History of Capoeira
During the 1500s, Portugal shipped slaves into Brazil from Western Africa. Brazil was the largest contributor to slave migration with 42% of all slaves shipped across the Atlantic, a number totalling roughy 4.5 million people. The following peoples were the most commonly sold into Brazil: Sudanese, Guinean, Angolan, Congolese, and Mozambiquian. These people brought their cultural traditions and religion with them to the ‘New World’. Subsequently, The homogenization of the African people under the oppression of slavery was the catalyst for Capoeira. Capoeira was developed by the slaves of Brazil as a way to resist their oppressors, secretly practice their art, transmit their culture, and lift their spirits. There is also substantial evidence that indigenous peoples of Brazil played an important role in the development of Capoeira. Batuque and Maculele are other fight-dances closely connected to Capoeira. After slavery was abolished, the slaves moved to the cities of Brazil, and with no employment to be found, many joined or formed criminal gangs. They continued to practice Capoeira, and it became associated with anti-government or criminal activities. As a result, Capoeira was outlawed in Brazil in 1892.
The punishment for practicing Capoeira was extreme, and the police were vicious in their attempt to stamp out the art. Capoeira continued to be practiced, but it moved further underground. Rodas were often held in areas with plenty of escape routes, and a special rhythm called Cavalaria was added to the music to warn players that the police were coming. To avoid being persecuted, Capoeira practitioners (Capoeiristas) also gave themselves an apelido or nicknames, often more than one. This made it much harder for the police to discover their true identities. This tradition continues to this day. When a person is baptized into Capoeira at the batizado ceremony, they may be given their apelido. In 1937, Mestre Bimba was invited to demonstrate his art in front of the president. After this performance, Capoeira became legally tolerated, and in 1953 it was completely legalized.
Mestre Bimba is a critical historical figure for capoeira for many reasons, including being the person to open the first official Capoeira school in Brazil. Since 2008, Capoeira has been officially recognized as a national sport, and has spread around the world. Mestre Bimba’s systematization and teaching of capoeira made a tremendous contribution to the capoeira community. In 1942, Mestre Pastinha opened the first Capoeira Angola school, the Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola, located in Bahia. He had his students wear black pants and yellow t-shirts, the same color of the “Ypiranga Futebol Clube,” his favorite soccer team. Most Angola schools since then follow in this tradition, having their students wear yellow capoeira t-shirts. Together, Mestre Bimba and Mestre Pastinha are generally seen as the fathers of modern Capoeira Regional and Capoeira Angola respectively.