Capoeira is believed to be connected with tribal fighting, called Engolo, from the Benguela Highlands region of Angola. In many tribes in Africa, a tradition exists where people fight eachother in order to acquire a bride or desired women. They fight body to body, without weapons, and is held inside a circle.
In the 16th century, Portugal had claimed one of the largest territories ofthe colonial empires, but lacked people to colonize it, especially workers. In the Brazilian colony, the Portuguese, like many European colonists, chose to use slavery to supply this shortage ofworkers. Spanish and English colonists enslaved other europeans such as the Irish and French.
In its first century, the main economic activity in the colony was the production and processingof sugarcane. Portuguese colonists used to create large sugarcane farms called engenhos, which were dependent on the labor of enslaved workers. Slaves, living in inhumane and humiliating conditions, were forcedto work hard and often suffered physical punishment for any small misbehavior. Even though slaves outnumbered the Portuguese colonists, the lack of weapons, the colonial law, the disagreementbetween slaves coming from different African cultures and the lack of knowledge about the new land and its surroundings usually discouraged the idea of a rebellion.
In this environment, capoeira wasborn not as a fighting style, but as a hope of survival. It was a hope of survival because they would say they were dancing when a colonist came along but really they were practicing fighting andpreparing to fight back. A tool with which an escaped slave, completely unequipped, could survive in the hostile, unknown land and face the hunt of the capitães-do-mato, the armed and mounted colonialagents who were charged with finding and capturing escapees. so although they were outnumbering them without weapons they were hopeless but once they had learnt how to fight they could break...