Mestre Pastinha is one of two capoeiristas responsible for the modernization of capoeira, the other being Mestre Bimba. Pastinha is considered the father of the Angola form. Like Bimba, he hailed from Bahia in Brazil.
Born Vicente Ferreira Pastinha in April 1889, he began studying capoeira in 1897 with a man named Benedito. He was taken on as a student after Benedito noticed young Pastinha being beaten up by a neighborhood bully. Benedito taught him a few moves initially to help him deal with the bully and Pastinha was victorious. He would study under Benedito until 1900 while also pursuing a number of jobs. Young Pastinha would continue doing these jobs in old age as a means to support himself while practicing Angola.
AS ANGOLA’S MESTRE
In the decades that followed Pastinha continued practicing capoeira and had since trained several students. He was a fixture at rodas in the area so it wasn’t unusual for him to receive an invite to one of the games.
Ladeira do Gengibirra was where a number of mestres and capoeiristas met to talk and participate in rodas. Here, Mestre Pastinha would meet Mestre Amorzinho who had heard of his reputation. It is also at this very roda that Pastinha is put in charge of teaching and preserving Capoeira Angola.
Later that year in 1941, Pastinha opened the first Capoeria Angola school: the Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola. In constrast to Capoeira Regional’s all white uniforms, Angola’s were black pants with yellow t-shirts.
Angola would have several decades of good fortune, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. Capoeira Angola seemed to be recognized as a part of Brazilian culture and was given favorable treatment. However, the recession of the 1970s was hard globally and some countries were very slow to recover. As a result, capoeira suffered a number of blows.
DEMISE AND DEATH
In later years the Angola academy and Pastinha were plagued with misfortune. By the late 1960s, Mestre Pastinha was in poor health. In 1971, the local government requests that he leave the academy’s building for renovations. Instead, it became a part of the commercial district. Following his final roda in April 1981, he passed several months later on November 13, 1981 in a Salvador homeless shelter. He was 92 years old.
In his years of teaching Angola, he trained seven future mestres. Three of them are significant for different reasons. While Aberee was responsible for bringing Mestre Pastinha to that chance roda where he became Angola’s patron. The other two are his most important students as Pastinha put a lot of time training them.
João Oliveira dos Santos, also known as Mestre João Grand, is the one who continues to teach Capoeira Angola today. He retired after things went downhill for the style and some time prior to Pastinha’s death. He would return during the 1980s and has been active since with a school in New York. João Pereira dos Santos, known as Mestre João Pequeno, continued practicing and teaching Angola after the demise of Pastinha. He was responsible for continuing the form and goal of Angola in the same vein through economic woes.