Wednesday, January 1, 2014

mexico & capoeira

We have heard from tons of people about Mexican Capoeira. We have watched a bunch of Mexican Capoeira. We’ve played a couple of games here and there since we have been riding through Mexico for nearly three month. We have listened to Mexicans talk about Mexico, and about Capoeira. And about Mexican Capoeira. We are a Capoeira train with a super charged twin turbo diesel engine. What I am trying to say is that there is a lot of Capoeira going on for B2B in Mexico City. For those of you new to this adventure, B2B stands for Berkeley to Bahia. By Bicycle. It is a project of Mestre Acordeon - a crazy 70 year young (apparently) Capoeira Legend who has set out to discover the roots of Capoeira in the Americas. 14.000 Miles on a bicycle. This journey will result in a documentary, a music CD and a book. We get to roll with Mestre, through the Californias, Mexico and all of Central America. Have I told you that I love riding bike?

One thing stands out. If you want to think about Mexican Capoeira you can’t just separate the two entities. You have to consider both Capoeira and Mexico. You can take a taco guy out of his taco truck, but you can’t take the taco truck out of the taco guy. Even if he becomes a salad guy, he will toss your salad as fast and full of flair as if he was still making tacos.

So what is Capoeira in Mexico City all about? There is certainly a lot more than we thought. Maybe a few Professors, CMs and Mestres making a hard living teaching Capoeira in the USA are already thinking the same. Pack your bags. Forget your Greencard. The USA is not the promised land. Move south of the border. Yeah, I said it. There are 40-50 odd groups here. Where is that density in the US? Yes, Mexico City is a town of (a few uncounted) millions, but people with five or less years of Capoeira start groups here. And manage to make a living of it. We have seen the same in smaller towns all over the north of the country. Messy, mixed, mongrelized, Mexican. Happy. Maybe it is because many people in lots of countries do not have the luxury to choose between right and wrong, they choose between work and no work, food and no food.

Yes, some of these groups may seem commercial, zumba-ized even. They may not know the music. Or that the tocas in your roda are the tocas of your life. Tocas that can’t not be followed. But, as Capoeira grows, in the nooks and crannies of this dense and denser humanity, should we prefer some Capoeira, or should we accept all? Are we the judge of which Capoeira is worthwhile? Considering that none of us know an absolute truth of origin, do we have the ability, the right, to know the destination?

And how can Mexican Capoeira find its base? When Mexico itself has been working, justly, for centuries to know its own, to find its own and to accept it. If Capoeira is an expression of anti-colonialism, of anti-authority, of anti-rule, of anti-slavery, then how can it mesh with Mexico’s history? Or should it be a perfect marriage?

Two indigenous cultures on the tip of the spear of western, barely post-medieval society. A ruthless, greedy and blind society. A society that was surfing the accidental waves of geographical fortune and technological advantage. Raping and pillaging along the way, it left continents of confusion in its wake. Suddenly all power came from the barrel of a gun and the center of a cross. Each country eventually revolted against foreign rule, as did the Estados Unidos . Each revolution in its own way, leaving a legacy of historical influence, of deeply ingrained cultural memes. Do you wear feathers for equinox or are you from a quilombo? Are you a minute man or one of the child heroes of Mexico? Where is your past located and how does it impact your present?

Whenever you live these two narratives leave a lasting impact. It's beyond my experience and understanding to interpret this impact. As usual I only have questions for you. Does modern Mexico's self-image allow room for Capoeira, which is part of another nation’s creation myth? And do these two cultural constructs (big words, yes) complement/conflict? Someone could probably write a book about this.

One of the statements we heard about Mexican Capoeira is that players don’t speak to each other in a jogo. To speak one’s mind one must first know it, know one's foundation. And so, it may be that this stasis of expression remains caught either in a game of mutes or a fight. Mais nau um bom jogo.


  1. “If you want to think about Mexican Capoeira you can’t just separate the two entities” you said. This should make us think what the Mexican culture is giving to Capoeira and what Capoeira is giving to Mexico. You suggest that each of them are nurturing from a revolutionary and freedom essence and History. I hope that. Mexico needs that. The country needs freedom in the mind and a revolutionary thinking; to get people together; we, the folk, we need to move; to react; to dialogue; to do new things; to try new strategies; to create; to built community. Just as capoeira makes.
    And yep, It´d be nice to have capoeira professors from abroad. However, the matter that Mexican Capoeirsitas are trying to find the way of doing it by themselves, it has been a challenge for us and a new vain for this art. Of course, it does not mean to be ostracized from the rest of the Capoeira World and, does not mean that we Mexicans do not need help and inspiration from abroad. In fact, we are super happy when somebody from outside come to teach us and to share. But, I think we are happy and proud of trying to do it well.
    And about your theory about a Capoeira as a part of the nation´s creation myth. It makes reflect how Society and History marginalized some expressions and in some others, they “welcome” them. So, we as capoeristas from the XXI century, should have already understood that it´s always better to welcome and respect as it makes people grow.

  2. Hola Ale! Thank you for reading and making the trouble to reply. I am sorry I write so convoluted too :) Awesome points, you are making. I am glad that at some of Mexico's Capoeiristas find this a little bit interesting, beyond trying to beat my ass in the next Rrrrroda!