Build Your Own Archives: Mandinga, Manha & Malícia

Torpedeira Piauí
Coraçada na Bahia
Marinheiro absoluto
Chegou pintando arrelia
Quando vê cobra assanhada
Não mete o pé na rodia
Que a cobra assanhada morde
Se eu fosse a cobra eu mordia
Mataram Pedro Mineiro
Dentro da Secretaria

Adriana Albert Dias, a.k.a Pimentinha in the rodas of Salvador, is the author of the book Mandinga, Manha & Malícia: uma história sobre os capoeiras na capital da Bahia (1910-1925). It is a work that grew out of her masters thesis in history with the Federal University of Bahia.

Pimentinha does an excellent job documenting life in Salvador during this time, examining where the capoeiristas lived, with who they spent their time, what jobs they performed, and how they interacted with the authorities. Through her careful research of primary sources, journal articles, and interviews with people who lived during this time, she shows us how capoeiristas used mandinga and cunning in their everyday dealings as well as in capoeira rodas- and how this permeated the practice of capoeira, from its play to its songs and rhythms.

The above ladainha opens the chapter of the book that examines the life and times of the famous Pedro Mineiro. Here’s a bit of what Pimentinha writes about him:
He was not a native of the state of Bahia, having been born around 1887 in the city of Ouro Preto, in the state of Minas Gerais, because of this he was known by the knickname Pedro Mineiro. When he was around 20 years old he was already living in Salvador; he knew how to read and write, he lived in the Pilar neighborhood, and he worked as a porter and seaman. He was known among the authorities due to his bullying behavior and his exploits around the city of Salvador. His name often appeared in the police column of the Bahian newspapers, being referred to as thief, troublemaker, criminal, and celebrity rabble-rouser. The main stage of his adventures was the Cais Dourado, but he also often visited the “27 of Tabuão” and Galinho’s Bar. He caused trouble with all sorts of people; other capoeiras, women, troublemakers, regular folks, sailors, and principally, the police.
One of his many exploits inspired the above ladainha. In what became known as the “crime of Saldanha” (o crime do Saldanha, because it happened on Rua do Saldanha), Pedro Mineiro and some of his buddies confronted a group of sailors:
On December 26, another shoot-out occurred between some capoeiras and a group of soldiers from the torpedo boat, Piauhy that had arrived from Rio de Janeiro three months before. The scene of the trouble was Galinho’s Bar, where the sailors were eating dinner when they were attacked by the capoeiras Pedro Mineiro, Sebastião de Souza, and an individual named Antônio José Freire, also known as Branco…

… The shoot-out lasted about fifteen minutes, causing a huge commotion and much panic. All of the bars, stores, warehouses, and residences in the area closed their doors and windows. In the fighting, two sailors were killed…

The rest of the sailors, all wounded, escaped and made their way back to the boat. Pedro Mineiro, Sebastião, and Branco tried to flee through the streets of Sé, but were captured by the police and by-standers, and then taken to the nearest police station and from there transferred to the Secretary of Public Safety.
No one knows for certain what drove Pedro Mineiro and his friends to go after the sailors; was it a fight over a woman? Did the local police chief contract the capoeiristas to attack the sailors to avenge a past slight? In any case, a few days following the fight, there was a public inquisition of the three capoeiristas at the Secretary of Public Security. While they were answering questions about the attack:
… the unthinkable happened: one of the Piauhy sailors, feeling insulted, shot Pedro Mineiro right inside the police headquarters, in front of the authorities. As such, the accused, Pedro Mineiro, also became a victim with serious wounds...

Apparently, the attack provoked enormous confusion, with more than twenty police soldiers, sailors, justice officials, and the deputy falling over themselves in the rush, a situation which allowed for the escape of Branco and Sebastião… [Sebastião] was chased by a sailor until the Rua da Faísca, where he was stabbed so deeply in the back that his kidneys were reached.
It seems that Branco made a successful escape. The sailors involved were not taken into custody because they were subject to maritime law, and therefore, it was the responsibility of their captain to decide their fate.

The attack on Pedro Mineiro and Sebastião made headlines in the local papers, and the city was kept abreast of Pedro Mineiro’s deteriorating condition. In the meantime, the police chief and the captain of the Piauhy exchanged angry letters accusing each other of incompetence. After a thwarted attempt at suicide, reported in the local papers, Pedro Mineiro succumbed to his wounds and died on January 15.
Pedro José Viera passed away at the Saint Isabel Hospital due to a bullet that was impossible to remove from his body… He was 27 years old, and was buried in the Quinta dos Lázaros cemetery.
And there you have it. A significant story in capoeira history thanks to the efforts of Pimentinha.

This is a great book that is packed full of information. Its written in Portuguese, but don't be intimidated if your Portuguese is not perfect. Pimentinha has written in a very readable style that is easy on the brain. You are going to be amazed at all the great information that Pimentinha provides through her thorough research.

No comments: