The Diaspora of Rio de Janeiro’s capoeiras during the First Republic: the case of São Paulo

Por Pedro Cunha

When we think of the historical process by which capoeira developed, we often overlook the rich exchanges that took place among people of different backgrounds and experiences in Brazil during the period before the Angola and Regional lineages were consolidated. In the research for my MA, “Capoeiras e valentões na História de São Paulo” (CUNHA, 2011), some interesting instances of capoeira practice are registered, involving men from every corner of Brazil and even from abroad. This paper discusses some of these cases, highlighting the diaspora of capoeiras from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo after the Proclamation of the Republic on November 15, 1889, when Police Chief João Batista Sampaio Ferraz began a violent persecution of practitioners of the fighting game.

According to Soares, the “Steel goatee beard”, as Sampaio Ferraz came to be called, immediately after being appointed began arbitrarily arresting and deporting capoeiras to Fernando de Noronha, without the backing of any judicial measure. On January 3, 1890, a war steamer set sail for the remote island, carrying 154 capoeiras, including well-known jackknife fighters and gang leaders. (SOARES, 1999, p. 264) The situation of capoeiras in the city of Rio de Janeiro became even worse with the approval, on October 11, 1890, of the Republic’s new Criminal Code, which criminalised capoeira by means of Book III, chapter XIII, “Of Vagrants and Capoeira”, article 402.

This direct persecution of capoeiras in Rio de Janeiro occurred also in other regions, where electoral henchmen likewise annoyed Republican politicians. In Pará, for example, a hunt for capoeiras associated with conservative groups began even before approval of the 1890 Penal Code, and many “tough guys” were deported to Amapá (LEAL, 2008, pp. 105-123). In São Paulo State, however, the persecution of capoeiras that began in the Federal District (Rio de Janeiro) and was institutionalised by the Penal Code apparently had a different impact, due to the specific political context in each of the main Brazilian cities.

Quintino de Lacerda, portrayed by artist Lauro Ribeiro da Silva and reproduced in the book História de Santos/Poliantéia Santista, by Francisco Martins dos Santos and Fernando Martins Lichti, 1986

Many black leaders of the abolitionist movement in São Paulo were staunch republicans, such as Quintino de Lacerda, a native of Itabaiana in the state of Sergipe who, after being brought to the city of Santos in 1874 while still a enslaved, was freed in 1880 by the republicans Antonio and Joaquim Lacerda Franco, and chosen to head the Jabaquara Quilombo (LANNA, 1996, p. 193). This maroon stronghold was organised in 1882 by part of the São Paulo elite supporting the end of slavery. The quilombo would have welcomed between two and twenty thousand people according to different sources and periods. There is no clear record whether Lacerda was a capoeira or not, but in a one source we find that Jabaquara had brave men and women like “Manoel Leocádio, a tough native, fearless capoeira and with a batuque that you can only believe it exists if you see it”, and his wife Maria Theresa, who went with the leader of the quilombo to the Casqueiro bridge, in Cubatão, in 1889, to fight in favour of Floriano Peixoto [Republican general] (A TRIBUNA, 26/01/1939).

In addition to the political context, it is possible that the lack of manpower to deal with the growing number of capoeiras in São Paulo contributed to police chief Bernardino de Campos’ uncertainty about how to deal with them. After receiving letters on how to proceed with the arrest of capoeiras, sent by delegados [local police officers] from different locations in the early 1890s, such as Ribeirão Preto, Santos and Santa Rita do Passa Quatro, (AESP, Police, letters of 02/02/1890, 20/02/1890 and 25/02/1890) Bernardino de Campos consulted the State Governor, Prudente José de Moraes Barros, about an occurrence in São João do Rio Claro, in August 1890, involving a “capoeira, gambler, troublemaker and vagabond” named João Antonio dos Santos, “known as Bambú, ex-soldier of the 7th infantry battalion”. When asked what destination he should give the individual, the governor only authorised the capoeira to be sent to the Minister of Justice, without giving further guidance on how this type of problem should be solved. (AESP, Police, letter of 25/08/1890).

Cariocan Diáspora

Detail of the letter of 25/08/1890, one can read the reply: “I authorize the remittance to the Minister of Justice to provide further destination.”

Curiously or not, the first letter from a delegado to the São Paulo Chief of Police, referring to problems caused by capoeiras from Rio de Janeiro, originated in the city of Itu, where, in 1858, a municipal ordinance was passed imposing penalties on “any person who, in the squares, streets, public houses or any public place, practices or exercises the game called capoeiras. (AH-ALESP, register CP58-018, p. 6) It was also in this city that the great persecutor of capoeiragem, Sampaio Ferraz, did his preparatory studies in 1878 to enter São Paulo’s Law School. (MELO, 1954, p. 213)

The reply of the Chief of Police of São Paulo to the Ofício de 01/02/1890, from the delegado de Itu.

On February 1, 1890, the delegado of Itu wrote to the chief of police of São Paulo, requesting guidance on how to proceed in the presence of a man who claimed to be Italian and who had hit a child’s left arm with a jack knife, his “inseparable companion”. For the authority, the bully “was part of a gang of capoeiras that recently infested the city of Rio de Janeiro, and who, persecuted by the police of that city, came to these parts to hide from that persecution”. This was because he “came from Rio de Janeiro a few days ago, and, being experienced in capoeiragem, made it known that he was not unfamiliar with the trade!” In view of this, the capoeira was sent to the Chief of Police, to be dealt with as he saw fit. What must have been the Itu authority’s surprise when he received the reply, written in pencil at the top of the letter he had sent, that, since the capoeira was “subject to conscription to the Army and Navy, the sending of the individual was irregular” and that “if he is a vagrant and a troublemaker”, the delegado should simply use the legislation in force against such contraventions. In other words, the fact that he was a skilful capoeira with a jack knife mattered little. (AESP, Police, letter of 01/02/1890).

In a letter dated 01/02/1890, the Itu delegado Joaquim de Vasconcellos sent the São Paulo police chief, Bernardino de Campos, an individual of Italian origin who was said to be one of the capoeiras fleeing persecution in Rio de Janeiro. At the top, one can read the reply that “if he is a vagrant and a troublemaker, he should use against [the arrested] the resources” that deal with these crimes, referring to the articles of legislation handling such misdemeanours.

The same can be deduced from another letter, dated May 10, 1890, from Sorocaba, where a local code of ordinances was also passed restricting capoeira (AH-ALESP, Câmaras municipais, cadastro CP50-017, p. 47), in the middle of the 19th century. In the document, the delegado says that he transferred as a matter of urgency Ricardo Florencio, Spanish, single, 30 years old or so, for being a “real vagabond”, with no fixed address, and that he was arrested three times in a row for theft, “being once in Santos and twice in this city”. According to the authority, this individual was “a real thief, and one of the capoeiras fugitives from the Federal Capital”, which led him to send him to the Chief of Police. Shortly thereafter, he received a surprising reply, stating that the capoeira had been set free, “since the prisoner is not subject to any proceedings here,” and recommended that the delegado “not continue to send individuals to this capital under the conditions he came, since the police headquarters have no means of obtaining them beyond those established in the criminal laws which are the responsibility of this police station. (AESP, Police, letter of 10/05/1890)

These examples make a few points clear. First, the chief of police had little concern for capoeiras, or at least lacked resources to conduct a systematic persecution along the lines of that which had occurred in Rio de Janeiro. Second, there was a strong presence of immigrants among Rio de Janeiro’s capoeira practitioners, something already established by scholars such as Carlos Eugênio Soares and Antônio Liberac Pires.

One possibility for the arrival of capoeiras from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo would be linked to the railway tracks that connected the capital of the Republic to the interior of São Paulo. According to folklorist Alceu Maynard Araújo, “when Botucatu was still the terminus of the Sorocabana railway, some waves of capoeiras were disembarked there from Rio de Janeiro”. About this case, he adds that the capoeiras “adjusted themselves neatly to the industrious Botucatu people” and in 1927, “when the Athletic Bloco Pedotríbico Orfeu was created,” a famous carioca capoeira named Menê “started a group of students in this sport, losing his rustiness to teach the rasteiras, rabo-de-arraia [capoeira movements], etc.” (ARAÚJO, 1964, p. 314).

Map of the EFS lines in 1945. (Collection of the Paulista Company Museum).

Another point to be highlighted on this subject is that men from the most diverse origins and social classes would have found themselves in this situation. The arrival of capoeira practitioners from Rio de Janeiro’s high society contributed to breaking a long silence of São Paulo’s intellectuals on the subject of the capoeira. In the book Gente rica, José Agudo – pseudonym of José da Costa Sampaio – describes a meeting between distinguished men from São Paulo, whose intention was to form a mutual society to institute a “pension for those who have contributed for 20 years”. Among these illustrious men was Jeronymo de Magalhães, who “had appeared in São Paulo when Dr. Sampaio Ferraz held the post of chief of police in the Federal Capital”. According to the author, Jeronymo “was one of the capoeiras who escaped from the pursuit of that energetic official”. (AGUDO, 1912, p. 78).

The apparent protection afforded capoeiras in São Paulo territory, however, did not mean absolute freedom of action. São Paulo was moving towards modernity and could not accept “barbaric behaviour”. In practice, São Paulo began a process of social exclusion of former slaves. Petrônio José Domingues points out in his study on blacks and labour in the post-abolition period in São Paulo how “racism in the São Paulo way was resourceful as to the exclusion of blacks from the job market,” at times pointing to ” vagrancy”, at other times identifying the “professional unpreparedness of the black population as the causes of their poverty and marginalization”. (DOMINGUES, 2000, p. 78) Among other examples, he cites an article published in the magazine O Kosmos, on October 19, 1924, about Bernardo Vianna, a black man from Rio de Janeiro who was shocked to see what was happening to blacks in São Paulo, stating that jobs could not be found “due to a ‘mute and odious war’ that blacks suffer in São Paulo and cities in the interior of the state”. (DOMINGUES, 2000, p. 81)

An understanding of the difficulties black workers had in entering the formal labour market in São Paulo at the beginning of the 20th century is essential to an understanding of the transformation capoeira underwent, like other slave-based cultural forms, in the post-abolition period. Unable to find formal employment, men of colour used every tool at their disposal, including martial skills, to survive in black strongholds such as Morro do Piolho, in the city of São Paulo.

Espírita Street and Piolho hill, in Cambuci, in the year 1904.

One reference to the presence of capoeiras and tough guys in this location is a photograph reproduced in the book Retratos da velha São Paulo (SESSO JÚNIOR, 1983), which bears the following caption: “a view of the old Espírita Street with the Lavapés corner. In the background, the famous ‘Morro do Piolho’, [‘Lice Hill’] a place where the ‘capoeiras’, the scoundrels and bullies of the Cambuci neighbourhood used to gather in the past. Photo from 1904”. What is striking about the photo, reproduced below, is the presence of a man, apparently black and dressed as a malandro [rogue], in a black suit and hat hanging to the side, leaning against a post and surrounded by boys.

It is also worth mentioning that these “capoeiras, rogues and bullies” may have served as inspiration for one of the most famous characters played by Adoniran Barbosa on the radio, who was part of the programme Histórias das Malocas (1956): Charutinho, “the unsuccessful and idle rascal from Morro do Piolho”. The success of Charutinho led Adoniran to compose, in 1959, the song “No morro do piolho”, based on the programme and its characters. (SESSO JÚNIOR, 1983, p. 190)


The influence of capoeiristas from Bahia, such as mestres Ananias, Evaristo, Zé de Freitas, Suassuna, Brasília, Joel and others, on the making of modern capoeira in São Paulo in the second half of the 20th century is undeniable. It was they who planted the seeds of much more ritualised styles of capoeira, Angola and Regional, both played to the sound of an instrument which had already been lost in São Paulo’s traditions, the berimbau. They brought new movements, their own teaching methods, mandingas, malícias and typical Bahian songs.

However, it was not a one-way experience. Our research indicates that this seed sprouted and grew strongly in São Paulo because it found fertile soil there, nurtured by more than a century of bravery, bodily prowess, chants of defiance and sounds that had the same origins as capoeira in Bahia: slavery. More than that, São Paulo had a tradition built up by people from the most diverse regions of Brazil and even from abroad. Throughout our research, we came across capoeiras from Africa, Bahia, Sergipe, Maranhão, Rio de Janeiro and many other regions.

