Practitioners all over the globe take to their hearts the history and future of the art form and integrate in its execution the passion, culture and techniques taught to them by their respective mestres. Practitioners therefore hold deep respect for these teachers as the culture of Capoeira also inculcates obedience and reverence to those with the most experience in the field.
One of the most beloved Capoeira Mestre is Mestre Pastinha.
He was born as Vicente Ferreira Pastinha in April 5, 1889 at Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. His parents were Jose Pastinha , a poor Spanish Immigrant who worked as a pedlar, and Eugenia Marie de Carvalho Ferreira, a black Bahian homemaker. He first learned the art of Capoeira when he was just 8 years old.
Later on, he grew up to be one of the greatest mestres of the more traditional style of Capoeira called Capoeira Angola.
Before he became Mastre Pastinha, the martial arts expert, he was little Vicente, who was often bullied in the streets of his town. An older and much stronger boy from his neighbourhood would beat him up mercilessly for being small.
A great Mestre, named Benedito, later on taught Vicente, the art of Capoeira for self-defense at the age of eight.He saw Vicente's aggression and Mestre Benedito asked him to drop by his house every morning to teach him Capoiera. He practiced day in and day out and during his next encounter with the stronger, older boy, Vicente defeated him so quickly that he became his admirer. He grew to love the art and was never bullied again. Little Vicente continued to live a happy and modest childhood.
In the mornings, he would take art classes at Liceu de Artes e Oficio school where he learned to paint. During the afternoons, he would play with kites and practice Capoeira. He continued to practice with Benedito for three more years. He also then joined a sailor school, School of Sailor Apprentices, following his father's wish.
Around 1902-1909, he continued to teach Capoeira to his friends at school and when he was 21, he left the sailor school to become a professional painter. He stopped teaching in 1912 and spent nearly thirty years away from Capoeira while he worked as a painter.
When Mestre Bimba made Capoeira legal with Capoeira Regional style, many other Capoeiristas, including Mestre Pastinha, felt that Capoeira was losing more than it gained by being stuffed into presentable uniforms and being taught in strict sequences.
Some mestres agreed that the old way was simply better. Capoeira used to be learned by witnessing rodas and learning by doing what they saw. Improvisation and malicia were the trademarks of the original Capoeira and this gave way to the style known as Capoeira Angola.
In 1941, Mestre Pastinha was invited by his former student, Aberre, to witness a Sunday roda at "Ladeira do Gengibirra" located at bairro da Liberdade. This was the place where the then masters of Capoeira would hang out. Aberre was frequently seen in these rodas and developed friendships with the mestres at the time. He introduced Pastinha to Mestre Amorzinho, one of the great mestres of Bahia. He then asked Pastinha to take over and teach Capoeira Angola.
As a result, Pastinha then founded the first Capoeira Angola school called 'Centro sportive de Capoeira Angola in 1942, located in Pelourinho. A characteristic style of Pastinha's students would be seen in their school uniform. His students would wear black pants with yellow t-shirt, the same color of the Ypiranga Futebol Clube- Mestre Pastinha's favourite football team.
Many of Pastinha's students went on to become great names in the field of Capoeira. His famous students include Aberre (mestre of Canjiquinha), Joao Pequeno, Joao Grande, Gato, Bola Sete, Curio, Gildo Alfinete and Boca Rica. Along with these famous students, Mestre Pastinha participated in the "First International Festival Artes Negras" in Dakar, Senegal in 1966. The sixties was a productive time for Mestre Pastinha.
Next to teaching, recording an LP (Long Play), giving various presentations, he also published a book entitled "Capoeira Angola". His phrases and words of wisdom would often appear in the works of famous authors like Jorge Amado and Mestre Decanio.
All throughout his life, Mestre Pastinha worked as a shoe shiner, tailor, gold prospector, security guard at a gambling store and construction worker at Porto del Salvador to maintain him financially so he can do what he loved the most: Capoeira Angola.
Mestre Pastinha is known as the "Philosopher of Capoeira" because of his great wisdom about the arts and about life in general. But despite his immensely important work in preserving the traditional Capoeira, he came to an unfortunate end.
His precious academy was confiscated by the government, with promises of renovation but the renovated space was then given to a restaurant.Betrayed by local authorities, false promises and left with no support, Mestre Pastinha was left abandoned in a city shelter in Salvador.
In April 12, 1981, he played his last Capoeira game to which he said he dedicated his entire life to Capoeira Angola. In November 13, 1981, Mestre Pastinha, father and protector of Capoeira Angola, died at the age of 92 as a poor, blind and bitter man.
Mestre Pastinha once said, "Capoeira is for man, child and woman. he only ones who do not learn it are those who do not want to." He welcomes anyone to his school and encourages students in all walks of life to learn and love Capoeira.
He also said, "What I do playing, you do not even do when you're mad." Mestre Pastinha is serious about Capoeira but he emphasizes that it is all just a "game" and that outside the roda, he would treat his opponents as brothers.
He is also known as the mestre who carries a sickle everywhere and fastens it to the end of a berimbau when he plays, to turn the instrument into a weapon. These things that the mestre created or practised in his academy are nowadays passed down by his students on several Capoeira Angola groups.
It is always good to keep in mind that within Capoeira there are several lineages with different traditions and tastes. These lineages, even stemming from the same source, can change over time because of the choices of the masters passing on their lineage.
What made Mestre Pastinha special, next to the fact that he was still active in Capoeira at an old age, was his way of expressing his thoughts about Capoeira. He was also the first Capoeira Angola mestre to officially register his school.