Angola, mother capoeira. Sorcery of slaves in the longing for freedom; its beginning has no method and its end is inconceivable to even the most knowledgeable capoeirista.
– Mestre Pastinha.
As I’m writing this web page, it is April 5th, 2019, which was the illustrious Mestre Pastinha’s birthday! So, who was he?
Vicente Ferreira Pastinha, or (commonly called Mestre Pastinha) (April 5, 1889 – November 13, 1981) is best known as the great traditionalist who preserved capoeira angola, the more traditional style of capoeira.
Vicente Ferreira Pastinha was born on April 5th, 1889 to
Pastinha was born to José Senor Pastinha (born Pastiña), a poor Spanish immigrant who worked as a pedlar and Eugênia Maria de Carvalho Ferreira, a black Bahian homemaker.
He learned capoeira at age 8 from an African named Benedito, who taught Pastinha the art so that he could defend himself from an older boy who was bullying him in the street. The story goes that an older and stronger boy from Pastinha’s neighborhood would often bully and beat him up. One day Benedito saw Pastinha getting beat up, and then told him to stop by his house for a while. In his next encounter with that boy, Pastinha defeated him so quickly that the older boy became his admirer. After that, He continued his training with Benedito for three more years.
From 1902 to 1909, Pastinha taught capoeira to his colleagues at the School of Sailor Apprentices. He stopped teaching in 1912 and spent nearly thirty years away from capoeira.
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 in bahia would play. After spending the afternoon there, one of the greatest mestres of Bahia, Amorzinho, asked Pastinha to take charge of Capoeira Angola. And so, Mestre Pastinha opened a center for the teaching and practice of traditional capoeira. His students wore black and yellow, the colors of Ypiranga, his favorite soccer team, for public demonstrations. (During regular training at the academy, his students trained in their everyday street clothes).
Pastinha and his students were soon giving demonstrations to groups of tourists in the hotels of Salvador, Bahia’s capital city, and recording capoeira’s music. This made them lots of friends among intellectuals like Jorge Amado, who saw Pastinha as a treasure of black culture and this helped him stay with his pursuit.
Many of Pastinha’s students went on to become great names in Capoeira Angola, such as, JOAO PEQUENO, JOAO GRANDE, BOLA SETE, CURIO, GILDO ALFINETE, BIGO, BOCA RICA and others. In 1966, Mestre Pastinha and his students presented capoeira angola at the First Festival of Black Arts in Senegal.
Mestre Pastinha is known as the “philosopher of capoeira” because of his great WISDOM about the art and about life in general. Despite his immensely important work in preserving the traditional capoeira, he came to an unfortunate end.
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 called the SENAC.
Pastinha was left abandoned in a city shelter, and on November 13, 1981, when he was 92 years old, Vicente Ferreira Pastinha died a broken man and bitter about his treatment, but never regretted living the life of a Capoeirista.
He was survived by two of his most learned students, JOAO PEQUENO (died 2011), JOAO GRANDE, and others I mentioned above, who continue to share Pastinha’s Capoeira Angola with the world.