In the case of the Cariocas, specifically, we know they had been present in São Paulo since at least 1831, when a group of 50 or 60 captives from São Paulo capital, identified as capoeiras, armed with sticks and knives, and whose leaders wore red barrettes, surrounded a farm in Brás to “show the Carioca Negroes the impunity of the São Paulo Negroes,” all of whom were Africans. (AESP, Ofícios Diversos da Capital, Doc. 98A, 1831)

We also have reports that other capoeiras continued to land in São Paulo during the first half of the 20th century, including José Francisco dos Santos, the famous Madame Satã, who spent two moments in São Paulo, in 1930 and 1946. (DURST, 2005, pp. 27 and 45).

Pedro Cunha practices capoeira since 1995.

We hope this text will contribute to further research on the diaspora of capoeira practitioners from Rio de Janeiro into São Paulo and other regions after the Proclamation of the Republic and the subsequent criminalisation of their practice, with the understanding that their journeys and returns may have resulted in a “process of horizontal circulation and reciprocal borrowing” of gestures, verses, rituals and traditions, as pointed out by Matthias Assunção regarding the exchanges between different forms of slave culture in Brazil (ASSUNÇÃO, 2005, p. 69).

Pedro Cunha is the author of the book Capoeiras e Valentões na História de São Paulo (Alameda, 2015). Graduated in Social Communication (UNISANTOS), with a Masters in Social History (USP). Currently, he works as Content and Innovation coordinator at Fundação Iochpe.

References and Bibliography:

AGUDO, José. Gente rica: scenas da vida paulistana. São Paulo: Ed. O Pensamento, 1912.

ARAÚJO, Alceu Maynard. Folclore nacional (volume II): danças, recreação, música. São Paulo: Melhoramentos, 1964.

ASSUNÇÃO, Matthias Röhrig. Capoeira: the History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art. Londres: Routledge, 2005.

BRETAS, Marcos Luiz. A queda do império da navalha e da rasteira (a República e os capoeiras). Cadernos de Estudos Afro-Asiáticos Nº 20, Cândido Mendes, 1991.

CUNHA, Pedro Figueiredo Alves da. Capoeiras e valentões na história de São Paulo (1830-1930). 2011. Dissertação (Mestrado em História Social) – Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, 2011. Disponível em: Acesso em: 20 fev. 2021.

DOMINGUES, Petrônio José. Uma história não contada: negro, racismo e trabalho no pós-abolição em São Paulo (1889-1930). São Paulo, 2000. Dissertação (Mestrado em História Social) – USP.

DURST, Rogério. Madame Satã: com o diabo no corpo. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 2005.

LANNA, Ana Lúcia Duarte. Uma cidade na transição. Santos, 1870-1913. Santos: Editora Hucitec/Prefeitura, 1996.

LEAL, Luiz Augusto Pinheiro. A política da capoeiragem: a história social da capoeira e do boi-bumbá no Pará republicano (1888-1906). Salvador: Edufba, 2008.

MELO, Luís Correia de. Dicionário de autores paulistas. São Paulo: Comissão do IV Centenário da Cidade de São Paulo, 1954.

PIRES, Antônio Liberac Cardoso Simões. A capoeira no jogo das cores: criminalidade, cultura e racismo na cidade do Rio de Janeiro (1890-1937). Campinas, 1996. Dissertação (Mestrado em História) – Unicamp.

SESSO JÚNIOR, Geraldo. Retratos da velha São Paulo. São Paulo: Gráfica Municipal de São Paulo, 1983.

SOARES, Carlos Eugênio Líbano. A negregada instituição: os capoeiras no Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro: Access Editora, 1999.

Primary Sources:

A TRIBUNA de Santos. 110 annos de vida – um escrínio de recordações. Edição commemorativa do 1º Centenário da Cidade de Santos (1839-1939), 26/01/1939.

ARQUIVO do Estado de São Paulo (AESP). Polícia (1890). Caixa 286, Ordem 2721, ofícios de 01/02/1890 (Itu), 02/02/1890 (Ribeirão Preto), 20/02/1890 (Santos), 25/02/1890 (Santa Rita do Passa Quatro) e 10/05/1890 (Sorocaba).

ARQUIVO do Estado de São Paulo (AESP). Polícia (1890). Caixa 290, Ordem 2725, ofício de 25/08/1890 (São João do Rio Claro).

ARQUIVO do Estado de São Paulo (AESP). Ofícios Diversos da Capital (1831), Caixa 72, Ordem 867, Pasta 1, Doc. 98a.

ACERVO Histórico da Assembleia Legislativa do Estado de São Paulo (AC-ALESP). Câmaras municipais, Caixa 274, cadastro CP50-017.

AH-ALESP. Câmaras municipais. Caixa 282, cadastro CP58-018.

Prata Preta: an exiled capoeira

By KK Bonates – Luiz Carlos de Matos Bonates

On 10 November 1904, a series of popular protests took place on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, then the capital of the Republic, challenging the compulsory vaccination against smallpox, which resulted in clashes with the security forces that lasted until 16 November. In order to contain the popular rebellion, the state of siege was decreed and the obligation to vaccinate was revoked. This social convulsion was called the Vaccination Riot.

In Jornal do Brasil, of 11/29/1904, cartoon about Acre as a destination for exile. Source: Acre, Tropical Siberia. UEA ed.

One of the prominent figures in this revolt was the dockworker and capoeira Horácio José da Silva, known as “Prata Preta” (meaning Black Silver), who is recognised by many for his leadership in one of the main strongholds of popular resistance, the Porto Arthur barricade, located in the Saúde neighbourhood, thus named in reference to the violent battle that took place in the Russian-Japanese War (1904-1905).

The banishment of the socially undesirable to the Amazon, a distant, frontier and rustic place, dates back to the time of the Portuguese colony and extends to the first decades of the Republic. The vast majority of these undesirables were characterized as being poor, criminals or promoting social disorder.

In most cases, the treatment of undesirable “large canes”, i.e. those from the bourgeoisie, such as high-ranking military officers, influential politicians and journalists, was different from the treatment of “small canes” coming from the lower classes. As a rule, the “large cane” was prosecuted, but continued to live in his place of origin. He was first arrested, then given amnesty, and returned to public life.

The transportation of the outcasts from 1904 to Acre took place with steam-powered ships known as Itas, belonging to the National Coastal Navigation Company and hired by the Federal Government to transport the outcasts. The prisoners were kept in the ships’ holds in promiscuous conditions and without the right to climb to the top and were watched by a strong contingent of military personnel.

Three shippers were responsible for transporting the 1904 exiles – Itaipava, with two trips, Itaperuna and Itapacy, with one trip each.

 The journey between Rio de Janeiro and Belém do Pará took, on average, eleven days, and between Belém and Manaus, five days. In Manaus, the deportees were transferred to regional boats of lesser draught, the “gaiolas” or barges. These boats then proceeded till the Territory of Acre and depending on their destination there, they would navigate through one of the three tributaries of the Amazon River, the Madeira, Purus or Juruá rivers. If the port of destination was Pennapolis (former Vila Empreza, now Rio Branco) or Senna Madureira, the average time of the trip was 15 days. To go to Cruzeiro do Sul, the headquarters of the Department of Alto Juruá, it was about 20 days.

Prata Preta, an undesirable “small cane”, was arrested on 17-11-1904, at 9 a.m., outside the trenches of “Porto Arthur”. He carried two revolvers, a knife and a jackknife; his body was marked with bruises caused by a sword. Legend has it that he commanded around 2,000 rebels. He was taken along with 96 other prisoners to the Snakes Island (Ilha das Cobras) to be later shipped to Acre.

There is not much bibliographic information or oral tradition on Prata Preta. The little we have comes from newspapers, magazines and almanacks of the period, which depending on their ideological stance (pro-monarchy, republican or anarchist) affirm or deny his popular leadership, making him either a hero or a villain, as the following examplea show:

Prata Preta is a man presumably 30 years old, tall, of robust complexion, completely beardless. His fame as a brave and quarrelsome man was not exaggerated, as he was seen in the most dangerous points of the trenches and barricades, shooting rifles at the attacking forces… It seems that Prata Preta was considered the General Stoessel of Porto Arthur of the Saúde neighbourhood. (A NOTÍCIA, 16 and 17/11/1904, ano XI, no. 271, page 1)

At great cost he was taken to the Central Police Station, being previously disarmed… he gave his name as Horácio José da Silva and was forced to wear a straitjacket, and put in jail. This black man has the nickname “Black Silver” and, for his bravery as a famous troublemaker, had been proclaimed head of the uprisings of the Saúde district. (JORNAL DO COMMERCIO, 17/11/1904, no. 521, page 2)

… a terrible black man, a true devil. This black, tall, muscular man, strong among the strongest, soon took on a certain supremacy, assuming the functions of chief below decks. Armed with a thick piece of cable, he soon entered beating bestially, ferociously his companions in misfortune, only abandoning them when the red blood squirted from the wounds. (JORNAL DO BRASIL, 28/12/1904, página 2).

Everything was a lie, but there was still “Black Silver” there…a black! We then went to learn about the history of the celebrated Prata. Now, Prata is also keen on looting. It is not known until now which character stood out most in the famous disturbances. Prata Preta usually stops at the bars of the Conceição and Saint George streets., He is a heavy drinker, and usually gets drunk. The last conflicts have excited him, as much as he excited the little wenches, making them scream “kill”! in hysterical attacks. Our Prata Preta has never been brave. (GAZETA DE NOTÍCIAS, 18/11/1904, A última ilusão, page 2)

In the cartoons of O Malho magazine, several aspects of the Vaccination Riot were recorded.

About the banishment of Prata Preta to Acre we find some references in newspapers that only cite the fact, but due to the partisan and ideological use of the name Prata Preta by the press and the lack of plausible supporting documentation, what remains are clues, indications and some evidence that Prata Preta was really banished and only returned to Rio de Janeiro years later.

Regarding these clues and evidence, we quote here the chronicle of Armando Sacramento “The K. Abrahão” and the description of a float in the carnival of 1905 that had as its theme the “Port Arthur” barricade of the Saúde district:

Still chased by the man with the glasses, one day K. Abraham was almost taken to Acre together with the Prata Preta. After some explanations he was thrown out and since then, in order to avoid another similar entanglement, he no longer left the scene. (O RIO NÚ, 4/3/1905, edition 695, page 2).

The Port Arthur, of the Saúde district, is another float of criticism. On a wagon where one reads the inscription – Hospital of blood, there is a big cannon …covered. On the right side a red banner indicated the warrior spirit of troublesome feats under the leadership of the intrepid Prata Preta. Broken lamps surround the car, in a sublime verve of democratic spirits. A guard of honour of people from Acre, carrying the axe and the mug that will regenerate them in the land of rubber. (GAZETA DE NOTÍCIAS, 4/3/1905, Pepinos Carnavalescos, edition 63, page 2).

Finally, Silva (2013) informs, without further details, that Prata Preta was exiled to Acre on December 25, 1904 and embarked on the ship Itaipava along with hundreds of other unknown deportees.

According to Bonates (2016); Bonates & Cruz (2020) the oldest documentary record of the presence of capoeira in the State of Amazonas until the date of this essay is from 1899, however, evidence indicates social behaviours related to the culture of capoeira or the action of capoeiristas at earlier dates, which can be traced back to the time of the Cabanagem Revolt (1835-1840).

Intriguing is the fact that capoeira is not mentioned in Amazonian news until the carnival festivities of February 1905, therefore soon after the arrival of the exiled. The records increase until 1920, when the rubber economic cycle collapsed and only appear again from 1972 onwards, with the arrival of Julival do Espírito Santo, the capoeira mestre Gato de Silvestre, in the middle of the economic boom of the Manaus Free Trade Zone.

Three questions are therefore relevant:

1) Did Prata Preta return to Rio de Janeiro?

2) Did Prata Preta stay in Manaus for some time?

3) Has the passage and presence of deportees contribute to many press reports on capoeira in Amazonas state between 1905 and 1920?

We consider that the answers are positive for all three questions, provided that the answer to the first question is yes, that Prata Preta had actually been deported. We present some facts that may contribute to the acceptance of these hypotheses:

a) News in Rio de Janeiro newspapers reports the arrest or action of an individual, or individuals, with the nickname Prata Preta, in the years after the Vaccine Riot, e.g. 1909 and 1910. Although the name of Prata Preta referred to here is Horácio José da Silva, and that of the quote below, number 6, is Honório Manoel Leandro, it should be considered that those who did have trouble with the police used the expedient of false identification documents and false addresses to hide their true identity.

The feared Prata Preta, in the portrait published in A Avenida (19/11/1904). Source: Os Bestializados. Cia das Letras.

