Translated into English by Shayna McHugh
Source: Capoeira Santista
Much of capoeira’s philosophy and history is recorded between the lines of its songs, not forgetting that part of this history is linked with that of Brazil. This is why it’s important to research and question the meaning of some songs, since their main purpose is to pass on a message, whether immediately or for later reflection.
So we are going to talk a little bit about the historical content within one of capoeira’s most popular songs: Parana ê. It refers to the War of Paraguay, but what was this war?
It began in 1865 and lasted five years. At the time, Paraguay was the only country in Latin America that could be considered independent, and it found itself in full industrial development, with weapons and gunpowder factories. Unproductive land was being transformed into state plantations, generating employment for the whole population.
Impeding the process of Paraguay was a big challenge for England, because Paraguay became a big competitor in productivity. Brazil and Argentina, on the other hand, were interested in taking possession of parts of Paraguayan land.
The spark that initiated the war occurred on November 24, 1864, when Paraguayan president Solano López cut ties with Brazil, captured the Brazilian ship Marques de Olinda, and invaded the state of Mato Grosso (which, together with Paraná, are the only states that border Paraguay).
At the end of all the battles, the Paraguayans took the worst casualties. 75% of the country’s population was killed; of 800,000 inhabitants, only 194,000 were left. With this victory, England once again returned to economic domination of the region, and Brazil and Argentina managed to take 140,000 kilometers of the land they wanted.
But what about the slaves? How did they enter the War?
The whites “logically” didn’t want to be on the front line of battle, so they created a law saying that blacks who entered the war and returned alive would win their liberty. What the whites didn’t anticipate was that the majority of the blacks who went… actually returned!!
The slaves had an advantage thanks to capoeira, because at the time, battles depended more on hand-to-hand fighting than on weapons. So, on their way back, on the margins of the Paraná River, the now ex-slaves sang:
Vou dizer à minha mulher, Paraná
Capoeira que venceu, Paraná… [Venceu a guerra]
Paraná ê, Paraná ê, Paraná.
Ela quis bater pé firme, Paraná [Ela = a guerra]
Isso não aconteceu, Paraná…
I will tell my wife, Paraná
That capoeira won [the war], Paraná
Paraná ê, Paraná ê, Paraná.
It [the war] wanted to stamp its foot hard, Paraná
This did not happen, Paraná
Despite the tragedy for Paraguay, the war was an important milestone in the life of slaves in Brazil. Because of this, it is commemorated to this day in ladainhas and corridos throughout the country.
Here is the original link http://www.capoeira-connection.com/main/content/view/195/73/