 1889-November 13, 1981) was a mestre of the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira.

He was exposed to Capoeira at the age of 8 by an African named Benedito. The story goes that an older and stronger boy from Pastinha's neighborhood would often bully and beat him up.One day Benedito saw the aggression that Pastinha suffered, and then told him to stop by his house because he was going to teach him a few things. In his next encounter with that boy, Pastinha defeated him so quickly that the older boy became his admirer.

In 1941, by Aberrê's (Pastinha's former student) invitation, Pastinha went to a Sunday roda at ladeira do Gengibirra located at bairro da Liberdade, where the best Capoeira mestres would hang out. Aberrê was already famous in these rodas, and after spending the afternoon there, one of the greatest mestres of Bahia, Amorzinho, asked Pastinha to take charge of Capoeira Angola. As a result, in 1942 Pastinha founded the first Angola school, the Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola, located at the Pelourinho. His students would wear black pants and yellow T-shirts, the same color as the Ypiranga Clube, his favorite soccer club.

Due to the efforts of Mestre Pastinha, what was considered capoeira prior to the rise of Capoeira Regional, was able to survive and it maintained most of the traditional ways of the earlier capoeira. It was then that it started to be called Capoeira "Angola" to distinguish the two styles from each other. Due to his efforts, many of the traditions, rituals, etc have been passed on an preserved earning him the respect of being called the Father of Capoeira Angola style in this modern day.

Besouro Manganga - Born Manuel Henrique Pereira (1895-1924) Since he was a young boy, learned the secrets of capoeira in the streets, with Mestre Alipio, in Santa Amaro da Purificaçao. He was "baptized" into capoeira with the name "Besouro Mangangá", (a large and dark species of maybug), for his flexibility and the ability to disappear when the time called for it. Strong, black and with an adventurous spirit, he never worked in one place steadily, nor had a definitive profession. When the adversities were heavy and the advantage of the fight was with the opponent, Besouro would disappear "flying" without a trace. The belief that he had supernatural powers began to grow.

Mestre Cobrinha Verde, Besouro's cousin and capoeira student tells a story about him. One day unemployed, Besouro went to Colonia Mill (now called Santa Elizia), in Santa Amaro to look for work. He was authorized to work and became an employee there. One week later, on payday, the boss told all of the employees, that the work contract was closed or broken for Saint Caetano... or in other words, to say that no one was going to get paid. Those who dared to challenge the boss were tied to a trunk of a tree, whipped and left there for 24 hours, but with Besouro, it was different. When the boss told him he would not pay him, Besouro grabbed him by the shirt and violently forced him to pay the money he owed him.

Besouro was a revolutionary. He didn't like the police and was always involved in complications with them. More than once he used physical force to disarm policemen. Once armed with their guns, he would use them to lock the policemen up in jail cells meant for criminals.

One time, in Largo de Santa, one of the main squares of Santo Amaro, Besouro forced a soldier to drink such a large quantity of alcohol that he passed out on the ground. When the soldier woke up, he went to his commander, Capitan José Costal, who assigned 10 men to catch Besouro dead or alive. Besouro, hanging out in a local bar, had an intuition that the police were coming. He left the bar and went to the main square. When the police arrived, he walked up to the Christian cross that was in the square. He proceeded to spread his arms out like Jesus Christ and told the police he would not surrender to them. Violent shots were heard and the capoeirista fell to the ground. Capitan José Costa walked up to him and probed him with his gun, thinking the was dead. Besouro, who was very much alive, to the great surprise of the Captain, grabbed his rifle from him. He then ordered all the policemen to put down their guns and leave the square. They left unarmed and to the tune of Besouro singing a cheerful song.

Besouro's fights and revolts were successive and much of the time, he was in opposition with the police and owners of the farms and mill. While Besouro was working on Dr. Zeca's plantation, the father of a young man called Memeu, he was marked to die.

Dr. Zeca was an influential man, who wanted Besouro dead. He ordered Besouro, who didn't know how to read or write, to deliver a piece of mail to the administrator of Maracancalha mill, a friend of his. The piece of mail said, "Kill the man who is delivering this letter." Dr. Zeca's friend said very calmly to Besouro that he would stay the night and return to Dr. Zeca's with a response the following day. Early the next morning Besouro went to look for the man and was surrounded by a group of about 40 soldiers. They shot at him with a violent round of bullets. The capoeirista began to escape, dodging bullets by moving his body to the rhythm of the guns. At this moment, a man arrived called, Eusebio de Quisaba, who violently stabbed Besouro with a knife made out of a special wood called "turcum". This wooden knife has significance in the African tradition of Candomblé. Candomblé is a strong, religious tradition that was established in all Latin countries where there was commercial slave trade of Africans. The folklore says that this wood is the only way to kill a man whose body and spirit are "closed" to death. This idea that a person is unable to die was a characteristic associated with Besouro; a man that no bullet could enter.

