Monday, April 23, 2007

Mestre Pastinha

Mestre Pastinha
(born Vicente Ferreira Pastinha April 5, 1889, Salvador, Brazil - November 13, 1981) was a mestre (a master practitioner) of the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira.

The son of José Señor Pastinha and Eugênia Maria de Carvalho, he was exposed to Capoeira at the age of 8 by an African named Benedito. The story goes that an older and stronger boy from Pastinha's neighborhood would often bully and beat him up. One day Benedito saw the aggression that Pastinha suffered, then told him to stop by his house as he was going to teach him few things. In his next encounter with that boy, Pastinha defeated him so quickly that the older boy became his admirer.

Formative Years

Mestre Pastinha had a happy and modest childhood. In the mornings he would take art classes at the Liceu de Artes e Ofício school where he learned to paint; afternoons were spent playing with kites and practicing Capoeira. He continued his training with Benedito for three more years.

Later, he joined a sailor school by his fathers wishes, which would not support the Capoeira practice. At the school he would teach Capoeira to his friends. At the age of 21, he left the sailor school to become a professional painter. In his spare time he would secretly practice Capoeira, since it was still illegal at that time.

Inheriting Capoeira Angola

In 1941, by Aberrê's (Pastinha's former student) invitation, Pastinha went to a Sunday roda at ladeira do Gengibirra located at bairro da Liberdade, where the best Capoeira mestres would hang out. Aberrê was already famous in these rodas (see Capoeira), and after spending the afternoon there, one of the greatest mestres of Bahia, mestre Amorzinho, asked Pastinha to take charge of Capoeira Angola.

As a result, in 1942 Pastinha founded the first Angola school, the Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola, located at the Pelourinho. His students would wear black pants and yellow t-shirt, the same colour of the "Ypiranga Futebol Clube", his favorite soccer club.

He participated with the Brazilian delegation of the "First International Festival de Artes Negras" in Dakar, Senegal (1966), bringing with him João Grande, João Pequeno, Mestre Gato Preto, Mestre Gildo Alfinete, Mestre Roberto Satanás and Camafeu de Oxossi.

Twilight Years

Pastinha worked as shoe shiner, tailor, gold prospector, security guard (leão de chácara) at a gambling house (casa de jogo) and construction worker at the Porto de Salvador to support himself financially so he could do what he loved the most, to be an Angoleiro.

Eventually Pastinha's academy fell on hard times. Pastinha, old, sick and almost totally blind, was asked by the government to vacate his building for renovations. But the space was never returned to him. Instead it became a restaurant and entertainment outlet. Pastinha died a broken man and bitter about his treatment, but never regretted living the life of a Capoeirista. Pastinha was left abandoned in a city shelter (abrigo D. Pedro II - Salvador).

Having dedicated his entire life to Capoeira Angola, he played his last game of Capoeira on April 12, 1981. Mestre Pastinha, the father and protector of Capoeira Angola, died at the age of 92 on November 13, 1981. He is survived by two of his most learned students, João Grande and João Pequeno who continue to share Pastinha's Capoeira Angola with the world.

Dr. C. Daniel Dawson would later write,
'Pastinha was a brilliant Capoeirista whose game was characterized by his agility, quickness and intelligence (…). Pastinha wanted his students to understand the practice, philosophy and tradition of pure Capoeira Angola. As he said, "I practice the true Capoeira Angola and in my school they learn to be sincere and just. That is the Angola law. I inherited it from my grandfather. It is the law of loyalty. The Capoeira Angola that I learned - I did not change it here in my school… When my students go on they go on to know about everything. They know; this is fight, this is cunning. We must be calm. It is not an offensive fight. Capoeira waits (…). The good Capoeirista must know how to sing, play Capoeira and the instruments of Capoeira."'

Excerpt from Capoeira Angola and Mestre João Grande by C. Daniel Dawson


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