The capoeira from the past that Bahia has as a tradition – Mestre Pastinha, blind and in misery, abandons capoeira disillusioned
Diário de Pernambuco, Recife
3rd March 1968
Samir Abou Hana
People coming to Salvador, have an infinity of guides to show them the attractions of the good land. One of them, - maybe the best - that of Odorico Tavares, „Bahia Images of the Land and the People“, in the chapter about capoeira, says the following:
„If the visitor wants to watch the capoeira game, there are, today, more than one hut where one can go. That of Juvenal, in Chame-Chame, that of Pastinha, in Pelourinho..."
And who wants to go to mestre Pastinha's place, can orient by Odorico's book:
„Coming from the Terreiro, or from Baixo dos Sapateiros, or from Taboão, the dazzle is the same: the visitor is face to face, with the most beautiful brazilian architecture. There are many immense and harmonious buildings from the 18th and 19th century, marked by the churches' towers. This is Pelourinho, as a lake where the waters of the most various sources of bahian humanity get together".
The Capoeira Angola Academy belongs to mestre Pastinha. With his 71 years, he fights capoeira since boy, of 10 years. He learned the art to defend himself from a boy of same age, with whom he fought every day, and lost. One day, on the Laranjeiras street, Tonico [M Pastinha always talks about Honorato - velhosmestres.com] gave him a real beating. It was then that the old bahian capoeirista, Benedito, called Pastinha and gave him the first lessons. From then on Pastinha didn't loose against anybody any more, becoming the most famous malandro of Bahia. He fought with everybody. He created fame and became a legend.
In this space of time, to learn capoeira and become the owner of the Angola Academy, Pastinha went to the Marines where he taught to fight and learned to play esgrima-sticks. When leaving the Marines, the returned to cause "bad luck" on the streets, being persecuted by the police. He fought, won, lost and wanted to abandon the malandragem until one day, his old student, Aberé, used to go to a capoeira roda, in Liberdade, and the masters asked who was his master. He told them. They asked him, then, to bring his master to Liberdade. During the demonstrations they saw, they gave Pastinha the command of capoeira, which he accepted.
Reintegrated to the malandragem, as he himself said, he founded the Angola Academy, that until today functions on the second floor of a house in Pelourinho.
ANOTHER HISTORY: THE CROSS-WALK
The reporter Guido Guerra, from „Diário de Notícias“, of Bahia, informs that Pastinha is blind. He can't fight any longer. He is disillusioned. [..]. Poor. Dying. He even wants to close the Academy.
It was like any other day in February, still dawn. Suddenly his eyesight darkened, he got dizzy, fainted, he lost the sense of things. Despite not taking his life, on that bahian morning a cerebral hemorrhage managed to dominate the old black man. Since that day he couldn't see the light of day any more, and couldn't fight any longer.
A fews days earlier he had won the 1.° Bahian Festival of Capoeira, promoted by the DEFEBa, a kind of EMPETUR, here in Pernambuco.
- It was the Festival that blinded me - he asserts - for this I should be supported, because I worked a lot. I dedicated my life to capoeira, to Bahia. Perhaps I don't deserve anything, in the old age, as a retribution for the rendered services?
Pastinha is in misery. One of the biggest bahian traditions, is threated the close its Academy, the point of touristic attraction of the good land.
„I won't give a day nor time - says the old black man - but you can mark it down, that I will leave capoeira for feeling fatigued and injusticed, victim of the world's incomprehension".
Later, with an air of laughter, vainly:
„I pulled capoeira from the mud. I valued and civilized it. With her I spent my savings. Today, however, the public authorities relegate my services that are known all over Brazil, except Bahia, to a second plane. What has Bahia given me? Nothing times nothing. Is this just?"
THE DECADENCE OF THE ACADEMY AND THE APOGEE OF CAPOEIRA
Pastinha's Academy is in decadence. His students help him, but the support doesn't amount to anything. Capoeira, however, in Bahia, is in its peak. The governor Luís Viana Filho recently visited the famous capoeirista and promised a monthly subsidy still this year.
By the definition of the old black man, Capoeira is not a priviledge of anybody. Who wants to learn it practises it with mastery. For her "the man defends himself and the fatherland. However, one shouldn't use it against anybody, besides when protecting himself. Moreso because Capoeira doesn't mean a foot in adversary's face. It is, before anything, an art, as any other art".
CAPOEIRA – HOW IT IS AND WHERE IS COMES FROM…
The game is old. Since the beginning of the civilisation. It came to Brazil brought by the Angolan slaves that were already masters of their trainings, physical force, agility, put into practise in the uprisings, conflicts and incidents against the feudal agents. Men who faught crushing the adversary, in seconds, killing in one or two jumps, in an unexpected turn, filling with panic and terror the streets of Recife, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro.
The mestre has always a birimbau ready to command the fights. It is an indispensable instrument. With the help of the pandeiro, reco-reco and the caxixi, the orchestra is formed. Starting the singing, the players, in pairs, squatting, start the battle. Kicks and counter-kicks. The agility is the main factor. They almost don't touch each-other. Everything happens with jumps, draggin the legs, with evasions and feints.
Kicks, negations, legsweeps, everything is parading for the eyes of the surprised tourist. In the saying of Odorico Tavares, "it's a miracle where the violence of an attack results in another attack, where nobody touches the other, nobody is injured nor insulted".
The capoeiristas of the past filled some pages of the famous writers with most enjoyable adventures. Gilberto Amado, for example, speaks of famous Nascimento Grande, who lived in Recife in the first three decades of the century.
Singing the „apanha laranja no chão tico-tico“, Coelho Neto liked to, in hiding, to practise capoeira. Raimundo Magalhães Júnior speaks of the subject in his book „Deodoro, a sword against the Empire“. And Coêlho Neto cites the baron of Rio Branco as a capoeirista in his student times.
The history of capoeira is still to be written in detail. In the past, it envolved many young people who later entered to our history. It was liked and practised by the finest boys of the times. It is a pity that here in Pernambuco it was gone after the police persecution. In Bahia, however, it remained as a tradition, despite many learning the art as a type of jiujitsu of karate.