GOOD LUCK, MESTRE PASTINHA!
the sad end of the capoeira king
Mestre Pastinha is the introducer of capoeira de Angola in Brazil. He was so good that he ended up showing his art in Africa, the cradle of capoeira. Today he is 92 [90 - here and below the corrections by velhosmestres.com in square brackets] years old, blind and live in a humid flat on Pelourinho square, in Salvador Bahia.
Roque Mender's report / H. Pereira's photos
A stinking mattress is on the floor. It's his bed. In a small flat, there is a wardrobe with loose doors, a chair and a beer crate on which he puts the battery radio.
The old man gets up with difficulty and says:
«I'm an angry man, my boy. I took a beating, took a beating like a dog and today I have nothing, except the memories of people who know what I represent for Bahia.»
Dancing, the slave dodged the whiplashes
This 92  year old mister was responsible for introducing capoeira de Angola in Bahia, the real one, the one that the slaves used to defend against the whiplashes of their masters. It's Vicente Ferreira Pastinha, Mestre Pastinha - almost a legend. But he lives, with his wife, daughter and three younger grandchildren, in two humid, dusty rooms, the ceiling and plaster falling here and there, spider webs everywhere.
Who enters in these two rooms, in a house number 14 on Alfredo Brito street, on Pelourinho, in Salvador, will hear stories that show Mestre Pastinha as a genius, of capoeira and of life. He has travelled through the main cities of Brazil, has written a book, recorded an album, even went to show his art in the cradle of capoeira, Africa. But his wife, Maria Romélia, needs to sell acarajés, to buy food for the family and play the rent.
Even Jorge Amado learned with him
He is the pride of Bahia, a touristic attraction. By his hands passed thousands of students. Even Jorge Amado and Caribé went to learn with him. But today Mestre Pastinha receives 200 cruzeiros pension monthly. His only pastime in this smelly room is the battery radio. Mestre Pastinha is blind.
«I'm an angry man, my son. I say this to everybody that come to see me.»
White hair, rare smiles designing his lips, he suffers the last days of his life.
While he was still strong, it was a life of laughs and adventures.
Pastinha already wrote a book and recorded a capoeira album. [NB! M Pastinha is not of this photo, instead it's a M Gato Preto's roda - velhosmestres.com]
He was crying only until being eight: a weakling, the small Pastinha lived getting beaten by other boys of Tijolo street, in Salvador.
But, on a certain day in 1894 , a black african, Benedito, troubled himself by seeing one of these beatings, called him to his house and started to teach him the secrets of capoeira. The fight was prohibited - the police defined it as a malandro thing. Benedito gave him lessons in hiding. Three years later, there was no boy would cross Pastinha.
«Capoeira de Angola» explains Mestre Pastinha, proud «looks like a gracious dance, where the fighter shows all his cunning, ginga and flexibility. It is played on the basis of kicks, with a few punches.»
A young boy, he lived free around the town, having capoeira as a main mischief. Until his father, a severe Spaniard, decided to list him in the Marines. And there
it was that Pastinha became a sailor. When he got out, 21 years old, he tried to learn other fights - like a stick fight -, but ended up playd the trumpet in an orquestra. He tried to sell newspaper ads and ended up a tailor. Until one of his brothers, opening a gambling den, descovered an activiy that Pastinha liked - besides, of course, giving kicks. And Pastinha became the director of the place.
He was given homage in Caetano's music. Today he is blind and abandoned.
«When I went to get a license, the police chief recognized me. It was the same one that ran after me on the streets. He wished me good luck in my position.»
In truth is, however, that he never abandoned capoeira. During the free hours, he continue to train with Benedito. And in 1935 [for what we know he didn't teach between 1922 and 1941], already known as Mestre Pastinha, he opened his first academy, on Bigode street, close to Pelourinho. In 1941, he moved to number 19 [the move, actually, took place in 1955]. There for 32 years [16 years, 1955 - 1971], he taught to sway the body to evade the adversary's kick, to apply a bananeira, a meia-lua or a simple rasteira.
But since, what goes around comes around, the mestre started to receive kicks. The first: in 1966, with glaucoma and cataract, he lost a sight from one eye. From then on, he lost the vigor to teach. In 1973 , another rasteira: he was kicked out.
Maria Romélia makes a bean mass for the acarajé and cries hearing his husband tell these stories. She stops and says:
«The Cultural Foundation of the State of Bahia gave us a room, so that my old man could give classes. But it gave no result, because the Foundation made him give the classes for free.»
Capoeira is mandinga, is slyness, is craftiness
Now completely blind, Mestre Pastinha complains that he can't do anything in his new academy, on Guedes de Brito street [Gregório de Matos street], run by his wife and his oldest student, Ângelo Romano.
Maria Romélia says that she is trying to make a second edition of Mestre Pastinha's book about capoeira and to relaunch his husband's album, that sold alot and didn't bring them anything in.
«For all this, I can't understand how they can leave a man like him like this, abandoned, without a house to live in decently.»
I was innocent, they didn't leave me anything
Despite everything, thousands of tourists every year climb up the Pelourinho hillside and invade the house to meet one of the glories of Bahia, the biggest capoeirista that Brazil had.
Mestre Pastinha hears the noise of the camera and, vainly, puts on the dressing gown that he's had for 80 years. On this gown, that was shown even in Africa, there are scenes of capoeira designed by Pastinha himself. Proudly, he tells about his art:
«Capoeira is mandinga, is craftiness, is slyness, my son. It's not for everybody. With this tourism history, the freed the academies to contract masters, and this is bad. How can a guy teach if he has no name or diploma?»
He goes silent. And stays some time like this. Later unburdens:
«I'm an angry man, my son. I'm not against the people that took advantage of my innocence. But they left me with nothing.»