capoeira history

Capoeira is a very unique art form. It is described by many as martial art disguised as a dance. It was created through the desire for freedom.

African people were brought to Brazil during the years of transatlantic slave trade. Those who survived the journey were separated from the loved ones upon reaching the Brazilian coast. These people, who were from different cultures and different languages, were sold to different plantations throughout Brazil, which made organised protests against oppression very difficult.

After years, through fusion of traditions and rituals and desire to free themselves, Capoeira was born. The enslaved mastered their fighting skills by disguising dangerous kicks in a form of a dance, not to reveal their real intentions to the owners and the plantations' foremen.

The enslaved often tried to escape from captivity. Some of those who managed, created independent villages deep in Brazilian forests called Quilombos. These settlements became home to many others who managed to flee the Senzalas (the slave quarters on plantations). The most famous was Quilombos dos Palmares, near Recife.

From about 1814 any form of African culture was prohibited in Brazil. It was thought that any ritual that united the enslaved, gave them sense of nationality and self-confidence.

After the abolition of slavery (1888), Capoeira was prohibited yet again in 1892. This time free Capoeiristas with no jobs were regarded as skilful criminals.

All started to change at the beginning of the twentieth century, when some members of society started to recognise Capoeira as a unique form of manifestation of Brazilian culture. In 1930s, the president of Brazil, Getulio Vargas abolished the prohibition. At that time two other important figures in Capoeira history also came into play – Mestre Pastinha and Mestre Bimba and the first Capoeira Academies were opened.

Today Capoeira is a phenomenon and is said to be practised in more than 60 countries.

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Pelourinho, Salvador, Bahia