Also arrested was the well-known Saúde rioter, Honório Manoel Leandro, alias Catta Preta or Prata Preta. This guy was accompanied from the Central Station by an agent, being arrested when he disembarked in Campo Grande. (O PAIZ, 31/1/1909, Eleições Federais, page 2)

Solidary, political, inseparable friend, the moralist Dr. Barbosa Lima, like the political friend of Prata Preta, José do Senado, Camisa Preta, the heroic electoral assistant of a deputy who has horrified the public spirit with the greatest crimes. (O PAIZ, 3/11/1910, Carta Aberta, page 3).

There is no point in making considerations again about the fact that the incorruptible and austere magistrates have verified the election held in the National Library, whose votes are still locked in the sealed ballot box and deposited the police, snatched from the bloody hands of the citizen, an electoral scavenger hunt, which goes by the suggestive nickname of Prata Preta. (O PAIZ, 20/11/1909, Conselho Municipal, page 1).

This is where the whole programme is reduced to the case of the Council, elected by the Judges, which supported with remarkable elevation and patriotism the efforts of Prata Preta and the honourable entourage of the glorious deputy Irineu Machado, the prime contractor of the civilist Mazorca that will come to regenerate our political customs and moralise universal suffrage. (O PAIZ¸ 7/1/1910, Água na Fervura, page 1).

Honório Prata Preta, and dangerous individual addicted to alcohol, entered yesterday in the bar of Rua D. Clara, n. 67, and asked the barman Raul Santos for Paraty [a rum label]. As on the night before Prata Preta had drunk and didn’t want to pay, the barman Raul denied him the drink. This resulted him receiving a fabulous hit on the head with a cudgel, administrated by the troublemaker, who, after committing this crime, retreated. (GAZETA DE NOTÍCIAS, 18/9/19011, “Valente Cacetada”, page 1).

  b) When landed in Manaus, the deportees were transferred to regional boats of lesser draught, the “cages” or “barges”. These transfers could take a few days, depending on the number of exiles and the logistics of the transportation, among others, which could increase the time spent in Manaus and raise the possibility of an escape of prisoners from the ships to the city;

c) The first port city with ships suitable for the return to Rio de Janeiro was Manaus and then Belém. As the social, labour, and economic living conditions in the seringais (rubber plantations) were terrible, we can infer that many of the outcasts leaving Acre for Manaus would be in poor condition, and therefore with great difficulty to obtain work and enough money for their subsistence to make their return to Rio de Janeiro. These circumstances possibly forced many of the outcasts to choose to stay in Manaus or Belém.

  d) We have thus that Governor Silvério Nery in his message delivered at the opening of the 2nd ordinary session of the 5th state legislature on 10/06/1905, complains about the presence of capoeiras sent to Amazonas by the federal government in an attempt to turn the state into a prison.

 e) The action of capoeiragem in Amazonas, mainly in Manaus, could no longer be unnoticed and caused the governor of the State of Amazonas, Pedro Alcântara Bacelar, on 1/10/1917, in the middle of the crisis of the Rubber economy, to sanction Law number 920 that enacts the Criminal Code of the State of Amazonas. In this law, in Chapter VI, which deals with Criminal Proceedings, states in Articles 251 and 252 the following:

 – Art. 251 – When the offender is sentenced as a vagrant or capoeira, the sentence will oblige him to sign terms of employment within fifteen days, counting from the completion of the sentence.

 – Art. 252 – If the terms are broken, the offender will be prosecuted again according to the present Criminal Code.

Although Silva (2013) did some research for the study of the outcasts in Acre, he concludes that little is known about the misadventures of the people who were banished to Acre in the first decade of the 20th century. He also comments that there are not many records or witnesses.

In agreement with Silva, Patrícia Sampaio (2011) informs that the presence of capoeira in the Amazon can no longer be ignored. We agree with these authors and hope that this research desiderata will be extended to the northern region as a whole and emphasize, quantitatively and qualitatively, the cultural and economic contribution of convicts and other migrants in the Amazon.

The name Horácio José da Silva and the nickname “Prata Preta” (Black Silver) seem to be common at the time of the Vaccine Riot and are found between 1901-1911 in the newspapers of Rio de Janeiro referring to all kinds of people, white or black, the bailiff and the chicken thief, the knife bearer and the carnival society’s secretary, the witness of physical aggression and also the murderer.

KK Bonates: Mestre at Capoeira School “Matumbé”, Manaus, AM.

The facts narrated here show that the controversial image of the character Horácio José da Silva, the Prata Preta, a port worker, capoeirista and black man, considered by many as a hero of the culture of the streets, deserves clarification from historiography, both in the detail of his action in the Vaccine Riot, and his life in exile and his possible return to Rio de Janeiro. The memory of capoeiragem and the popular struggles in Brazil will be grateful if this is done.


Bonates, L.C.M. 2016. A Capoeiragem no Amazonas (1905 a 1980) In: Capoeira em múltiplos olhares: estudos e pesquisas em jogo / Organizado por Antônio Liberac Cardoso Simões Pires e outros – Cruz das Almas: EDUFRB; Belo Horizonte. Fino Traço. Coleção UNIAFRO :13.

———- & Cruz, T.S. 2020. CAPOEIRA: o patrimônio gingado do Amazonas e sua salvaguarda. Conselho de Mestres da Salvaguarda da Capoeira do Amazonas/IPHAN, Manaus, 148p.

Sampaio, P.M. 2011. O fim do silêncio: a presença negra na Amazônia. Belém: Editora Açaí; CNPq 298p.

Silva, F.B. 2013. Acre, a Sibéria tropical: desterros para as regiões do Acre em 1904 e 1910. Manaus: UEA Edições, 326p

Thoughts on Capoeira in Present Time

Luiz Renato Vieira

Class at the Capoeira project, University of Brasilia (UnB)

Since the beginning of the 20th century, historians have discussed whether the object of the discipline to which they dedicate themselves includes the facts that are contemporary to them and the historical processes they witness, the so-called present time. Much has already been written on the subject, including the interesting debate about the milestones to be used to separate the “present” from the “past”. It can be said that for a long time the reading of the cultural, economic, social and political processes underway were understood as the exclusive object of sciences such as sociology, anthropology, economics and political science, among other areas of knowledge and research.

On this interesting question, Eric Hobsbawm’s statement seems lucid and timely, highlighting the fact that it is in the present time that events take place that lead the historian to review the meaning of past events.1 In the case of Capoeira, an art-fight that arose from forms of an African matrix brought to Brazil by slaves, the 20th century was a period of intense transformation. For historians and social scientists, the recent trajectory of capoeiragem provides an impressive set of information that forms a kind of synthesis of cultural modernisation in Brazil, with all its marks of social inequality, intensity, miscegenation and appropriation and resignification of its codes by privileged groups.

It is with this look in mind that we have drawn up this essay based on personal experiences and references from recent history. The intention is to reflect on some of the many themes that feed the contemporary debate on capoeira in Brazil and in the world. If the following provocations, in a free and non systematic way, contribute to arousing critical thinking about the current dynamics of our art-fight, we consider our objective to be achieved.

If we take the 1990s as a reference, we can see interesting differences in relation to the current scenario of capoeira in Brazil and in the world. At that time, there was a great leap in the development of the art-fight, which expanded throughout Brazil and the world. In this expansion, it took on very distinctive aspects of a martial art. The history of capoeira teaches us that this search for sportive and martial objectives did not start then, in fact it permeates all the history of the art-fight in the 20th century. But at that time, in the 1990s, it seems that some thought it could become a complete fight, involving punching techniques and even grappling.

It was a period of much growth, but of many conflicts, because of what seems to me has been a new search for the sportive and martial identity of capoeira. Gradually this has changed, and most capoeiristas have become interested in the pedagogical and cultural dimensions of our art-fight. I would say that it was a phase that had problems, but that generated a great maturation in all of us, individually, and for capoeira as a cultural expression.

I believe that in today’s times, the master of Capoeira needs to seek constant improvement. The permanent technical and pedagogical updating of the teacher or master of Capoeira is necessary to deal with the issues that involve our sportive, cultural and pedagogical practice. Capoeira is very dynamic, and new information appears at every moment. The master becomes an important source of information for many of his students, especially to help them to filter this excess of information in these times of expansion of digital and technological resources.

Another important aspect is that, as some studies show, it is common for the capoeira mestre and the mestra to have a great role and influence in the formation of young people, pupils and students. Therefore, it is a craft that needs to be faced with great dedication and responsibility.

Rodas are held at the end of classes of the UnB Capoeira project, Master Luiz Renato.

Throughout its history, Capoeira has always suffered influences from other fights and martial arts. This is natural, even more so in the case of a modality that has as one of its main characteristics freedom of movement and improvisation. Many studies have been made about the influences of other fights on the development of capoeira in the beginning of the 20th century, for example in Rio de Janeiro or Bahia.

In Salvador and in other cities, capoeira disputed the spaces in the ring with other fights. As we know, Mestre Bimba himself and his students were excellent fighters in these spaces. On these occasions, Capoeira dialogued with other fights and, of course, had an influence.

According to some researchers, the very origin of capoeira can be a mixture of various cultural forms from Africa, brought by the enslaved, who merged and gave rise to capoeiragem as we understand it today. That is one side of the question. The other is that today we are much more concerned with the issues of ancestry and safeguarding our heritage.2

In this way, today capoeira makes a journey towards its past, and there is not much talk of innovating with mixtures with other modalities. On the contrary: now a discourse predominates that emphasises the search for a certain “purity”, which raises other very serious questions. But this is another matter.

In this scenario, we have the emergence of street rodas all over Brazil. A Brazilian tradition that is being rescued and – what is very interesting – at the same time spreading throughout the world. The street rodas are very rich opportunities of interaction for capoeiristas of all localities and social classes. In Brazil, and in many other countries, the street is not only a physical space: it is an environment of cultural exchange and construction of citizenship for many who do not have other spaces for living their culture. For decades, Brazilian anthropology has been formulating theories about the meaning of the street as a space of subversion of the hierarchy and resignification of cultural expressions. But the street is also the place to recover experiences and values that are lost with the characteristics of our civilisational process.

Thus, when a young person attends a street roda, he leaves the closed environment and has the opportunity to take a class on citizenship and respect for popular cultures. This is much more than a physical displacement, it is an act with numerous repercussions on the symbolic and behavioural level.

Of course, the street roda has its risks and requires the guidance of an experienced master or teacher, who establishes rules for a respectful coexistence. If there is respect, everyone wins and capoeira is the greatest winner. Fortunately, the street rodas are spaces that are getting stronger and stronger, and this experience of ours is expanding worldwide.

Rodas are held at the end of classes of the UnB Capoeira project, Master Luiz Renato.

After all, capoeira today represents a very complex and diverse scenario. In order to deal with the complexities that arise, it would be necessary to value the spaces for debate in capoeira in general, independently of group identities or other agendas

There are some initiatives in this direction, proposing a debate that goes beyond the limits of the group, valuing the culture of capoeira and the figure of the masters. It is necessary to value the autonomous organisation of capoeira, in which capoeiristas articulate themselves horizontally and spontaneously and find points of convergence and carry out common projects.

There is no doubt that there are many important actors in this process, including groups, brotherhoods, collectives, federations and other such entities. However, we do not think that some solutions are in line with the traditions of capoeira, which from time to time appear in our scenario, proposing the creation of centralised bodies making decision on the directions that the art-fight should take. Unfortunately, in this case, some segments of capoeira feed on our centralising tradition and on a conception that the change of the legal system can, by itself, bring about change in society.

Trying to resolve something through the creation of a new law when that needs to be done in a participatory and autonomous way does not seem to me the best solution.3 Of course, this does not fit in with the history of resistance in capoeira and is not consistent with the history of traditions of popular origin and of the African matrix the proposal to attribute to a particular body – a professional council or similar institution – the power to grant permission to exercise the office of capoeira teacher or master. This is a debate that is already quite old, coming from the 1990s, but which always resurfaces.

Mestre Luiz Renato (berimbau). Mestre Zulu and from left to right: Prof. Guilherme Valadão.

It seems very important to us to highlight that, in this world of so many novelties, what keeps us safe is the knowledge of our traditions. Those who seek knowledge of the past, of the stories of the masters, of the rodas, of the difficulties that capoeira has already faced are much better able to deal with the challenges of the present.

We should not necessarily see new approaches to capoeira, in technical, musical, pedagogical or aesthetic terms, as misrepresentations. However, when it comes to a cultural expression with a strong ancestral tradition, like capoeira, we have the obligation to always have the past and the struggles already undertaken as a reference. Therefore, it is fundamental to listen to the masters, to know their stories and to keep always alive the line of transmission of knowledge of our capoeiragem.

