Origins of Capoeira

From the Capoeira Abolicao website

Capoeira (literally, a low, grass clearing in the indigenous Tupi Guarani language) emerged during the times of slavery in Brazil’s vast sugar and coffee plantations. Developed as a method of self- defense, Capoeira was born out of the Brazilian slaves’ intense desire for freedom. Captive slaves in Brazil did not passively accept the injustices they faced each day. Rather, they rebelled and created this unique and amazing fight in order to free themselves from the cruelty and discrimination of their time. Former captive slaves soon joined in unison and created vast cities of runaway slaves known as “quilombos”. The most famous of these was Quilombo de Palmares, led by the great warrior Zumbi de Palmares, which lasted over 80 years. Throughout the years, newly freed blacks in these quilombos further developed their Capoeira skills and helped other captive slaves gain their freedom as well. The warriors of the quilombos, known as “quilombolas”, also led several violent attacks against the Portuguese monarchy that controlled Brazil at the time in hopes of abolishing slavery altogether. Part of this dream finally became reality in 1888 when Dona Isabel, who led the throne at the time, surrendered to the rebellious “quilombolas” and was forced to sign the “Lei Aurea”, or “Aurea Law”. Although this was an important step toward justice, blacks, indigenous peoples, and any one who supported the abolitionist movement in Brazil continued to be discriminated against. Capoeira continued to play a major political role in shaping Brazil’s history. Many capoeiristas used their skills to survive in harsh times and were often hired by corrupt politicians to eliminate possible competition for government offices. Due to this increase in violence, Capoeira was soon banned as a “dirty” fight practiced only by “marginal criminals”. Any person found practicing Capoeira was severely punished and often deported to the small island of Fernando de Noronha to perform forced labor. It wasn’t until 1932, during the presidency of Getulio Vargas, that the great Mestre “Bimba” was able to establish the first legitimate Capoeira academy and show the people of Brazil and of the world that this “one and only” fight was, and still is, a national treasure.

to read more, visit the Capoeira Abolicao Website.