Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 8: Mestra Jararaca

13 02 2008

Mestra Jararaca, of Grupo Irmãos Gêmeos, was the first mestra to come out of the Bahia capoeira angola scene.  Unfortunately, there is very little information about her available on the web, but thank you to Shayna M. for the one article I do have!  It was originally in French and I’ve translated it into English to post here.

October 2001 

Mestra Jararaca playing in the rodaThose who saw a serious child with a small smile playing in the rodas of João Pequeno, in Santo Antônio, never imagined that time would transform her into a master.  In truth, however, she is the first female mestre in capoeira angola in Bahia.  Valdelice Santos de Jesus, more often known as Mestra Jararaca, never saw herself becoming a capoeira master either, but talent and destiny gave a helping hand to “the little girl who played like a man”. 

Today, the young woman of hardly 27 years is preparing for a personal journey and takes care of her two sons (Luiz et José Carlos, 3 and 6 years respectively), in addition to participating in activities alongside Mestre Curio, student of the legendary Pastinha.  “I started when I was 11 years old, hiding it from my father, who said that capoeira was something for boys,” remembers the mestra who, even while running the risk of being reprimanded, continued to frequent the roda with her older sister Ritinha, who is a student of João Pequeno to this day.

To the question of how she juggles family, teaching, and continuing to perfect her art, the young mestra smiles self-consciously, replying that she never lacked determination in life, even when her father interrupted one of her training sessions and forbade his daughter to continue them.  “It was in 1989, after my father died, that I returned to capoeira,” she said. 

During the period when she stayed far from rodas, Mestra Jararaca came to know another world and decided to educate herself.  “I started working very early, selling doughnuts, working as a nurse and as a cleaning lady.  One day in one of the houses where I worked, I asked my boss—who was a very respected saint-mother, known as Ciandra Mãe—to read a newspaper article to me.  She told me then that those who didn’t know how to read were blind to the world.  I returned to my house, and decided to no longer be blind.” […]  Between courses at the Institut d’Education Isaías Alves and work, Mestra Jararaca found time to play soccer with boys in the street of Santo Antônio.

If capoeira hadn’t been there, who knows if soccer wouldn’t have had another valuable representative equal to those of the past, masculinized generation?  “My father said that I was capitão de areia [captain of the arena] and that it wasn’t good for a young girl to live freely with guys, but I wasn’t worried about that,” declared the woman who, when pregnant, never stopped participating in rodas. 

When she returned to capoeira, it wasn’t long before Mestra Jararaca became a professor at Mestre João Pequeno’s academy, working alongside great mestres such as Curio and Moraes.  Potentially detrimental pride and jealousy were put to a halt by arranging for the young capoeirista to train with Mestre Curio.  “I was already a professor, but when I entered my mestre’s academy, I needed to learn a new game,” she stated. 

It was this period that gave rise to Valdelice’s evocative apelido, given by her new mentor.  According to Mestre Curió, one simply needs to see her playing capoeira to know why she is called Jararaca.  While training, the young lady who moved like a cobra showed true distinction, eventually becoming a contra-mestra and, this past January, earning the title of mestra in a grand roda, as demanded by the angola tradition.

As for prejudice stemming from the fact she is a woman, Mestre Jararaca resolves that matter in the roda.  “I have no patience for people who think that being male, being strong, or having a bit of training makes them superior.  Capoeira is a school of each day, which lasts through all life and serves men as well as women,” concludes the first angola mestra from Brazil, who holds in honour the memory of the first female capoeiristas in Bahia.

-by Carmen Vasconcelos (translation by Joaninha)


Picture source:
Youtube – apologies for the low quality pixel count!

Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra



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