To reflect on these contemporary challenges of Capoeira, having ancestry as a reference, is to write its history of the present time.


1  See, among others, HOBSBAWM, E. In: O presente como história (The present as history). In: Sobre história – ensaios, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2013, and HOBSBAWM, Eric J. Un historien et son temps présent. In: INSTITUT d’Histoire du Temps Présent. Ecrire l’histoire du temps présent. Paris: CNRS Ed., 1993.

2  The notion of ancestry has been used very frequently in works on capoeira and, in general, in academic studies and in other contexts related to Afro-Brazilian cultural expressions. In this brief essay, we understand ancestry as a category that prioritises symbolic elements that refer to a past of cultural resistance. A notion that relates the understanding and production of reality with references inherited from previous generations. It is, in this sense, an indicator of a certain reading of the past and a political commitment to confront the current struggles.

3  A few years ago, I decided to no longer take part in formal discussions on the subject of regulating the capoeira profession by means of law proposal, for personal and professional reasons. I believe I have already made my contribution in this field. I have been concentrating on the work of teaching capoeira, mainly the training of teachers, and in the research on our art-fight in the area of social sciences. I have had the opportunity to register some impressions on this subject in my book entitled Capoeira e as políticas de salvaguarda do patrimônio immaterial: legitimação e reconhecimento de uma manifestação cultural de origem popular (Capoeira and the politics of safeguarding the intangible heritage: legitimization and recognition of a cultural manifestation of popular origin, Coleção Conheça Mais, Fundação Cultural Palmares, Brasília, 2012).

Mestre Sinhozinho

Marcelo Backes Navarro Stotz (Mestre K.B.Lera)

Agenor Moreira Sampaio (Sinhozinho) was born in 1891. He was one of eight children of Anna Isolina Moreira Sampaio with Lieutenant Colonel José Moreira de Sampaio, political chief and briefly mayor of the city of Santos (1899). Self-taught in the study of Physical Education, he excelled in several sports from the 1910s to the 1950s, coaching champions in weightlifting, jumping, rowing, boxing, soccer and other sports.

In an interview with the newspaper Diário de Notícias (in “Clube Nacional de Gymnastica: Uma grande Promessa” – Rio de Janeiro, September 1, 1931), Agenor Sampaio is presented as “the great animator of the youth of Brazilian sports” and talks about his career:

I started my sporting life – said Sinhôzinho, preliminarily – in 1904, at the Club Esperia de S. Paulo; as a member-student. […] with the arrival of Edú Chaves from Europe, new teachings were passed to us, out of which the Greco-Roman fight, French boxing (savate) and gymnastics with equipments were the most important. […] In 1907, I joined the Club Força e Coragem (Power and Courage), which was directed by Professor Pedro Pucceti. […] I obtained my first successes in this competition and had the chance to win the tournament of my category. […] In 1908, I moved to this capital, from where I never left.

He exercised many professional activities in Rio de Janeiro: He was one of the founders of the Centre for Physical Culture Physica Enéas Campello in Rua das Marrecas, coach at the Hellenic Athletic Club (1924), at the America Football Club (1926), at the Regatta Club Boqueirão do Passeio (1926), Flamengo Regatta Club (1934) and Fluminense (1936), teaching gymnastics, fights, athletics and soccer (America FC). He also served as coach, trainer, technician, masseur, and won several weight and weightlifting championships and fencing disputes. Sinhozinho knew several styles of fighting and acted as referee in several fights.

In the “Marvellous City” (Brazilian nickname for Rio de Janeiro) he maintained gyms and training centres in different venues, notably in vacant lots. The backyard of his home on Redentor Street was the first gym to open in Ipanema. In the adjoining land to his apartment on 270 Almirante Saddock de Sá street, also in Ipanema, the well-known “Clube do Sinhozinho” functioned, where weight lifting, gymnastics with equipment, boxing, wrestling, and more were practiced. He also worked at the “Barreira do América”, near América F.C.; at the corner of Raul Redfern Street with the Ipanema beach; next to Colégio São Paulo, on Vieira Souto Avenue; at Visconde de Pirajá, next to Bar Progresso; at Barão da Torre, in front of Notre Dame College; and, finally, at Alberto de Campos Street.

When he arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Sinhozinho probably lived near the house of Zeca Floriano, son of former president Floriano Peixoto, training for some years with this excellent capoeirista and martial artist of several ring fights (Silva and Corrêa, 2020). He soon became known in the sports and bohemian circles of the city, next to people like Bororó, Antenor da Praia, Lincoln, Zenha, Silvio Pessoa, Beijoca, Elite, among others. After watching the famous fight at the International Pavilion on May 1, 1909, in which the capoeira Cyriaco beat the Japanese Sada Miyako, Sinhozinho tried to learn capoeira in Rio, probably on the hill of Santo Antônio, but also in the conviviality with bohemians, rogues (malandros) from Lapa, and workers from the port area.

Right here on our website you can learn more about the former Cariocan capoeira and the characters that made this story: Old Malandros: A – Z.

The friendship with sportsman Jayme Martins Ferreira, adept of Capoeiragem (and later an important character in the implementation of the “Bahian style” in Rio de Janeiro), suggests that Sinhozinho had contact with the project of a national fighting style, a project defended at the time in the Federal Capital by various intellectuals, military officer, politicians, etc. In 1916, Mário Aleixo, who knew the method of Capoeiragem systematized by Raphael Lothus, invited him to teach Greco-Roman wrestling in the recently opened gym of the Trade Union of the Retail Trade Employees (União dos Empregados do Comércio), in the centre of Rio de Janeiro. In the same year Agenor Sampaio joined the Portuguese Gymnastics Club, where he became a weightlifting champion for several years.

In 1920 Mário Aleixo and the journalist Raul Pederneiras opened a Capoeiragem school in one of the classrooms of that club. Agenor Sampaio is part of the group that made exhibitions of Ginástica Brasileira (Capoeiragem), as described in the newspaper O Jornal (13/03/1920):

The sports programme of the festival also includes the presentations directed by teachers Mário Aleixo, Gustavo Senna and Agenor Sampaio, sure to achieve complete success. Personal defence and attack – teacher Mário Aleixo versus Ernesto Goétte. Boxing – Waldemiro vs. Rubens, directed by champion Gustavo Senna. Brazilian gymnastics (Capoeiragem) – teacher Agenor Sampaio x Lincoln Coimbra.

In 1930, Agenor Sampaio created the ” National Gymnastics Club”, located at Rua do Rosario nº 133, 2nd floor. The classes were free for a group of private students who learned his own style of Capoeiragem, different from the ones known until then, without musical accompaniment and specifically focused on combat. In the following year, the defeat of Mário Aleixo’s project of capo-jitsu, as well as of other capoeiristas to Jiu-jitsu fighters in the ring, where they were forced to wear a kimono, may have contributed to the construction of his version of Capoeira that tried to get closer to the warlike gestures of the old capoeira gangs (maltas) in Rio de Janeiro, as well as incorporating techniques of other fighting styles, such as the Greco-Roman wrestling and French savate.

Clothing was standardized with shorts and a type of padded trainers, using a soft material similar to boxing gloves to cushion the blows. The athletes practiced on tatami, to avoid injuries and make it possible to apply the capoeira techniques with greater vigour. The ginga was adapted to the leg work of boxing and the training with a razor (called “sardine” or “Santo Cristo”) and a cane (known as Petrópolis), as well as the Cariocan pernada, the latter without music, just using kicks and unbalancing blows. Sinhozinho used all kinds of gadgets, devices and protective equipment for the training of the sports he taught. This differential, added to the social prestige that came from the practice and teaching of other sports, attracted the attention of the youth of high society, and facilitated the insertion of Capoeira in the Cariocan sports environment.

On 04/15/1932, Sinhozinho again in the Diário de Notícias. Source: National Library

Sinhozinho was the main character of a range of episodes, from the murder of an aggressor to killing with his hands a donkey just run over by a car. He was frequently mentioned in the articles of the newspaper Diário de Notícias, not only in the sports section, but also in columns such as “humorous homeopathy” and “what was said yesterday” that commented picturesque facts in Rio de Janeiro. In the edition of Wednesday, September 23, 1931, under the title “The Resurrection of Capoeira”, the newspaper announced:

Diário de Notícias will sponsor the interesting tournament among the students of coach Agenor Sampaio (Sinhozinho). The great and justified interest that exists around Capoeiragem is resurfacing with vigour, thanks mainly to the advertisement of the press, notably the Diário de Notícias, and the activity of Agenor Sampaio (Sinhozinho)…

The highlight of this first generation was André Jansen, goalkeeper of Botafogo Football Club, champion of capoeiragem in Rio de Janeiro, considered by the Rio press the best capoeira of his time in Brazil. Jansen visited several states demonstrating his effectiveness as a fighter. On October 30, 1935, at Parque Boa Vista in Salvador, Bahia, he faced Ricardo Nibbon, a student of George Gracie, a jiu-jitsu and catch-as-catch can champion from Rio de Janeiro. In this master event, Bimba and his students demonstrated the Bahian Regional Fight. Rudolf de Otero Hermanny stood out among the last generation of Capoeira fighters trained by Sinhozinho. A physical educator, called the Bear, Brazilian and Pan-American Judo team champion, in Mexico, in 1960, Hermanny was a lecturer at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and coach of the Brazilian Football Team in the 1966 World Cup.

Sinhozinho defended the idea of Capoeira as the official Brazilian fight, a technique of personal defence, the National Gymnastics, highlighting its combined aspects of fighting, sport and gymnastics. However, after being involved in a brawl during a carnival parade in Copacabana, Sinhozinho declared to the newspaper Diário da Noite on January 21, 1949: “in my academy there are no capoeiragem classes, a sport I have never practiced. I only teach wrestling, weightlifting as can easily be checked”.

Paradoxically, on April 1, 1949, the newspaper A Noite brought the news of the “Capoeira Challenge – Sinhozinho of the Federal District against Mestre Bimba from Bahia”, reporting that Sinhozinho, when he learned that “the capoeiristas from Bahia currently in Rio, presented themselves as the best in the country, soon challenged this statement, since he also considers himself a great capoeirista and has extraordinary students”. In fact, his pupils Rudolf Hermanny and Luiz Pereira de Aguiar (Luiz Ciranda or Cirandinha), “Brazilian capoeira champion” and weightlifter, were victorious in the fight against Perez and Jurandir, representatives of capoeira Regional. The fighting match was organised by the Metropolitan Federation of Pugilism and held over two days at the Carioca Stadium, on Avenida Passos, in downtown Rio.

The same duo represented Sinhozinho in 1953, when he challenged the Gracie family for a fight during a charity event at the Vasco de Gama stadium on March 17. Hermanny and Cirandinha, also trained by judoka Augusto Cordeiro, faced Guanair Gial Gomes and Carlson Gracie. In the first fight Hermanny showed superiority, but after one hour and ten minutes the fight was interrupted and declared a draw. In the second fight Cirandinha dominated the first moments, but got tired quickly and, when he suffered an arm wrench, his aide threw the towel, consecrating Carlson the winner. In June of the same year, Artur Emídio de Oliveira, a Bahian capoeirista and all-round fighter, challenged Sinhozinho’s school under the rules of Burlamaqui, including a floor fight. With Carlos and Hélio Gracie in the audience, Hermanny won against Emidio in the second round.

Agenor Sampaio wearing the special police uniform. Photo: André Lacé collection.

Alongside his sporting life, Agenor Sampaio became part of the first group of the Special Police created by Getúlio Vargas, where he also was an instructor. From 1935 he served as a policeman, and then as gymnastics teacher for the secret police during the Vargas dictatorship (1937-45), where he retired as a Vigilance Officer. Sinhozinho died in 1962 in Ipanema, where he was honoured with a statue. His name was also given to a street in Ilha do Governador.

And the veteran Brazilian athlete bade farewell, who, were it not for his modesty and disinterest in the glories that sport bestows, would today be a name of worldwide reputation, such is the affection and caprice with which he dedicated himself since his first youth, to the practice of the most diverse branches of sports. (Diário de Notícias, Rio de Janeiro, September 1, 1931).

Sinhozinho had an outstanding participation in several sports modalities, especially in combat sports. He got more notoriety than other contemporaries who also worked with capoeira and in Freestyle figthing, possibly due to his role as educator, physical trainer and coach of several renowned athletes. But there is still much to be discovered about his Capoeira exclusively focused on combat. Here is the challenge to the researchers.

