Mestre Arraia Regional

Background, Style, History and Affiliations

Mestre Arraia
Affiliated School or Organisation

Associação de Capoeira Mestre Bimba (Alumnus)

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Mestre Arraia

Aldenor Benjamim a.k.a. Mestre Arraia, was born on the 17th of January 1946 in Jacobina, Bahia. Son of Amarilio and Arlinda, Aldenor had a brother Adilson and sister Maria. Aldenor is the father of Ali and Marilia, and grandfather of Leonardo and Gabriela. His father Amarilio was very interested in studying; he graduated from the University of Law in Bahia and had a very promising career as a Lawyer, Judge, Professor, Deputy Minister and finally as a Minister. His mother was a fine and reserved woman, very protective and an excellent chef.

Mestre Arraia spent most of his childhood and adolescence in Salvador. He loved to tell stories about his experience in the old times in Salvador, about his experiences in the city, about Capoeira and two great Masters Pastinha and Bimba. He also liked to talk about his colleagues and especially his participation in the student fight, when he joined the Federal University of Bahia to study History. This was during the 60s when Brazil was under Dictatorship by the military. It was a very tough time, especially for students who were constantly persecuted for little or no reason.

Mestre Arraia took part in several rodas, he used to be on the streets playing, chatting and talking. His parents did not understand his interest in fighting, whether peacefully or physically, but in the end they allowed him to continue his fight.

In 1960 his family moved to Brasilia because his father, Amarilio, was offered a position as a Minister in the Supreme Federal Court. Mestre Arraia carried on his fights in Salvador unifying Capoeira and the student's movement against the Dictatorship. Mestre Arraia and his companions used to protect the students in the front line of the protests.

Mestre Arraia then went to Brasilia in the late 60's. His parents took him there as they were afraid of his situation on Salvador, because of his health and repression. In Brasilia, Mestre Arraia joined the University of Law at the CeuB. It was here he started teaching Capoeira, in the south of the city where he lived. He often taught in what are called 'pilotis' (specifically the 206), much more than public squares and gardens to the natives and residents of the city. They were a cultural heritage and centre of history that represented the city itself and it's people. This attracted many of his friends: Eldir, Coelho, Otávio, João Paulo Peixoto, Carlos Henrique Lima Santos, Alfredo (Fritz), Conde (José Luís), Dedé, João Claudio Pinheiro, Chico dos Anjos, Armando Rollemberg and Pedro Abelha among others.

He met his first wife while at the 206, Fernanda, a sociologist who he built a family with. However, this resulted in a split from some of the friends, ideals and dreams of his youth. In 1977, his son Ali was born and in 1981 Marilia was born. In the 70's the Capoeira group at the Elefante Branco Educational Centre was growing and solidifying even more: Tabosa, Fritz, Barto and Danadinho. Meanwhile getting to know other well known and repsected Capoeiristas; Adilson, Zulu, Gilvan, Squisito and many more. All of whom would one day go on to become Masters of Capoeira.

In the 80's, Mestre Arraia was increasingly becoming a family man, suffering with health problems he was sadly falling away from teaching Capoeira. However, his thoughts were always there, in the fights, in the dance, in the roots of its traditions and many dreams. His companions and students continued the slow progression of Capoeira in Brasilia.

Between 1984 and '85, he divorced his first wife and went back to Salvador. In the late 80's/ 90's he met his second wife Tereza, who had already brought up her own children but shared with him the happiness of living and bringing up his grandchildren Leo and Gabi.

Mestre Arraia frequently went back to Brasilia, each time taking his little phone book with him to contact his friends and of course to 'satisfy the yearning', checking how Capoeira and its Masters were doing. He had a very strong sense of paternity; he was very protective and strong.

The last few years of his life were marked by the presence and caring of two great people: Eldir, his brother and companion, and Mestre Barto, his close friend, his confident, who used to listen and share his worries and concerns. In January 2005, he passed away at his sacred place (Terra Santa), Porto Seguro, Bahia. It was the place he loved the most and it always felt like home. The same Porto where many arrived and left our Brazil to other worlds.

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