THE ARTS OF THE OLD PASTINHA
Ribalta das RUAS
Antônio Carlos Ribeiro
Correio do Povo.
Porto Alegre, 5th May 1963
Looks like I'm only talking to talk about giants and pigmies. The hero until today, for example, is an old bahian man of one and a half meters of height, legs bent, hair white, some teeth missing, and who always walks dressed in impeccable white. One of these old men we would give a seat in a tram. I however assure you that this timid 70-year-old is quite difficult for any free-fighter. The good man, when needed, wouldn't trust not a knife, nor a club, because he transforms in a fast eel, and an eel that has a trained heel to put the most argessive brutes to sleep. The ones who know the beautiful and dangerous capoeira game have already guessed that I am about to talk about an unusual man called Mestre Vicente F. Pastinha, who knows to feign as no-one else his physical force and, still better, his 74 well-lived years, encouraged definately by the pepper of vatapá and acarajé.
I am about to say that Pastinha is a boy with white hair. His spirit, at least, is clean and pure as that of a child, and his unnoticeable muscles are really that of a well-trained youngster. To the sound of the primitive and dissonant berimbau, that professor Carlos Galvão Krebs teaches us and that is the precursor of all string instruments, Mestre Pastinha transforms, becomes unbodily and unreal, but only for those who don't know all the secrets of capoeira. The cloud has hard-hearted legs and arms, that conquer the contender in a trice and, if they want to can even kick of a small donkies head. Mestre Pastinha explains with unhideable pride: "Nobody suspects the force of a heel!"
Pastinha started capoeira still a boy, and since then lives to this game, which more than a sport is a religious ritual with african influence. While the capoeiristas fight each-other, with hands planted on the ground and the legs turning in a strange ballet, the berimbau is changing the rhythm and the companions emphasize the beat with the hands in a semi-circle and help the old voices of a distant origin to reappear. A beautiful spectacle, with force, grace and lightness, what I haven't encountered in judo or in catch - pardon their practitioners - but undeniably with the same if not superior efficiency. And, still, this emotional and choreographed fighting style was forbidden by law. I don't know where I read that Marechal Floriano fought the police using it, and I think that the discrimination against the capoeiristas could have some racial background.
Pastinha was one of the heroes of this resistance. He stayed loyal to capoeira, made hundreds of "mestres", taught straight for more than half a century, and - oh the miracle of physical organization and the mental persistence! - he continues in the house in Pelourinho, 19, in front of the Capoeira Angola Academy, that today is presented as a highlight in the tourist route of the old City of Salvador. Capoeira is finally rehabilitated, with the constant help of the domestic folklorists, every time more active in the scientific difusion of the "Folk Knowledge", that now is done in the sessions of the I Brazilian Folklore Festival in Rio Grande do Sul.
To the folklorists, however, I suggest a corrective plan. Searching for the origins of the capoeira game, I encountered in the Little Brazilian Dictionary of Portugues Language a definition that to me looks to need to be rectified. There stands: CAPOEIRA - An athletic game where the individual armed with a razor or knife, and with fast and characteristical swirls, practises criminal acts. Listen, this is the opposite of the game. This could be thought of during Floriano's times. But if the Pope himself is revising the text of some prayers, to clean up the expressions that the other religious convictions and some other nations might feel pejorative, we should not permit that our dictionaries confuse the transcendental with secondary. It is time to change: CAPOEIRA - An athletic brazilian game, a match of agility, that demands fast reflexes and offers beautiful choreographic effects. And to the end a short reference to the greatest cultivators of the style. With Mestre Pastinha's heel pulling the ground in front...