Olha a pisada de Lampião

Lampião

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Olha a pisada de Lampião

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Lampião desceu a serra

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Pra buscar Maria Bonita

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Pra ajudar fugir da polícia


Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

See the footsteps of Lampião

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

Lampião descended from the sierra

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

To look for Maria bonita

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

To help escape from the police


This is maybe one of my most favorite songs to sing. But Mr. Lampião had quite the legend. His activity was far more documented making him less mystical than Besouro. He was an outlaw and a mean one at that. He scoured the countrysides with Maria Bonita raising hell.

Here is an article I found off of http://www.brazilbrazil.com that gives a good explanation of who this man was. I am not sure who authored this piece but the the direct link is http://www.brazilbrazil.com/lampiao.html. (I am not quite sure why they titled the article the way they did. Maybe they were playing around with irony. Anyways, read on….)

Lampião – The greatest hero in Brazilian folklore

Virgulino Ferreira da Silva was born in 1897 in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. This is the hash country described by Euclydes da Cunha in his famous work, The Backlands (Os Sertoes). It is a land of little water, much cactus and scrub vegetation, not unlike that of the American Southwest. Although one of the oldest areas of Brazil, it has traditionally been one of the most backward. Few people received anything beyond a rudimentary education. Local society was ruled by large landholders and political bosses, often one and the same. These bosses and/or landowners had their armed men, just like the big ranchers in Arizona or the Mafia street enforgers. They were called Cangaceiros – men of the Cangaço, as the badlands are called.

lamp.jpg


As Virgulino grew up, he and his family got entangled in the ever-present local feuds, the reason being, of course, defense of honor. The family somehow ended up of the bad side of the local police, and in a raid on his home, Virgulino’s father was killed. It was an event that the police would regret. At age 25, Virgulino became Lampião, the scourge of the backlands and killer of police and soldiers, which he always called macacos (monkeys). For the next 15 years he would never be far from the headlines of newspapers throughout Brazil.

Lampião is often said to be the Robin Hood of Brazil. No way! Not unless Robin Hood started his career robbing sick bed-ridden 90 year old ladies. Lampião was a complex man, religious yet brutal. He was also vain, appearing in dozens of photos and giving interviews whenever possible. His band rarely totaled more than 40 men, but he would fight battles against up to 200 militia or special police.

It is hard to imagine that a small band of bandits was able to operate in the open against state police and troopers for a decade and a half. But in the Northeast of Brazil in the 20s and 30s, the roads were cattle trails, water was scarce, the police corrupt, local bosses were fearful, telegraph lines almost non-existent and people didn’t want any more trouble in their already hard lives. Most of the population had nothing that Lampião or his band wanted.

Cartazlamp.jpg

Hero or bandit?

Captain Virgulino, as Lampião liked to call himself, had no shortage of enemies. The fact that he would shoot any officer or trooper on sight insured that they would be mortal foes. The state and local politicians resented his prestige and power. But catching and killing Lampião was not easy. He knew the country side, he had spies, and he had friends. Most of the police sent against him were not overly enthusiastic about the possibility of getting ambushed in the brush. The cancageiros also had women in their band. The most famous was Maria Bonita (Pretty Mary), Lampião’s companion until death.

Maria Bonita

Maria Bonita

Because the police did nothing against him, most of the people reluctantly helped him. Not many folks joined him, however. Lampião was not a revolutionary, he was a bandit. Those who opposed him could lose everything, including their lives. In the event of betrayal or squealing to the police, the cancageiros were merciless. On the other hand, if Lampião and company came to town, and he had no reason to be mad at you, and you had nothing he wanted, quite often he would arrange a party with music and plenty of cachaça, and everybody would have a grand old time.

lamp_04.jpg

The dark side of Lampião

Not only did Lampião wipe out whole households of enemies at times, he would assault small towns and cities alike, killing police, asking local merchants for “contributions”, seizing any good he could carry off and often distributing those which he could not to the local population. Often women were raped. Mostly, these were women associated with the police and/or any opposing faction. Early in his career, Lampião and over 20 of his band gang raped a young wife of a soldier, while the poor man was forced to watch. Incidents of Lampião digging out a man’s eyeballs with a knife and cutting off a woman’s tongue have also been substantiated.

In 1938, Lampião’s long career ended. In the end, he was betrayed by one of the local supporters, who under threat of torture, told the soldiers were the outlaws were. On a beautiful July morning 50 soldiers armed with machine guns crept up and surprised an equal number of cangaceiros. About forty bandits managed to escape, but the leaders were clearly visible and were targeted in the first shots. Lampião and Maria Bonita were among the dozen bodies left dead after 20 minutes of battle. To insure that the news of Lampião’s often heralded demise would be believed, the soldiers took the heads of the captives to Salvador, were they remained on display for over 30 years.

Lampião's Head

Lampião's Head

Lampiao’s death signaled the end of an era. Maria Bonita and Lampião had a daughter, who is still living last I heard. The cangaceiros still live in popular folklore, cordel literature, comics, TV and movies. Best of all, the band’s favorite song, Mulher Rendera, which they would sing as they went into a town, is a wonderful tune almost every Brazilian knows. For a good (and very romanticized and sanitized) version of Lampião and his merry men, I recommend the movie Lampião, O Rei do Canganço with Leonardo Vilar and Gloria Menezes.

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