This feature is designed to spark your interest in researching the world of capoeira's vocabulary, history, and philosophy.

Our Capoeira Wiki-Word series invites you to research the word of the week and post your definition(s) and translations. At the end of each week, the entries will be reviewed and then summarized into a translation and a definition of the Capoeira Wiki-Word of the week.

Submit your entries in the comments section below!

This week's Capoeira Wiki-Word is:

 

Besouro Mangangá

 

As we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. today, let's explore another legendary figure in the capoeira universe.

 

(Update)

 

This is the trailer for the movie entitled "Besouro."  It is based on the life and story of Besouro Mangangá.

 

 

Espantalho did some great sleuthing on this one...

 

From Mestre Acordeon's album Eh Capoeira

Cuidado Besouro

- Careful Besouro

Eh Besouro, venha ca, seu moco. Voce quer arrumar emprego? Entao leva essa carta ali para o compadre Felisberto. Ele tem trabalho pra você. 

- Hey Besouro, come here, lad.  You want to get a job?  Ok then, take this letter over to godfather (close as we get in english) Felisberto.  He has some work for you.

Eh Besouro, o Mangangá, Tinha o corpo fechado para bala nao entrar

- Eh Besouro, the Mangangá, he had the "corpo fechado" (literal: "closed body") so that bullets couldn't hurt him

Bota um pouquinho de mandinga aí, Besouro. Cose a boca do sapo. Se prepara rapaz, abra o olho! Essa história de fazendeiro.

- Use a little bit of mandinga there, Besouro.  Sew the toad's mouth shut.  Prepare yourself, man Open your eyes!  That's the history of the farmer.

Eh Besouro, O Mangangá, Tinha o corpo fechado para bala nao entrar

- Eh Besouro, the Mangangá, he had the "corpo fechado" (literal: "closed body") so that bullets couldn't hurt him


Toca a faca nele, Ticum!

- Touch him with the knife, Ticum! (a kind of hard and durable wood capable of holding a sharp and strong point.  This wood comes from a specific type of bamboo.)


Eh Besouro, O Mangangá, Tinha o corpo fechado para bala nao entrar

- Eh Besouro, the Mangangá, he had the "corpo fechado" (literal: "closed body") so that bullets couldn't hurt him


vivía no massapé, dentro do canavial

- he lived in the heavy clay earth, in the sugar cane fields


ele era home valente, batía em general

- he was a brave man, he beat up generals


vá tomar banho de folha pra essa barra segurar

- go take a bath of leaves (banana leaves often times) in order to secure/protect that body (barra literally translated means bar like a bar of metal)


vá tomar banho de folho pra essa barra segurar

- go take a bath of leaves (banana leaves often times) in order to secure/protect that body (barra literally translated means bar like a bar of metal)

Toca a faca nele. Ticum!

- Touch him with the knife, ticum (a kind of hard and durable wood capable of holding a sharp and strong point.  This wood comes from a specific type of bamboo.)

Eh Besouro. Essa é a carta do compadre. Ele quer que eu lhe dou emprego. Tá bom. Lhe dou emprego. Vai dormir sossegado.

- Hey Besouro.  That is the letter from the godfather. He wants me to give you work.  OK. 
I'll give you some work.  You will sleep peacefully.

Abre o olho Besourooooo!

- Open your eyes Besouro!

Cuidado, Besouro. Olha a cavalaria chegando!

- Careful Besouro.  Look the police are coming!

Ie Besouro, O Mangangá, Tinha o corpo fechado para bala nao entrar

- Eh Besouro, the Mangangá, he had the "corpo fechado" (literal: "closed body") so that bullets couldn't hurt him

E ai, Besouro...Nao abriu o olho, Besouro.

- What now Besouro...  You didn't open your eyes Besouro.

 

1917-1983 - Capoeira and Mandingas

Written by Mestre Cobrinha Verde (photo above right)

Besouro, my mestre, began to teach me capoeira when I was just 4 years old.  Besouro's father was named João, nicknamed João Grosso, and his mother was Maria Haifa.  Maria Haifa was my aunt, so Besouro was my cousin, and was raised as my brother.  My mother raised him.

In those days, Besouro taught his students hidden from the police, because the police heavily persecuted capoeiristas.  When the police showed up to attack, he would tell his students to flee, and deal with the police alone.

I was brought up in that environment.  My true mestre was Besouro, but I learned from many mestres in Santo Amaro.

 

1917-1983 - Capoeira and Mandingas - Part II

Written by Mestre Cobrinha Verde (photo above right)

It was Besouro himself, my mestre, who gave me my nickname Cobrinha Verde (little green snake) because I was very quick.  I was so fast that one day he put me in a room and threw knives at me, to see if I could defend myself.  I caught the knives twice.

When Besouro had a student and he saw that the student was ready, he would lock himself in a room with the student, take one dagger and give the other to the student, and say: “Let’s have a knife fight with a towel tied around our belts, so that we can’t get away from each other.”

 

A Brief Historical Synopsis cobbled together from many sources (all appear to be somewhere between legend and history)

Manuel Henrique Pereira (1895 - 1924), known as  Besouro Mangangá , was a legendary capoeirista of Santo Amaro, of the surrounding area of Bahia, Brazil.

The word capoeirista haunted many men and women, but the old slave  Uncle
Alipio  had great admiration for this the son of John Grosso and Maria Haifa.  Manoel Henrique was the boy who early on learned from Mestre Alipio, the secrets of capoeira in the streets of Trapiche de Baixo, in Santo Amaro, being baptized as Besouro Mangangá  because of his unique ability to disappear when   necessary.

Many  great deeds are attributed to him.  It is said that he did not like the police (whom he repeatedly frustrated when trying to arrest him), that he  had the "corpo fechado"and that knives and bullets could not harm him.  At one point, when Besouro worked in a plant, the boss tried to short change him on his salary.  Besouro  held the employer by the shirt and forced him to pay what was owed to him

Besouro was a revolutionary. He didn't like the police and was always involved in complications with them. More than once he used physical force to disarm policemen.  Once armed with their guns, he would use them to lock the policemen up in jail cells meant for criminals.

The circumstances of his death are contradictory. There are versions that say Besouro died in a confrontation with police, others that he was betrayed with a knife attack from behind. The latter is much sung and transmitted orally in capoeira.  A farmer, known as Dr. Zeca, after his son  Memeu got beat up by Besouro, set a trap, sending him to deliver a note to a friend who ran the farm Maracangalha.  This particular note was asking for its carrier to be killed.  Besouro, being illiterate, could not read the note that was addressed to his killer, and the note stated that the bearer was the victim, or in other words Besouro himself was the victim. The next day, Besouro returned to find the answer to the note he had delivered, and, instead of a job, found forty soldiers were waiting for him.  During the resulting confusion and chaos of the fight, a man known by Eusebius de Quibaca stabbed him in the back with a knife made of tucum (or ticum), a type of wood, taken as the only weapon capable of killing a man with a "corpo fechado".

Manuel Henrique, Besouro Mangangá, died in 1924, at the young age of 27, but lived on in two of his capoeira students Rafael Alves Franca, Mestre Cobrinha Verde and Siri de Mangue.

Today Besouro is a capoeira symbol throughout all of Bahia. He is well known for his bravery and loyalty. The support he gave to those who were persecuted and oppressed by the police and owners of plantations was not forgotten.


 

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