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“Here in Capoeira there is no discrimination”

I didn’t want to mix the students from Cara de Boi, who were kids from the hills. But I had to take them to spark things. […] So then the people from the college started to see and to want to do it. Later […] everything was mixed and I always said in class, “Here in Capoeira there is no discrimination. I have students who are bandits, doctors, police, people who don’t work, people who earn a lot of money and people who earn very little. Capoeira is one. This is the good thing about the world of Capoeiragem. Because if I start [to say] ‘Capoeira is only for doctors, only for police and for lawyers,’ then you won’t meet each other. And maybe, you’re a lawyer, you’re on a bus and there’s an assault, and maybe one of the assailants is also from Capoeira and they say, ‘Leave him alone, this is a student of Pantera,’ and nothing happens to you, the assault doesn’t happen.”

–Mestre Pantera, Madrid, January 2010

This description of Capoeira in 1970s Rio de Janeiro is every bit as relevant today in the United States and Europe, where news reports encourage us to fear one another instead of coming together. Decades later, Capoeira schools across the world continue to provide safe spaces in which students cross boundaries of class and race.

 

In a series of interviews with anthropologist Menara Lube Guizardi in the early 2000s, Mestre Pantera described teaching Capoeira in Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s-1980s. He began in the shantytowns where he grew up, and then taught college students at Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, eventually bringing the two groups together. He describes the social atmosphere that resulted:

The people who were lawyers and well educated, sometimes they would have parties and invite people: “I’m having a party and everyone is invited.” Those who had nice clothes would go, and those who had worn out clothes, the people from the favela who didn’t have nice clothes, they would go too, but everyone was treated equally.

–Mestre Pantera, Madrid, January 2010

Mestre Pantera now teaches in Madrid, Spain. His students teach in Brazil, Spain, and Hungary.

His message is important for all of us who train, regardless of style or location:

In Capoeira there is no discrimination.


 

(Quotes are from Menara Lube Guizardi’s 2012 article “De norte a sur: Mestre Pantera y la capoeira como cultura urbana y migratoria en la periferia de Río de Janeiro” in Papeles de Trabajo, Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinarios en Etnolingüística y Antropología Socio-Cultural, No. 23, pp. 41-58. Translated from Spanish by Kate Feinberg Robins.)

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