During his long career acting in several sports, Sinhozinho had as students: Paulo Azeredo (wrestling athlete); Paulo Amaral (football coach); Silvio M. Padilha (obstacle runner, president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee); Inezil Penna Marinho (Brazilian Physical Education intellectual); Tom Jobim (famous musician and creator of Bossa Nova); Eloy Dutra (governor of Guanabara state); Augusto Cordeiro (judo master); Hugo Melo (Judo and Freestyle champion); Orlando Américo da Silva, nicknamed Dudu (Brazilian champion of Freestyle Fight; Tromposki, Luiz Felipe Mendonça; Mário Pedregulho; Bruno Hermanny; Roberto William (teacher at the National School for Physical Education); Carlos Madeira, Darke de Mattos, Telmo Maia, Comandante Max, Paulo Lefevre, Bube Assinger, Wanderley Fernandes (Parachutist), José Alves (Pernambuco), Carlos Pimentel, Lucas e Haroldo Cunha, Manoel Simões Lopes, Flávio Maranhão, Carlos Alberto Monteiro Rego (known as “Copacabana”), Joaquim Gomes (Kim), the Machado Brothers, Alberto Silva, Eurico Fernandes, Manoel Fernandes (Portuguese Olympic free-style and Grecco-Roman Fight champion); Carlos Alberto Pettezzoni Salgado, Belisquete (capoeira teacher in the USA); Carlos Cocada; Neyder Alves; Sylvio Redinger, known as Redi (cartoonist); and André Luiz Lacé Lopes, (journalist).


 Newspapers from Rio de Janeiro, consulted at Hemeroteca da Biblioteca Nacional.

 LOPES, André Luiz Lacé. A Capoeiragem no Rio de Janeiro, primeiro ensaio – Sinhozinho e Rudolf Hermanny. Rio de Janeiro. Editora Europa, 2002.

_________. A Volta do Mundo da Capoeira. 1ª edição, Rio de Janeiro: Coreográfica Editora e Gráfica, 1999.

LUSSAC, Ricardo Martins Porto (Mestre Teco). Agenor Moreira Sampaio, o Sinhozinho, 1891-1962: uma vida pela capoeira e pelo esporte da cidade do Rio de Janeiro Caminhos da Educação: diálogos, culturas e diversidades , v. 1, p. 159-162, 2020.
Accessível em

MARINHO, Inezil Penna. Subsídios para o estudo da metodologia do treinamento da capoeiragem. Rio de Janeiro: Imprensa Nacional, 1945.

SILVA, Elton e Eduardo Corrêa, Muito antes do MMA: O legado dos precursores do Vale Tudo no Brasil e no mundo. Kindle edition, 2020.

The Letters: Neves e Sousa, Câmara Cascudo and the Engolo Myth

By Ricardo Nascimento and Cinézio Peçanha

For the majority of capoeira practitioners, as for the majority of scholars, there is little doubt about the African character of this art form: the possible African origins of capoeira have always been of great interest to masters, activists, practitioners, intellectuals, artists, folklorists, researchers and people generally interested in Afro-Brazilian cultural practices.

As Matthias Röhrig Assunção (2005) highlighted, the encounter between the Luso-Angolan painter Neves e Sousa with the Brazilian folklorist Câmara Cascudo and Mestre Pastinha are at the origin of the myth. Their dialogues made the representation of engolo, as illustrated in the Neves e Sousa paintings, a possible origin of capoeira. As a ritual practice of the Nyaneka-Nkhumbi people in the South of Angola, engolo – also known as the zebra dance – became an object of artistic and ethnographic interest of the painter Neves e Sousa during his travels in the provinces of colonial Angola.

The paintings by Neves e Sousa and the dialogues followed by exchanges of letters, that took place between him and Câmara Cascudo, resulted in publications by the two authors that position engolo as an ethnographic finding explaining the African monogenetic origin of capoeira. These images, exhibited in galleries and museums in Brazil and abroad, and published by the scholar TJ Desch-Obi (2008) in his book, functioned like a certificate of the Africanity of capoeira. Therefore, the point of departure of the engolo myth inevitably starts with the epic encounters and dialogues between these three characters: the Luso-Angolan painter, the Brazilian folklorist and the Brazilian capoeira master.

N’golo. Drawing by Neves e Sousa. © Maria Luisa Neves e Sousa

Khandeka. Drawing by Neves e Sousa. © Maria Luisa Neves e Sousa

The details and nuances of these meetings, places and particularities are unknown to us; we only know of their multiplying effects, as the story of engolo was appropriated ever since as a foundational myth by the Afrocentric narrative of capoeira. One aspect of the outreach and scale of these effects can be verified in the dissemination of the iconographic symbols of engolo by capoeira Angola collectives, where the GCAP – Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho was the first to make use of the zebra image as a form of representation of the Angolan fight (Peçanha, 2019).

What we know today, and which is uncontroversial truth, is that these encounters, the mutual interests and the exchanges generated by these interlocutors were able to produce more precise narratives about the African ancestry of capoeira. If until then its Africanity was known and speculated about, from now on it was possible to identify a specific African ancestor, the engolo, characterized and disseminated as the zebra dance.

The ultimate proof of this relation is given by the information provided by Neves e Sousa and incorporated in the books of Câmara Cascudo (1967 e 1972), and the images of Neves e Sousa published in 1972. These encounters and dialogues materialized in a particular finding identified by the researchers Cinézio Peçanha e Ricardo Nascimento: the letters send by Neves e Sousa to Câmara Cascudo, archived in the Câmara Cascudo Institute, in Natal, and the documents from an exhibition about the painter in the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Federal University of Ceará, in Fortaleza. In the letters, Neves e Sousa tells us passages of his daily life, his trips, writes intimate messages of affection, describes landscapes, cultural practices and African rituals that had been enquired about by Câmara Cascudo, and that were subsequently published in some of the latter’s books. Neves e Sousa’s letters have, moreover, a curious particularity, as they were made up by a combination of writing and figurative drawings that help to elucidate the messages.

It is important to realise that the letters represent historical documents of high value and its scope reach well beyond the exchanges and dialogues about capoeira. The letters provide us with tracks of political, cultural and esthetical perspectives of intellectuals and artists of the time, as well as allowing an understanding of how these subjects understood and interpreted the Afro-Lusophone Atlantic. As historical documents, the letters exchanged between Neves e Sousa and Câmara Cascudo cover a period that goes from the Portuguese colonial and pos-colonial period in Angola, from the 1960s, when they met, right through the seventies, with the end of the Salazar dictatorship, until the 1980s, when the Lusophone post-colonial sphere is reconstituted.

In a telegram dated 31 July 1986, Luiza Albano Neves e Sousa paid homage and sent a message of condolence regarding the loss of the master Câmara Cascudo, bringing to a closure a cycle of dialogue via letters between the families. If we take into consideration the quantity of letters, the time span during which they were written and the qualitative focus of their imagery and written contents, we can conclude that they constitute documents that allow to analyse, through the narratives of intimate and intellectual lives of the two families, the social and political relations of the Afro-Lusophone Atlantic and its populations of this particular time period.

It’s important to state that the letters by Câmara Cascudo to Neves e Sousa were not encountered, but indices of their whereabouts can be found with the widow of the painter and in his archives, kept in Portugal, where Maria Luiza Neves de Sousa deposited great part of the painter’s estate. Albano Neves e Sousa, Câmara Cascudo and their families, ever since their first encounter, were great friends, exchanging letters and maintaining relations of familiar intimacy and cordiality. The letters written by Neves e Sousa to Câmara Cascudo relate to various topics. Generally, Neves e Sousa wrote about his trips to Africa and his family life with Luiza, talked about his exhibitions, asked for common friends, exchanged cordialities and affection, always referring to his friend as “Uncle Cascudo”, in a relationship that denoted proximity, respect, and a relationship of extended family affiliation.

We have doubts if engolo is in fact the possible and only African ancestor of capoeira. The certainty we have, and we bring to this reading, is that the impact of engolo in capoeira and in the Afro-diasporic culture reflects its symbolic power in the imaginary of the practitioners of capoeira who until then did not glimpse an existing African ancestor for their art, and from here stems the iconographic potential of the images that were produced by Neves e Sousa. Among the messages of the Luso-Angolan painter to the Brazilian folklorist, the letter of July 20, 1964 brought one of the first descriptions of engolo, at the request of Câmara Cascudo, who then quotes it in his book. In addition to the detailed descriptions, as usual, the letter presented the painter’s famous drawings, illustrating his narrative.

It is important to mention that the descriptions of the engolo as well as the references of the relationship with capoeira appear in only one letter we found, but it suggests that engolo was the object of a face-to-face dialogue and debate between the two friends. However, in all other missives, the countries of Lusophone Africa, their peoples and landscapes, are described using a poetic and romantic language as resource. Recalling that the letters were produced in a hybrid format between writing and drawing, we were struck by the combination of soft iconographic features, suggestively represented in black and white, which accentuated a picturesque and idealized imaginary of the African continent. Although the letters refer to experiences of a period of conflict in Lusophone Africa, the vehement contestation of Portuguese colonialism and clashes of the colonial war, Neves de Sousa rarely expresses feelings of disgust and repugnance towards Portuguese colonialism. However, his poetic tone and light trace speak of an ambiguous love for Africa that served as a source of inspiration.

We know today that Neves and Sousa, would have heard about Câmara Cascudo even before meeting him. The folklorist was conducting a research on food in Brazil and, convinced of the gastronomic connections between Brazil and Africa, he travelled to Angola in 1963 in order to learn more about food habits and local gastronomy. It was on this occasion that they met for the first time. In an interview with the widow of Neves e Sousa, Maria Luiza Neves e Sousa explains the meeting between these two characters, which marked the beginning of a long friendship:

“Albaninho had been here and had known about the existence of Prof. Cascudo, and Prof. Cascudo stayed at the Universo Hotel, and as the Universo Hotel had a huge panel made by Albano and several other paintings, Prof. Cascudo wanted to talk to Albano. I, at that time, was a stewardess. […] I said: ‘Prof., I come to rob you. And so it was… Me, in uniform. My TAG [Angolan Airlines] uniform. […] I entered the Hotel Universo, I knew the owner of the hotel. I took prof. Câmara Cascudo, I stopped by Albano’s house, I wasn’t married to him at that time, we took Albano”. (Interview of Maria Luiza Neves de Sousa by Cinézio Peçanha and Matthias Röhrig Assunção, March 2008)

It is important to note that relations between Neves and Sousa and Câmara Cascudo were part of a territorial triangulation involving the Lusophone Black Atlantic, sewing dialogues between Brazil, Portugal and Lusophone Africa. We are talking about a period when Freyrian ideas of racial democracy and Luso-tropicalism were at their peak. The folklorist and the painter, in their personal and professional instances, were part of a vast circle of intellectuals, enthusiasts of the Lusophone popular culture and who exchanged ideas and impressions about their findings in their respective countries, particularly involving Lusophone Africa and Brazil.

In the letters addressed to Câmara Cascudo, where the painter provided him with information about Africa – by demand and on the former’s request it seems – it was common for Neves and Sousa to refer to African or Portuguese ethnographers and researchers, both known to them, whom the folklorist could also ask for extra data for his research. Thus, names like Ário de Azevedo, José Redinha or Oscar Ribas, all of them characters from the Portuguese colonial world who worked in African countries, will appear in the missives exchanged between Neves and Sousa and Câmara Cascudo, letting us know the connections between these interlocutors and their common interests. Ário de Azevedo, for example, was an agricultural engineer of Portuguese origin, born in Maputo, and was a researcher at the Junta de Investigação do Ultramar, which collected much data on the colonies. José Redinha was an ethnographer and employee of the Portuguese Administration in Angola, he was director of the Dundo Museum, participated in several ethnographic expeditions to collect materials for the museum and knew the local languages as well as the community leaders of the villages. Like Neves and Sousa, Redinha had drawing skills that were much appreciated and useful in his ethnographic travels.

Neves and Sousa also maintained strong ties with Jorge Amado, exchanging some letters with him. The writer prefaced one of Neves e Sousa’s important books – Angola in Black and White, dated 1972 – and introduced some of the painter’s catalogues, such as the exhibition held at the Arts Museum of the Federal University of Ceará, in 1979, in the city of Fortaleza. In the open letter to Neves e Sousa, made in a preface in the painter’s book, Jorge Amado makes the following description:

Well, dear Neves e Sousa, you promised and did not keep you promise, you said you would return to Bahia this year and bring new paintings to show them here – the first were so appreciated and the exhibition resulted in a success, remember? Why didn’t you come then […]? Mestre Pastinha had already raised the berimbaus for the game of Angolan Capoeira in his famous school and Bate Folha’s Candomblé, the most important Angolan Candomblé in Bahia, as you know, will reserve a seat for you among the ogans at the celebration for Obatalá. (AMADO, 1972, p. 1)

In this quote we can observe that there was a proximity between the two interlocutors and an intimacy of Neves and Sousa with elements of Afro-Bahian culture, among them, capoeira and the figure of Mestre Pastinha. We would like to draw attention to the fact that the characters we mentioned circulated in intellectual, but also artistic and academic circles, were participants in the construction of an imaginary of the Afro-diasporic cultural universe, even though they were driven by a Lusotropicalist premise of a mild colonization and non-existent racism.