Manuel Henrique, Besouro Mangangá, died in 1924, at the young age of 27, but lived on in two of his capoeira students Rafael Alves Franca, Mestre Cobrinha Verde and Siri de Mangue.

Today Besouro is a capoeira symbol throughout all of Bahia. He is well known for his bravery and loyalty. The support he gave to those who were persecuted and oppressed by the police and owners of plantations was not forgotten.

In October of 2009, a movie titled Besouro was released in theaters in Brazil about the story of this legendary capoeira figure.

Zumbi- (1655 – November 20, 1695), also known as Zumbi dos Palmares, was the last of the leaders of the Quilombo dos Palmares, in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil.

Quilombos were fugitive slave settlements or slave refugee settlements. Quilombos represented slave resistance which occurred in three forms: slave settlements, attempts at seizing power, and armed insurrection. Members of quilombos often returned to plantations or towns to encourage their former fellow slaves to flee and join the quilombos. If necessary, they brought slaves by force and sabotaged plantations. Slaves who came to quilombos on their own were considered free, but those who were captured and brought by force were considered slaves and continued to be slaves in the settlement. They could be considered free if they were to bring another captive to the settlement.

Quilombo dos Palmares was a self-sustaining republic of Maroons escaped from the Portuguese settlements in Brazil, "a region perhaps the size of Portugal in the hinterland of Bahia" (Braudel 1984 p 390). At its height, Palmares had a population of over 30,000. Forced to defend against repeated attacks by Portuguese colonial power, the warriors of Palmares were expert in capoeira, a martial arts form that was brought to or created in Brazil by African slaves circa the 16th century.

Zumbi was born free in Palmares in 1655, believed to be descended from the Imbangala warriors of Angola. He was captured by the Portuguese and given to a missionary, Father António Melo, when he was approximately 6 years old. Baptized Francisco, Zumbi was taught the sacraments, learned Portuguese and Latin, and helped with daily mass. Despite attempts to pacify him, Zumbi escaped in 1670 and, at the age of 15, returned to his birthplace. Zumbi became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle and was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early twenties.

By 1678, the governor of the captaincy of Pernambuco, Pedro Almeida, weary of the longstanding conflict with Palmares, approached its leader Ganga Zumba with an olive branch. Almeida offered freedom for all runaway slaves if Palmares would submit to Portuguese authority, a proposal which Ganga Zumba favored. But Zumbi was distrustful of the Portuguese. Further, he refused to accept freedom for the people of Palmares while other Africans remained enslaved. He rejected Almeida's overture and challenged Ganga Zumba's leadership. Vowing to continue the resistance to Portuguese oppression, Zumbi became the new leader of Palmares.

Fifteen years after Zumbi assumed leadership of Palmares, Portuguese military commanders Domingos Jorge Velho and Bernardo Vieira de Melo mounted an artillery assault on the quilombo. February 6, 1694, after 67 years of ceaseless conflict with the cafuzos, or Maroons, of Palmares, the Portuguese succeeded in destroying Cerca do Macaco, the republic's central settlement. Before the king Ganga Zumba was dead, Zumbi had taken it upon himself to fight for Palmares' independence. In doing so he became known as the commander-in-chief in 1675. Due to his heroic efforts it increased his prestige. Palmares' warriors were no match for the Portuguese artillery; the republic fell, and Zumbi was wounded in one leg.

Though he survived and managed to elude the Portuguese and continue the rebellion for almost two years, he was betrayed by a mulato who belonged to the quilombo and had been captured by the Paulistas, and, in return for his life, led them to Zumbi's hideout. Zumbi was captured and beheaded on the spot November 20, 1695. The Portuguese transported Zumbi's head to Recife, where it was displayed in the central praça as proof that, contrary to popular legend among African slaves, Zumbi was not immortal. This was also done as a warning of what would happen to others if they tried to be as brave as him. Remnants of quilombo dwellers continued to reside in the region for another hundred years.

November 20 is celebrated, chiefly in Brazil, as a day of black consciousness. The day has special meaning for those Brazilians of African descent who honor Zumbi as a hero, freedom fighter, and symbol of freedom. Zumbi has become a hero of the twentieth-century Afro-Brazilian political movement. And he is a national hero in Brazil as well.