May 3, 2007


In the 15th and 16th Centuries, Africans were taken away from their homelands and thrown into ships that carried them away to new lands recently discovered by the great European powers of that era. After arriving they were kept like cattle; slaves were branded with red-hot irons and housed in crowded, infectious slave quarters. In the "age of great discoveries" slaves were a valuable commodity. After days of intensive work, exhausted, these slaves were gathered into their quarters, receiving poor rations of food, becoming extremely undernorished and sick.

Dutch invasions between 1624-1630 caused temporary disorganization in the farms and sugar mills of Brazil. For the slaves, these invasions brought an opportunity for escape. Taking advantage of the nearby forests, they hid themselves and formed communities that would become known as Quilombos. They were organized politically and socially like African tribal societies. The leader of the Quilombos was a king called "Gunga-Zumba", later shortened to "Zumbi". This king was a great general, who became famous because of his defensive skills and numerous victories against the Portuguese

When the Dutch were expelled from Brazil the slave owners send out armed expeditions to recapture the fugitives and destroy the Quilombos. Without a substantial amount of weapons, the ex-slaves realized they would have to defend themselves with their hands (and feet!). They created a style of self-defense that would stand against weapons and firearms. This style of fighting was called "Capoeira de Angola"; capoeiras were the name of the brushwoods where the fugitives entrenched themselves and it was believed that the first group of slaves who arrived in Brazil were from Angola.

In 1890 Capoeira was outlawed in Brazil. It remained outside of the law until in 1928, when Master Bimba (Manoel dos Reis Machado) founded what was known as "Luta Regional Baiana". A fusion of Capoeira Angola and batuque (street Capoeira) it was later called Capoeira Regional. During this time Capoeira became more than just a fight. It acheived national recognition and b ecame what it is today: a dance, a sport, a game and an artistic expression of freedom.


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