«Rafael Alves França, known as «Cobrinha Verde» (literally, Little Green Snake), is one of Bahia's most renowned surviving traditional masters of the game of capoeira. He also cures, in his words, «pelas hervas e as aguas» (by the herbs and the waters). It was he who introduced me to the viola, its violeiros, and its samba, at which he excels also.»
«I learned of the viola of the Reconcavo and of its samba through work I was doing in Salvador on the musical repertory of the game of capoeira, and it was through capoeira informants, specifically «Cobrinha Verde» (Rafael Alves França) that I first met the violeiros in the Alto da Santa Cruz neighborhood, specifically «Candeá» (Antônio Moura da Silva) and his colleagues. «Cobrinha» lived there at that time and had his capoeira «academy» in a primary school there on Sunday mornings. He insisted that I, as a musician, needed to learn of «nosso samba... samba de viola» and took me to see «Candeá», who lived nearby.»
His mestres, «was mandingueiro», he followed all these rules, he was a prepared capoeirista, he knew the prayers and the sorcery, used the charms, wihtout participating in candomblé, and for this «he had this power to fight and disappear» and to transform himself into an animal or any king of object when the police appeared to arrest him. So much so, according to Gigante, that the police chief when he sent men to arrest him told the soldiers to bring everything they could find in his house, because he was certain that one of the pieces of furniture would be him. Regardless of this, Cobrinha didn't teach him anything of this sort, as Gigante explained, because if he taught his mandingas to another person, he would lose the force and become weaker.
«[M Cobrinha Verde] was a guy who caused trouble and then the police came to arrest him, he would vanish, he would transform himself into a pig or a dog». Gigante became emotional remembering the stories of Cobrinha, a simple and who learned capoeira «in the middle of rum», as he told himself. Gigante smiled remembering that he who taught him the first capoeira steps below a cajueiro tree in Chame-Chame had the capability to totally tease the police, making them look like idiots in the name of his freedom. And with a proud look in his eyes and satisfaction we told us that it was «beautiful» to know that his mestre disguised as an animal «... was there seeing the police and the police coulnd't see him».
Mestre Cobrinha's way also reveals a significant Bahian bay area influence in Capoeira Angola formation of Salvador when it comes to the mystisism and the stories of bravery which appear explicitly in bay area capoeira.
This mestre was responsible for introducing in Capoeira Angola the act of touching the floor many times over as if making sorcery, or asking for protection, a movement that became emblematic in the idea of «releasing mandinga». This act was later spread by Mestre João Grande, who had learned from Cobrinha Verde.
«Rafael I don't know with whom he learned, don't know. I knew him here when he was capoeira mestre. I didn't have much knowledge about him. But later he came here to Pero Vaz [..] He also had his academy in the city. I didn't have integration with him.»
«Other great character was Cobrinha Verde, who reappears [around 1976]. It was around this time [1980 in the 1st Seminar of Capoeira and festival of Capoeira rhythms] that we rediscovered Mestre Cobrinha Verde, through Marcelino [..]»
«Besouro and Cobrinha Verde who quarreled in Santo Amaro, were protected by nega da costa. You know who nega da costa is? A black woman was called nega da costa in the old days, in Cachoeira. Traíra was a fighter too. Cobrinha Verde walked around with a cow rib on his belt, a knife with two cutting edges, was called the cow rib.»