Different moments of the research: the authors at the Museum of Contemporary Art, at the, Federal University of Ceará and, later, with Daliana Cascudo, at Câmara Cascudo Institut, in Natal/ Rio Grande do Norte.

This intellectual milieu, which involved several actors from different parts of the Portuguese-speaking world, suffered from a tropicalist Lusocentrism that sought to accentuate Portugal’s role in the construction of a transcontinental space. This was not at all the case for Câmara Cascudo, since Brazil was no longer a colony. However, in a way, his research pointed to the Freyrian perspective of racial democracy in which the African contribution to the construction of national identity was a nodal point. The same cannot be said of Neves e Sousa and his relations with the colonial empire:

The work of Neves e Sousa is thus appropriated as a flag both for the promotion of the Portuguese colonial empire in a broader sense, and for those who, living in Angola (Portuguese or their descendants), consider it a vehicle of particular visibility of the colony, accentuating its idiosyncrasies (competing quickly with an idea of emancipation and independence from the metropolis). However, the terms in which this appropriation takes place reveal the clear ambivalence and ambiguity of the configuration of an image of the Portuguese colony in Africa (and in Angola in particular) and the resulting misunderstandings and conflicts. (PEREIRA, 2011, p. 237)

We understand that this contextualization is important to understand the nuances of the meeting between Câmara Cascudo and Neves e Sousa and between the latter and Mestre Pastinha. It is important to pay attention to the the context that gave rise to the encounter and the exchanges between these agents, mainly its meanings and intrinsic motivations. They were not just  paintings: for Cascudo, it was the material that allowed him to complete his work and positioned him as an important folklorist; for Neves e Sousa, it was the social and cultural relevance of his authorial work as a painter beyond the appreciative and aesthetic domain; and, for Mestre Pastinha, it was proof that capoeira Angola was indeed African.


AMADO, Jorge. Prefácio. In: CASCUDO, L. C. Dicionário do Folclore Brasileiro. 3. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Tecnoprint, 1972. p.1.

ASSUNÇÃO, Matthias Röhrig. Capoeira – The History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.

DESCH OBI, T. J., Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Art Traditions in the Atlantic World, Columbia: South Carolina Press, 2008.

CASCUDO, Luis da Câmara, Folclore do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro:1967).

CASCUDO, Luis da Câmara. Dicionário do Folclore Brasileiro. 3. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Tecnoprint, 197

NEVES E SOUSA, Albano Da Minha África e do Brasil que eu vi… Luanda: Lello, 1974.

PEÇANHA, Cinésio Feliciano. Gingando na linha da kalunga. A capoeira Angola, Engolo e a construção da ancestralidade. Tese de doutorado multiínstitutcuinal e multidisciplinar em difusão do conhecimento. UFBA, 2019.

PEREIRA, Teresa Mattos. Uma travessia da colonialidade: intervisualidades da pintura, Portugal e Angola. Tese (Doutoramento em Belas-Artes) – Faculdade de Belas Artes, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, 2011.

An Old Attack on UK capoeira

 Sara Delamont, Cardiff University

 The UK has a ‘free’ Radio and TV service provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) which carries no advertisements.  It is funded by an annual licence, that the whole population is expected to pay for, and refusal can lead to a jail sentence.  At the time of writing this, the licence costs each household about £160.  The gaps between TV programmes are filled by trailers for other programmes and station Idents.  BBC One the channel with the largest audience, has Idents that showcase aspects of British Life.  Between 2001-2006 a suite of Idents featured adults doing physical activities, either sports or dance, including wheelchair dance, Tai Chi, aerial gymnastics, rugby football and capoeira.  Because BBC One has an audience of many millions, these ‘fillers’ are seen by many people.  The capoeira Ident, which can be seen online featured two young Brazilian men newly arrived in London, doing beautiful capoeira apparently on a London roof top with the dome of the St Paul’s cathedral as a background.  

The two men, now both mestres (Mestre Poncianinho and Mestre Casquinha) were seen by many people over the five years their performance was broadcast.  There was no explanatory caption and no bateria (percussion).  Those who knew what capoeira was recognised it with delight.  I have spoken to puzzled viewers who described it as ‘Cuban’, ‘gymnastics’, or ‘acrobatics’.  Mestre Poncianinho used a still from the Ident on his advertising flyers for many years and it is reproduced in his book.

In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic the BBC have launched a new capoeira Ident, in a new series called One:  Oneness.  These all show people doing physical activities that in normal times are done in groups.  To represent the lockdown the screen shows 6-10 people practicing alone, but all in unison.  The capoeira Ident shows people in flats, gardens or the street doing meia luas and queixadas, in capoeira uniforms (abadás).

When Mestres Poncianinho and Casquinha did their performance they were members of Cordão de Ouro.  The new Ident features current Cordão de Ouro people, drawn from Contra-Mestre Mascote’s group based in Birmingham, London and Leicester.  The reappearance of a capoeira Ident at the time of the Black Lives Matter movement is a good opportunity to revisit an attack on the BBC from 2002 centred on the Poncianinho and Casquinha Ident.

 The right-wing newspapers in the UK regularly attack the BBC.  Their owners would like to have commercial TV and radio stations and make money from them.  The Murdoch family who own two newspapers, Fox News, and Sky TV, are particularly vocal about the BBC being run by London based liberal intellectuals who are anti-Christian, anti-family and therefore out of touch with ordinary British patriots.  The licence fee is attacked relentlessly in its own right, but also as something the liberal intelligentsia at the BBC ‘waste’ on left wing, highbrow, rubbish that no decent British family wants to watch but has to pay for.  The most extreme newspapers are The Daily Express and The Daily Mail which had big circulations (2-3 million readers) in 2001.  Both are reactionary, staunchly anti-intellectual, routinely support miracle ‘cures’ for cancer, and publish salacious gossips about ‘celebrities’.

 In 2002 the capoeira Ident was used as a pretext for an attack on the BBC.  The Daily Mail has an opinion and gossip column under the by-line of a pseudonym ‘Ephraim Hardcastle’ whose stance is that of the sensible ‘man in the street’.  The Daily Mail is notoriously hostile to all women, so the column really does represent the assumed views of ‘the patriotic man’, with common sense, living outside London.  In that context it was not surprising that the Ephraim Hardcastle column used the capoeira Ident to attack the BBC.  The journalist wrote that the BBC was using white males to perform capoeira, explaining that it had been created by ‘Black slaves’, and was a martial art which incorporated dance.  Hardcastle then told his readers that by hiring white men to perform capoeira the BBC was presenting to the British public – the licence payers – a dishonest travesty.  The Ident was ‘a case of patronising liberals getting all excited about exotic culture and completely missing the point’ (3/3/2002).  Hardcastle did not make similar points about the Tai Chi, or the New Zealand Maori Haka (a war dance) or the Argentinian tango.  The BBC did not demand a public correction or make a public defence, but Hardcastle’s basic premise was wrong.  Mestres Poncianinho and Casquinha are both Brazilians who self-identify as mestizos.  Neither is very dark-skinned, but they are both proud of their Afro-Brazilian heritage and would not, in London, or Cyprus (where Casquinha now teaches) be classified as ‘white’.  Hardcastle cannot have asked Poncianinho or Casquinha how they self-identified or he would not have called them white.  The journalist erroneously assumed they were unauthentic capoeira players in order to attack the BBC.

 Of course, even in 2002 Hardcastle’s sneering comment that ‘patronising liberals’ had ‘got all excited’ about ‘exotic culture’ and ‘completely missed the point’ was an odd set of complaints. Non Afro-Brazilians had been doing capoeira authentically for 60 years, and people of all races outside Brazil had been learning capoeira for 30 years paying great attention to the authenticity of what they learnt.  Two white Scottish women could have been filmed playing capoeira in the Orkney Islands and it would have been ‘authentic’.

 Later on that decade the BBC filmed a travel series about Brazil starring Michael Palin, who was seen having a capoeira lesson from M. Gente Boa in Salvador, and the run up to the World Cup (2014) and the Rio Olympics (2016) included programmes in which British journalists saw capoeira.  These programmes were not ridiculed, perhaps because the Brazilian capoeira experts shown were all very dark-skinned Afro-Brazilians.

 “Embodying Brazil:  An Ethnography of Diasporic Capoeira”  with Sara Delamont, Neil Stephens and Mestre Claudio Campos.

 The One: Oneness Ident shows men and women with a variety of skin-tones practising basic moves to the sound of a berimbau. (

 At a time when BLM campaigners have thrown a statue of a slave trader into Bristol harbour, and a popular historian has been sacked by two universities for talking about ‘damn Blacks’ in a recorded interview, it will be interesting to see if the anti-BBC press again seize on a capoeira Ident to attack the BBC. If any of the capoeiristas in the 2020 Ident were accused of being inauthentic, their teacher, Contra-Mestre Mascote, would be well placed to reject that accusation.  He is a British Sociology graduate, and could contest any such media slurs.  His own roots in capoeira are deep. I remember embracing Mestre Jogo de Dentro at Mascote’s first batizado and very wonderful it was.  

I hope that this capoeira Ident leads to an explosion of new students enrolling for live classes as soon as the whole UK comes out of lockdown.

My colleague Professor Paul Bowman drew my attention to the Daily Mail piece for which I am grateful. 

Sara Delamont is co-author of Embodying Brazil:  An Ethnography of Diasporic Capoeira  with Neil Stephens and Mestre Claudio Campos

Anníbal Burlamaqui, customs officer and poet; Zuma, capoeira and boxeur (1898-1965)

By Ana Paula Höfling, University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

“Gymnástica Nacional (capoeiragem) methodisada e regrada”, Anníbal Burlamaqui, 1928.

On August 18, 1965, the Jornal do Brasil published a note where Mrs. Burlamaqui and family expressed their gratitude for the condolences received; Anníbal Z. M. Burlamaqui, the author of the influential 1928 capoeira manual Gymnástica Nacional (capoeiragem) methodisada e regrada, was dead at the age of sixty-seven.[1] Burlamaqui, whose booklet galvanized efforts to move capoeiragem from the police pages to the sports pages of Rio’s newspapers—to legitimize and de-stigmatize this Afro-Brazilian combat game— was among a growing number of enthusiasts of gymnástica nacional (national gymnastics), a strategic re-naming of a practice that was prohibited by law as capoeiragem.[2] It is unclear with whom Burlamaqui studied capoeiragem and for how long; what is clear is that in Rio de Janeiro in the 1920s there was no shortage of opportunities to study national gymnastics. Burlamaqui could have studied in formal learning spaces such as the Gymnástico Português, where physical education teacher Mario Aleixo taught national gymnastics since 1920, or he may have joined men practicing “capoeiragem exercises” in public spaces such as Rio de Janeiro’s plazas and squares.[3] Under the nickname Zuma, he competed in matches throughout the late 1910s and early 1920s using both his boxing and capoeiragem skills.[4]

Although we don’t know very much about Zuma—the sportsman, capoeira, and boxeur–beyond his influential 1928 publication, we do know bits and pieces about Burlamaqui’s life beyond capoeiragem: he worked as a customs enforcement officer (guarda da polícia aduaneira)[5] and was a member of the Niterói-based literary society Cenáculo Fluminense de História e Letras (Rio de Janeiro’s State Society of History and Letters), which he joined on March 8, 1930, occupying chair number 33.[6] In the 1950s, as part of the directorial board, he was a member of the committee on writing and peer review (redação e parecer) and he was elected president of the society twice. The Cenáculo hosted poetry readings and music recitals, and sponsored publications of books written by its members, such as Burlamaqui’s book of erotic poetry, O meu delírio: poêma do instinto (My delirium: a poem of instinct) published in 1939, a book that reveals Burlamaqui as a passionate man who dared express his lust and desire in writing.[7]

