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Capoeira History














Capoeira is a form of art that is proposed to have its origins in Angola. It was once a very valuable form of struggle black slaves used to gain freedom. It was a singular fight in which black slaves showed their ability to attack and defend themselves  without, however, hitting their opponents. But over time, it was turned into a fun game, amongst friends. With this character, it became and remains popular in all states of Brazil.

However, researchers, anthropologists and historians are still seeking the answer to the following question: "Is Capoeira an African or a Brazilian invention?" Was it a creation of the slaves who were hungry for freedom? Or an invention of the natives?


Scientific opinions tend to adopt the "Brazilian" side, and here are some examples: In a book titled “The Art of Grammar language mostly used in Brazil Coast” edited in 1595 by Father José de Anchieta, there is a quote that stating “the Tupi-Guarani, amused themselves playing capoeira”. Guilherme de Almeida in the book “Music in Brazil” outlines the native roots of Capoeira. The Portuguese explorer Martim Afonso de Sousa reported that tribes were playing Capoeira. In one of his articles, Austrian professor Gerhard Kubik, anthropologist and member of the world association of folklore and expert on African affairs, says it is surprising to "call the Brazilian Capoeira Angola, when there exists no such thing". Waldeloir Rego, who wrote what was considered the best study on Capoeira, defends the thesis that Capoeira was invented in Brazil. Brasil Gerson, historian of the streets of Rio de Janeiro, thinks that the game was born in the market, when slaves were playing fighting while waiting to be served.  Another historian, Cascudo, states that “ it has been brought by the Bantu-Congo-angoleses practicing liturgical dances to the sound of percussion instruments” becoming a wrestle in Brazil, due to the necessity of defending themselves. Finally, Antenor Rising, says that capoeira is related to the bird Uru (odontophorus capueira-spix), whose male is very jealous and fights violently with rivals who dare to enter his realm (some Capoeira movements  resemble the birds fighting). 

In most recent history, during the Dutch invasion in 1624, Capoeira was practised by slaves and natives (the first two victims of colonisation) who fled to the woods taking advantage of the confusion generated. Blacks created Quilombos, among which the most famous was Palmares. According to the legend, its leader Zumbi was an invincible warrior who practiced Capoeira. After this time, there was a dark period and the Renaissance of the 19th century turned Capoeira into a social phenomenon that took over the urban centres of Brazil like Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife. The 'gangs' of Capoeiristas disturbed the citizens of Rio de Janeiro, and became a problem for the viceroys.

They would spread around the city defending  their precarious freedom by using either their physical power or simple weapons like sticks and knives. Then, in the early twentieth century, Major Vidigal, Chief of Police of Rio de Janeiro, appeared: a vicious and cruel  man who seemed to rule  every area.

The Machado de Assis and art Debret, registered the presence of capoeira in the customs of the time. The capoeiristas lived in “ground”, real gangs, they received nicknames like “guaiamus” or “nagôs”. As “ground”, played an active role in historical events as: the revolt of the mercenaries (foreign soldiers hired for the Paraguayan war rebelled and were driven by capoeiristas), in conflicts between monarchists and republicans and even in the Proclamation of the Republic. Bahia's gangs were upset during the Paraguayan war: the provincial government, recruited the strength of barns, who he sent south as “patriotic volunteers”.

Manuel Querino, account that many of them distinguished themselves by acts of bravery on the battlefield. When they fought among themselves, the cry of war scared the tins to the branch: “fêcha, fêcha!” meant the beginning of a quarrel and who was around.

Reportedly the bodyguard of Joseph Sponsorship and Emperor of Ditself. Pedro I, was formed by capoeiristas. This prestige began to fall with abolition laws: no qualifications at all, a human mass of disputed imaginary jobs. The game is embodied as dangerous and its extinction became the watchword. The gangs have become powerful protectors of dubious deals and audacity culminated in Decree-Law 487, decreed by Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca, in 1890: from the day 11 October, every capoeira fighter caught in the act would be banished to the island of Fernando de Noronha for a period of six months.

Nevertheless, the poultry showed its strength: to be held one of its most fearful, the Portuguese nobleman José dos Reis Elísio ( Juca Reis ), arrested by Sampaio Ferraz. The republican government suffered its first ministerial crisis. Juca Reis was none other than the brother of the Earl of Matosinhos, newspaper owner “The Country”, as defender of the republican cause. In the pages of the newspaper, Quintino Bocaiúva defended tooth and nail to free Joey and the government of Marshal was forced to turn back: He eventually returned to


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