In 1944, the famous Bahian author Jorge Amado wrote a guidebook to the city of Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos. Not your ordinary guidebook with hotel ratings and maps, this guidebook focuses on the soul of the city. Amado writes about the streets, neighborhoods, mysteries, and characters that give life to the wonderful city that Amado loved. The book was published a year later.
In the chapter, "Personagens" (characters), Amado writes about some of the capoeiristas who roamed the city and the bay, including Samuel Querido de Deus. This capoeirista is a favorite of Amado’s (as was Mestre Pastinha), and appears in other books by the author, including "Capitães de Areia".
White hairs are already appearing in the hair of Samuel Querido de Deus. His color is undefined. Mulatto, certainly. But dark-skinned or light-skinned, tanned by an indigenous lineage or with traces of Italian in his angular face. Who knows?
The ocean winds that blow on his fishing trips have given Querido de Deus this color that is different than any known color, new for all artists. He departs in his boat for the waters of Southern Bahia where there are plenty of fish. How old would he be?
It is impossible to know on these docks in Bahia, but many years have passed since Samuel’s boat crossed the breakwater to return, days later, with fish for his stand in the Mercado Modelo. But the old boatmen can tell you that more than sixty winters have passed since Samuel was born. But are those white hairs on his head that always looks like it is wet with sea water? More than sixty years, certainly.
However, even still, there is no better capoeirista than Querido de Deus at the Festa da Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia, during the first week of December. Here comes Juvenal, a young man of twenty years, the most celebrated of all, the most daring, the most agile, the most technical. Whoever comes, Samuel, the darling of god, still can show that he is the king of capoeira in Bahia de Todos os Santos. The rest are his followers and still look frightened when he throws a rabo de arraia because they have never seen such elegance. And he already has white hairs.
There are many stories about Samuel Querido de Deus. Many stories that are told at the Mercado Modelo and the docks. North Americans have already come to watch him fight. And they pay a lot to see the old fighter.
Once, his friend was looking for him. Two filmmakers wanted to film a capoeira game. Samuel had just arrived from ten days on the ocean, fishing, and he still had a bit of blue in his eyes and on his face a bit of the south winds. He got ready. We went to find Juvenal. And with the sound and film equipment, we went off to the Feira de Água dos Meninos. The fight started and it was superb. The filmmakers went around with their equipment. When it was over, Juvenal was laid out on the sand. Samuel was smiling, the oldest filmmaker asked how much they owed. Samuel told them a ridiculous sum in his confusing way of speaking. It was what the Americans had paid to watch him fight. The writer explained then that these were Brazilian filmmakers, poor folks. Samuel Querido opened his mouth in a big smile. He told them that it was nothing and invited everyone to a meal of sarapatel in the bar at the front.
You can see him from time to time at the docks. Returning from a fishing trip on his boat. But certainly at the Festa da Conceição da Feira knocking down other capoeiristas, because he is the best of them all. His name is Samuel Querido de Deus.
Passages and stories like this, about the velha guarda da capoeira, are wonderful. It is imperative for younger generations to preserve them as best we are able and pass them on, especially today, as capoeira spreads rapidly around the world and not all groups have a mestre to orient and guide them.
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