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Latin America


Brazil is the largest country in South America, both in area and population. It has more people than all other South American countries combined. Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are Brazil’s two largest cities. Brasilia is the capital city of Brazil.

Brazil boasts amazing geographic features, including tropical rain forests, vast deserts, lush plains and mighty rivers, including the Amazon, the world’s second longest river.

About half of Brazil’s population are descended from German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish settlers. Others are of African (or a mix of European and African) ancestry. Indians, the original Brazilians, make up less than 1 percent of Brazil's people.


Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Brazilian Martial Arts
ABADÁ - Capoeira San Francisco Performance Troupe
Instruments Used
Agogo bells

The majority of African slaves brought to Brazil came from the Port of Angola.  However, they were captured in different regions of Africa.  They spoke many different languages and they had many different religions, customs and traditions.  The captured Africans were then sold in three main ports: Bahia, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro.  The tactic used by the slave traders was to mix the African people up so that they could no longer communicate with each other.  The slave traders thought that if the Africans could not communicate with each other they would be less effective at organizing rebellions.  As a result, many peoples were brought together that had never had anything to do with one another before, due to tribal rivalries and geographic differences.  They learned the common language of Portuguese in order to communicate, and they shared with each other many of their practices, eventually creating new traditions together.  Many rituals and cultural practices were brought together within this context, and it believed that capoeira is one of the fruits of this mixture of African cultures.
Most of the enslaved Africans in Brazil worked on huge tobacco and sugarcane plantations. They were forced to work most of the day in extreme heat and under cruel, inhumane conditions. They needed their cultural traditions, such as capoeira, to keep their spirits alive. The different aspects within capoeira (dance, acrobatics, martial arts, music and song) can be referenced in a number of diverse African fighting forms and rituals.  If you were to travel to Angola and other parts of Africa today, you find fighting techniques, music and rituals similar to some of the elements in capoeira, but you would not find capoeira itself.  Capoeira was created in Brazil by the mixing of cultures.
Many enslaved Africans in Brazil rebelled and ran away from the plantations. With the help of the native Indian peoples of Brazil and some Portuguese colonists who were against slavery, the slaves fled to remote areas in the mountains and rainforests to be safe.  It was in these Quilombos, or places of refuge that the fusion of cultures was able to flourish.  It is believed that in these villages, the refugees created and practiced fighting techniques in order to protect the Quilombos and to return to the plantations to free other slaves. Thus, Capoeira became a key element in their system of revolt. On the plantations, music, song, dance, and ritual became important aspects of the art in order to help disguise the deadly martial art from the slave owners.
The recognition of Capoeira as a respected art form began with the efforts of Master Bimba Manuel dos Reis Machado in 1937. He was granted permission from the government to open the first school of capoeira, thus allowing the art form to be practiced openly. It has since flourished throughout Brazil and is becoming increasingly popular throughout North America, Europe, and areas around the globe.
Thanks to Abada Capoeira for information on this discipline.


Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Aguas da Bahia
Instruments Used
Agogo bells
Tumbadora (Conga)

(pronounced ma--lay-lay) "the dance of the sticks"

Maculele dancersThe exact origins of the dance called Maculele are not certain, however there are many stories and legends surrounding its history. It is agreed that Maculele was created by enslaved Africans working on the sugar cane plantations. The sticks used in the dance resemble stalks of sugar cane, and the "Facao" or machete often used in the dance is the tool used to cut sugar cane.

Some stories talk about Maculele being a dance done by enslaved Africans on the senzala, their living quarters on the large plantations. It may have been to celebrate harvest time, or as a way to practice defending themselves. Possibly, like the martial dance capoeira, this dance was a martial art form disguised as a celebration dance. Escaped slaves would use the movements to battle the "captains" who would hunt them, using sticks straight out of the fire that were still burning.

Other stories say it is related to a battle between tribes in Africa. One such story is that of a village whose people went to hunt and left a single boy to protect the children and women. A neighboring tribe attacked the village, and the boy picked up two sticks on the ground and ran around with so much energy and bravery that he chased away all the attackers. When the hunters returned he became a big hero and they created the dance of Maculele in honor of his bravery and spirit.

Maculele is similar to some dances of the indigenous people of Brazil. There may have been some mixing of African and indigenous cultures to create the movements of maculele, however the music and songs are mostly African, (sung in Yoruba) and Portuguese.

MaculeleMaculele is most closely tied to the city Santo Amaro in the interior of the Brazilian state of Bahia. There is a story about Mestre Po-Po in Santo Amaro that says he began to use movements of the dance in the streets, clapping hands with a friend in order to get the attention of young women that were passing by. In the early 1900's, Mestre Po-Po revived and refined the dance of Maculele, and, by his act of forming a folkloric dance company, this dance form became known throughout Brazil and beyond. Maculele is performed by folkloric dancers in Bahia, and also has become a dance that Capoeira schools throughout Brazil practice because of its similar roots to those of Capoeira.


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