Zuma, unknown date, Burlamaqui’s family collection

As Zuma, the sportsman, and as Burlamaqui, the writer, Anníbal seemed like the perfect person to publish a book that would support the ongoing efforts of de-stigmatization of capoeiragem spearheaded by several other white, middle-class, well-educated carioca capoeira enthusiasts, such as journalist and cartoonist Raul Pederneiras. In a two-column article published in the Jornal do Brasil in the same year Zuma’s book was published, Pederneiras, signing as just Raul, mentions previous failed efforts of organizing and creating a method for “Brazilian gymnastics,” and praises Gymnástica Nacional as a much-awaited methodization of this practice:

“a work of great utility which should contribute to the adoption of this national sport in gymnasia with great probability of success. The sure proof of this success is the great demand for Zuma’s book, which makes a great contribution that allows us cultivate and appreciate, with efficacious results, that which is ours, which is very Brazilian.”[8]

It is clear that Zuma’s main goal in Gymnástica Nacional was to legitimize the practice—to remove the stigma from capoeiragem.[9] Dr. Mario Santos, who wrote the book’s preface and who also posed as Zuma’s opponent in the twenty photographs that illustrate the book, cites the legitimization of English boxing, French savate and Japanese jiu-jitsu as precedent and asks: “Why […] would capoeiragem, in Brazil, escape the evolutionary march or its sister forms? […] Why should we not create rules and regenerate capoeiragem?”[10]

Throughout the book, Zuma does just that. Drawing from two popular imported sports, boxing and “foot-ball” (soccer), Zuma prescribes the diameter of the circular playing field, the starting position of the contenders, the duration for each round (three minutes, with a rest of two minutes), and the criteria for establishing a winner for each match: a fighter would win either by incapacitating the opponent, or, if so agreed beforehand, points would be counted by a referee who would proclaim the fighter who caused the most falls as the winner.[11] With these rules, Zuma hopes to mainstream capoeiragem, turning it into a form of “self-defense, a sport like any other.”[12]

While many of Zuma’s rules—the presence of a referee, a point system, a match divided into timed rounds—clearly constitute borrowings from foreign sports, Zuma rearticulates street capoeiragem in hegemonic terms through these foreign borrowings. While much attention has been paid to Zuma’s rules for capoeira matches—his methodization—and the evolutionist language of “improvement” that permeates the text, the photographs provide ample evidence that Zuma’s practice was grounded in street capoeiragem. Both the rich movement descriptions and the photographs that illustrate Gymnástica Nacional attest to Zuma’s in-depth knowledge of the practice; it is likely that he had been training for at least a decade by the time he published the book.

Zuma instructs the reader on the proper stance for the guarda: “one brings the body upright, in a natural alignment, in a noble and erect attitude, twisting to the right or the left.”[13] However, in more than half of the photos in the book the players appear crouched low and bearing weight on the hands, contradicting this upright, “noble” and erect stance.

Zuma and Santos demonstrate a technique that demanded movement close to the ground, either by ducking under a kick or initiating a kick from below. The erect stance of the guarda, which Zuma further describes as “the first position, noble and loyal,” remains almost entirely rhetorical, invoking nobility as part of his effort to remove the stigma that marred the practice of capoeira in the early twentieth century.[14]

The bulk of Zuma’s attacks and defenses are based on leg sweeps and kicks rather than punches or strikes with the hands, precisely because the hands are instead used for supporting the weight of the body. Freeing the feet to attack by placing the palms of hands on the floor, Zuma’s capoeiragem demands that players constantly shift weight from feet to hands and from hands to feet. Zuma’s technique has been interpreted as a stiff, upright version of capoeiragem where movements do not flow from one another. However, a reader following Zuma’s descriptions and instructions would constantly rise, fall, dive, duck and jump. The text provides ample evidence of sustained interaction, and in fact Zuma instructs his readers to initiate an attack from a defensive move, in the same way that strikes and evasive maneuvers flow from each other in present-day capoeira. A move Zuma calls pentear (to comb) or peneirar (to sift) not only gives further evidence of the game’s flow, but also embodies tapeação (trickery), the element of deception central to capoeira and capoeiragem. Zuma instructs: “One throws the arms and the body in every direction in a ginga, in order to disturb the attention of the adversary and better prepare for the decisive attack.”[15] Contrary to today’s understanding of the ginga in capoeira practice as a basic connecting step, Zuma’s peneirar has the express intention to confuse and deceive, a tactical maneuver in preparation for an attack. Deception, trickery and unpredictability, the same tactics consider foundational to capoeira today, run through Zuma’s Gymnástica Nacional.

Descriptions of capoeiragem that precede the publication of Gymnástica Nacional point to several continuities between Zuma’s national gymnastics and nineteenth-century street capoeiragem. In one of the earliest detailed movement descriptions of capoeiragem, included in Brazilian folklorist Alexandre Mello Moraes Filho’s 1893 Festas e tradições populares do Brasil, we find accounts of several moves almost identical to the ones included in Zuma’s Gymnástica Nacional. More than half of the strikes mentioned by Mello Moraes are also found in Zuma’s book: the rabo de arraia, cabeçada, rasteira, escorão (straight kick to the adversary’s stomach), and tombo da ladeira (tripping a jumping adversary).[16] Likewise, descriptions by Plácido de Abreu (1886), Raul Pederneiras (1921;1926) and Henrique Coelho Netto (1928) attest to a capoeiragem not dissimilar to Zuma’s national gymnastics. Zuma did take credit for inventing three new moves listed in the book: the queixada (kick to the chin), the passo da cegonha (lit. stork’s step, where the defending player grabs the attacker’s raised leg while sweeping his standing leg) and the espada (lit. sword, a kick aimed at disarming the opponent).[17]

While Zuma undoubtedly sought to “improve” capoeiragem through codification, he also championed its intrinsic value: capoeiragem “encompasses, albeit still a little confused and ill-defined, all the elements for a perfect physical culture.”[18]  In fact, he proposed capoeiragem as a tool of self-improvement for young “family” men; cultivating the body through capoeiragem, Brazilian men would become “strong, feared, brave and daring.”[19] If all young men learned capoeiragem, Zuma predicted, the Brazilian citizen of the future would be “respected, feared [and] strong.”[20] Although he proposes to “improve” capoeiragem, Zuma imagines a Brazilian “citizen of the future” improved through an Afro-diasporic practice that already encompassed all the elements for a perfect physical culture. Cultivating both body and body politic through an Afro-diasporic game turned eugenicist thought on its head, allowing Africanity to be viewed as a source of “regeneration” rather than degeneration, and as a source of strength and national pride.

Works cited:

Rio de Janeiro newspapers consulted at the newspaper database (hemeroteca) of the Biblioteca Nacional:

Jornal do Brasil

Correio da Manhã

O Jornal

Abreu, Plácido de. Os capoeiras. Rio de Janeiro: Typ. da Escola de Serafim José Alves, 1886.

Burlamaqui, Anníbal. Gymnastica nacional (capoeiragem) methodisada e regrada. Rio de Janeiro: n.p., 1928.

__________. O meu delírio: poêma do instinto. N.p.: Cenáculo Fluminese de História e Letras, 1939.

Burlamaqui, Ulysses Petronio. Personal communication. June 19, 2020.

Coelho Netto, Henrique. “Nosso jogo.” In Bazar. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria Chardron, de Lello e Irmão, Ltda Editores, 1928.

Höfling, Ana Paula. Staging Brazil: choreographies of capoeira. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2019.

Lopes, André Luiz Lacé. A capoeiragem no Rio de Janeiro: primeiro ensaio, Sinhozinho e Rudolf Hermanny. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Europa, 2002.

Mello Moraes Filho, Alexandre José de. Festas e tradições populares do Brasil. Third edition. Rio de Janeiro: F. Briguiet, 1946 [1893].

Silva, Elton and Eduardo Corrêa, Muito antes do MMA: O legado dos precursores do Vale Tudo no Brasil e no mundo. Kindle edition, 2020.

[1] André Luis Lacé Lopes reports Burlamaqui’s birthdate as November 25th, 1898. A capoeiragem no Rio de Janeiro: primeiro ensaio, Sinhozinho e Rudolf Hermanny. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Europa, 2002, 88.

[2] In the mid 1910s, a few reports of matches of capoeiragem began appearing in the sports pages of the Jornal do Brasil, although at this time news of capoeiragem still appeared primarily in the “complaints” column of this newspaper and in its police pages, where it was associated with stabbings and murders.

[3] Newspapers report regular daily practice of capoeiragem in public spaces in the 1910s and 20s in Rio de Janeiro, often in a public complaints column (such as the “Queixas do povo” column in the Jornal do Brasil). “Exercises of capoeiragem” took place at various plazas in the city, such as Praça Quinze de Novembro and Praça Onze de Junho, as well as train stations, residential street corners, and various locations in the suburbs (Engenho de Dentro, Cascadura, and Rocha).

[4] In a note in the sports page of the Correio da Manhã on April 20th, 1920, and in a note in O Jornal on April 19th, 1920, Zuma is referred to as “capoeira and boxeur.” Zuma explains that his nickname was derived from his second name, which Silva and Corrêa report as Zumalacaraguhi. Anníbal Burlamaqui, Gymnastica Nacional (capoeiragem) methodizada e regrada (Rio de Janeiro: n.p., 1928), 15. Elton Silva and Eduardo Corrêa, Muito antes do MMA: O legado dos precursores do Vale Tudo no Brasil e no mundo (Np: Kindle edition, 2020), no page number.

[5] He is referred to as a “guarda da polícia aduaneira” in a newspaper article recounting a tricky situation where the male officers had to find a creative solution to be able to search a woman suspected of carrying contraband under her skirt. “Um contrabando complicado e engraçado,” Correio da Manhã, June 15th, 1924; Silva and Corrêa claim that Burlamaqui rose through the ranks and, from customs officer, reached the position of internal tax auditor (fiscal de impostos internos) at the Ministry of Commerce (Ministério da Fazenda). Silva and Corrêa, Muito antes do MMA, no page number.

[6] “Posse do novo acadêmico,” Jornal do Brasil, March 2, 1930.

[7] The book received a mixed review in the Jornal do Brasil, and a scathing review in the Correio da Manhã. “Registro Literário,” Jornal do Brasil, April 14, 1939; Álvaro Lins, “Critica Literária—Poesia,” Correio da Manhã, November 16, 1940.

[8] Raul Pederneiras, “A Gymnastica Nacional,” Jornal do Brasil, April 22, 1928.

[9] For a close reading of Zuma’s Gymnástica nacional, see Ana Paula Höfling, Staging Brazil: choreographies of capoeira. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2019.

[10] Burlamaqui, Gymnastica nacional, 4.

[11] Burlamaqui, Gymnastica nacional, 18-19.

[12] Ibid., 15.

[13] Ibid., 23.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Burlamaqui, Gymnastica nacional, 42.

[16] Alexandre José de Mello Moraes Filho, Festas e tradições populares do Brasil. (Rio de Janeiro: F. Briguiet, 1946 [1893]), 448.

[17] Burlamaqui, Gymnastica Nacional, 21

[18] Ibid, 13.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., 15.


Por: Jorge Felipe Columá, PhD in Physical Education and Culture

Thiago de Paula dos Anjos de Souza, BA in Physical Education

Rômulo Reis, PhD in Sports Sciences


Zé Pedro and Paulinho Castro. Photo: Acervo André Lacé. 

Capoeira as a socio-cultural phenomenon had a singular shape in Rio de Janeiro and was normally linked to survival and malandragem (vagrancy or rogueness). Repressed by the government during the nineteenth century, the Cariocan capoeira resisted, adapted itself like a chameleon, obeying good sense and ramifying in many lineages of groups, masters and students. Among these, one capoeira master stands out, a Vale-Tudo (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter, and a jiu-jitsu black belt, who distinguished himself with ginga, kicks and hard game in the capoeira rodas and those of life: the grand master Zé Pedro, leader of the legendary roda in Bonsucesso in the 1970s.

We start our narrative with an interview with Mestre Zé Pedro in the afternoon heat of the Olaria suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Born in the city of Santa Rita, in the Northeastern state of Paraíba, Mestre Zé Pedro arrived in Rio de Janeiro aged six, after losing his father. Destitute, he still managed to become literate aged eight, and got on with his life without never abandoning his studies, and always guided by the strength of his will to follow his path forwards. He enlisted in the Brazilian Navy as a sailor, having to lie about his age to be accepted, a way he found to survive.

He passed an examination to enter the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ) where he served as a soldier. He took a degree in Law after he reached the age of thirty, and specialised in combat, including a course at the Jungle War Instruction Centre (CIG) in Manaus, Amazonas state. In his military career he ended up promoted to Commander (Major), and was one of the founders of the special unit BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Especiais) of the PMERJ, a unit that became legendary and a reference for many.

M Zé Pedro claims that he never received any help from others through patronage or clientelism during his entire career, but developed thanks to his own struggle and merit. He nevertheless had a great friend at his side in the rodas of capoeira and of life, Paulo Sérgio da Silva, Master Paulão Muzenza, who always told him “we are not born to be soldiers, we have to move upwards”.

Assisted by his training in other combat modalities, M Zé Pedro participated in some Vale Tudo (precursor to Mixed Martial Arts) contests.  The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) master Hélio Gracie awarded him with a black belt and said that he considered him a “golden boy”. According to Zé Pedro’s own account, he remained unbeaten in these MMA contests: “I never lost a fight in Vale Tudo”.

His initial contact with capoeira happened when he saw a group of capoeiristas practice at Mestre Valdo Santana’s academy, the brother of the famous fighter from Bahia, Waldemar Santana, trained in boxing, luta livre (free-style), jiu-jitsu and capoeira. Waldemar helped to disseminate combat sports in Brazil and is known for the longest fight in the history of Vale Tudo, with his former teacher Hélio Gracie.

He started training capoeira kicks and movements, later entering the academy of Mestre Mário Buscapé (Mario dos Santos), with whom he trained for three years, and learned, according to his teacher, capoeira with great facility, given his interest in sports.

Paulão and Zé Pedro. Source: M Paulão Muzenza collection

In the academy of Mario Buscapé he met various well-known masters, such as Mestres Paulão Muzenz and Mintirinha. In this breeding-ground of tough guys, M Zé Pedro developed his skills with the berimbau, an instrument he is proud to play ver well – and became a singer with a profound knowledge of chulas and other capoeira songs. Zé Pedro pursued this path further, until becoming one of the main exponents of the “hard style” capoeira in Rio de Janeiro.

“When a guy tried to provoke, we made him fall a little bit”.

Mestre Zé Pedro opened his first own academy in the Rua Cândido Benício, in the Jacarepaguá neighbourhood, a space which he shared for some time with Mestre Mintirinha. It is here that he founded his first school, the group Pequenos Libertadores (Little freedom fighters), a name that brought him some trouble, as he had, in this period of military dictatorship, to explain to Secret Service (in this case the DOI-CODI), if the name was linked to some opposition or “resistance” to the military regime.  His story in the Bonsucesso neighbourhood began in the early 1970s when he started to teach capoeira in a venue located at the first floor (sobreloja) of the Rua Uranos, nº 497.Teaching initially was for the group called Filhos de Amaralina,  and included the realisation of rodas and shows.

The group changed his name to Guaiamus and Nagoas, in homage to two rival capoeira gangs that formerly existed in Rio de Janeiro. In this period Zé Pedro revealed that he enjoyed access to other capoeira groups, attended rodas all over the city, made friends, taught his students and supervised many rodas at this academy.

“I took over the academy, assuming all responsibilities, and organized the big rodas”.

And so the legendary roda of Mestre Zé Pedro in Bonsucesso was born. According to the master, the roda was attended by many good capoeiristas of the time and only tough guys managed to play. Asked about some game or special moment of the roda, the master replied: “The rodas, my friend, were excellent. I can’t enumerate them all. Like saying this one was best”.  However, he confirmed the attendance of capoeira masters such as Arthur Emídio, Leopoldina, Mintirinha, Paulão, Camisa (Camisa Roxa), Camisinha (Camisa), Touro, Dentinho, Gato, Paulinho Godoi, Celso, Peixinho, Itamar, Anzol, Silas, Corvinho, Amarelinho, and Garrinchinha.

“My academy became known because we had a contract with RioTour (official Tourism Board of Rio de Janeiro), so the name of my academy figured on the tourism events calendar  for the whole world”.

Hence the roda and academy of Zé Pedro became a core reference, and the capoeiristas from Brasília, São Paulo e Bahia came there to play. The venue at times also hosted them and became a reference for meeting friends.

The roda was usually led by one berimbau and happened on Sundas. The playing styles were very diverse, as the master always argued that “capoeira is capoeira”. There were games that were more flexible and malleable, or very quick, and those for kicking hard (“Pancada”), closer to his own style, the hard game, the close combat. The capoeiristas of the Bonsucesso roda played with malice and naturally rivalries emerged, for example, the one always mentioned between Mestres Paulão and Camisa. However, despite these hard games, M Zé Pedro points out, nobody became ennemy of the other, they were capoeiristas of the soul, and after the roda there always were the moments of confraternization.

M Zé Pedro had the capoeiristas Paulinho Guaiamum, Alfredo, Célio, Élcio, Valmir, Murilo and Luiz Peito Queimado as advanced students. In 1979, he followed a “call from life” and stopped teaching capoeira to study and pursue his career as a sergeant. But his legacy for capoeira remained in the annals of the history of Rio de Janeiro, and his contribution to capoeira is always remembered by the elder ones, who refer to his roda as a capoeira place of pure capoeira, technical, dexterity, agility, power and malice, a symbol of a generation of masters and practitioners from the Cariocan capoeira.


Based on an interview with M Zé Pedro by the authors and M Paulão Muzenza, 17 October 2018.

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Capoeira, the transnational dialogue of bodies in motion

By Daniel Granada

“Once the African-Brazilian martial art called capoeira was distant. Now it’s right next door. North American women and men play this blend of dance and combat in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Santa Fe, Boston, New Heaven, Washington DC, Atlanta and New York City” (Thompson, 1992, xi)

This is how Robert Farris Thompson begins one of the first books dedicated to the practice of capoeira in English. The preface to J. L. Lewis’ Ring of Liberation, published in 1992, was both a foreshadowing and acknowledgement of the expansion of capoeira outside Brazil. This represented a new chapter in the development of the practice permeated by ruptures and continuities, permeated by processes of creative reinvention.

The relocation of capoeira practice, both in Brazil and abroad, necessarily implies a social and cultural resignification of the practice, both in the contexts in which it is introduced, as well as with the agents who make these exchanges and translations operational. If in Brazil the transformations of the practice have already been intense, with regional characteristics having shaped different playing styles, in the case of capoeira outside Brazil, new potentials have arisen due to the agents’ creative capacity, the need for an implementation of this art in new contexts, and the possibilities existing outside the country. This has been remarkably demonstrated by the various works dedicated to map the expansion of capoeira outside Brazil which problematise the adaptation processes of capoeira and its practitioners in new contexts. These studies highlight the relationship between the “cultural” and the “political” fields within different national contexts, as well as affecting identity construction and the power relations resulting from the encounter between Brazilian practitioners and local practitioners in the United States, (Travassos, 2000) in Canada, (Joseph, 2008a, 2008b), in France (Vassalo, 2004; Ferreira, 2015 a; Gravina, 2010; Brito, 2017), in Spain (Guizardi, 2011, 2013) in the United Kingdom (Ferreira, 2015a, 2015 b; 2017), and in Portugal (Nascimento, 2015; Brito, 2016). Another study analyses the impact of the transnationalisation of the Studies such as Fernandes’ (2014), on the practice of capoeira in Germany, and Nascimento’s (2015) on the practice of capoeira in Poland and Portugal brought new elements to think the relocation of capoeira in Europe. In both works, the authors’ knowledge of the practice of capoeira and their rigorous reflection on the ethnographic material they perform stands out. In the case of Fernandes (2014), the relation of the interviewed masters with the broader Brazilian emigration process in the first wave of capoeiristas going abroad is evident, thus demonstrating the importance of folklore groups in relocating the practice outside Brazil. Nascimento (2015: 98-104) also highlighted the prominent role of folklore groups in the expansion process of capoeira outside Brazil.

The transnationalisation of the practice of capoeira, both regional, angola or other modalities, is closely associated with the movement of increasing contacts and international circulation of people. Not only Brazilians, but individuals from different nationalities, were, and continue to be, responsible for safeguarding capoeira’s memory, expansion and dissemination. The role of the pioneer capoeiristas who left in the 1970s and 1980s to appear in folklore shows in Europe and the United States and decided to stay working in small jobs, who discovered through capoeira practice ways to stay in connected to Brazil and live with dignity as artists abroad, highlights the existing inequalities at the international level. It is not by chance that in the 1980s and 1990s, airports began to be the destination of dozens of capoeiristas who, through their networks and contacts, sought the means to live from capoeira practice abroad. The years passed and these capoeiristas created schools, trained instructors, teachers, trenéis, interns, contramestres, masters, and many other classifications that capoeiristas created to differentiate the length of practice and engagement of the members of their groups.

The structure currently established abroad, which is the result of a collective process where men and women – Brazilian or not – operate, relies also on individual determination, highlighting a process implemented by people who come together and form groups around a practice that carries memory recorded in bodies, transmitted through movement imitation, songs, rhythms and behaviours. Capoeira’s contribution around the world, which unfortunately still lacks recognition in our country, is related to what makes us humans, our ability to create, to invent ways of living together. The practice of capoeira is the art of celebrating this encounter, of continuing with each new roda a game that never ends, which is reinvented at each meeting through the joy and banality of performing dialogues of bodies in motion, through dancing, making music and living together.

Whilst these lines are being written, we are going through a world crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. This health crisis which was also resulted from the intensification of circulation of peoples associated with the globalisation process, has the so-called social isolation as its main method of reducing the spread of the virus. In the countries that are going through this crisis, capoeira rodas have been cancelled – however, the berimbaus have not remained silent. They appear on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram lives and videos of capoeiristas playing the berimbau and singing, others moving their bodies in front of their smartphones, celebrating and keeping capoeira practice alive. Capoeiristas’ appropriation of new technologies and their use is not something new either, as capoeiristas have been using the internet and its potential to publicize their groups and events for some time now. What is new in this moment of crisis is the impossibility of meeting friends in rodas. Within the process of the transnationalisation of capoeira practice, this moment will certainly be remembered as a singular event, but in the future it will make way for new rodas, hugs and handshakes to the sound of berimbaus, thus further intensifying the transnational dialogue of bodies in motion.

 Daniel Granada is a lecturer in  the Department of  Natural and Social Sciences, Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC). 


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DELAMONT, Sara; CAMPOS, Claudio; STEPHENS, Neil. I’m your teacher! I’m Brazilian! Sport, Education and Society, London, v. 15, n. 1, p. 103-120, Jan. 2010.

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Camisa Preta

By Antônio Luiz dos Santos Campos (Mestre Boa Alma)

Miguel Camisa Preta (= Michael Black Shirt) was a capoeira, a rogue, a bohemian. A survivor in the streets and ghettos of the universe of the old capoeiras in Rio de Janeiro. Alfredo Francisco Soares was his baptismal name, one of the most famous names among the malandros in the Cariocan streets, at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Miguelzinho Camisa Preta, as he was known, by the police as well as by the other rogues, was a landmark and left his name in the history of capoeiras, malandros and tough guys that populated the bohemian streets of the “wonderful city” at the beginning of last century.

His death

According to the newspapers A Gazeta de Notícias, and A Noite, Miguel Camisa Preta was assassinated in the dawn of 12 July 1912, a Friday.

Where he was killed

The rogue was assassinated in the Rua do Núncio, near the actual Tomé de Souza and Visconde do Rio Branco avenues. Around one o’clock in the morning.

The reasons for the death of Camisa Preta

The police officer Elpídio Ribeiro da Rocha appeared on the location, a declared enemy of Camisa Preta. Some years ago Elpídio had killed the malandro Leão do Norte (Lion of the North), a tough capoeira from the streets, and a great friend of Camisa Preta. Camisa Preta had sworn vengeance and had confronted the policeman already twice. In one of them, they both ended up at the police station, with Camisa Preta wounded by a shot in the leg. In this last and decisive confrontation, in the night of 12 July, the policeman and his fellow officer, both armed, supposedly killed Camisa Preta as he raised his arms. Both apparently had offered guarantees to the malandro that they would not shoot. However, as soon as Camisa Preta raised his arms, Elpídio shot him in the head. That was the end of the most famous tough guy, bohemian, capoeira and malandro which inhabited the universe of the streets of Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Camisa Preta in umbanda

Miguelzinho Camisa Preta became a spiritual entity in Umbanda, worshipped in various corners of Brazil. In his “phalange” (or family of entities), he introduces himself with various names, depending on the place: Miguelim do Morro, Mané Soares…

There are other versions about the history of his life, death and after-death. Due to my respect for each medium and spiritual leader working with this phalange, I want to make clear that I only used newspaper articles from the newspapers cited below, which were published on the day after his death.


A Noite, 12/07/1912

A Gazeta de Notícias, 12/07/1912

Médium Gugu Fragoso; creator of the blog malandromiguel

Originally published on Facebook, posted 31 January 2020