Capoeira Bautuque

Freedom of Expression

By John Nathan

Capoeira is an elegant martial art form which combines dance, music and acrobatics. Dating back to the 1600’s, it was first practiced by Afro-Brazilian slaves – primarily on sugar cane plantations – as a means of self defense, as well as cultural and spiritual expression. Driven by the drum and the berimbau (a single-string and percussion instrument), capoeiristas enter the competitive circle and “play” each other – demonstrating athletic moves and imploring shrewd strategies – in an effort to topple their opponents.

Today, thousands of capoeiristas all over the world practice this art form and use it as a tool to unite men, women and children of all cultures and backgrounds into a global community.

Mestre Amen Santo– a native of Salvador Bahia in Brazil– is a recognized Mestre de Capoeira, master drummer, and is the Artistic Director of the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center in Culver City, CA. Mestre Amen first came to the United States after he was invited to perform capoeira at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall in 1984. Shortly after the historical performance, he made his way to Southern California where he immediately saw a need for the representation of Afro-Brazilian culture in Los Angeles’ arts’ scene.

“My hope in starting the center was to provide a place where people from all backgrounds could come together. I wanted to teach people that we’re all equal and that we each have something to learn from each other.”

What began in a cramped 500-square foot space in 1988 has now blossomed into a vibrant cultural center that instructs students in capoeira, Samba, Zumba, drumming, and Afro-Brazilian dance, in addition to providing classes in the instruction of the Portuguese language. Through various classes, seminars and partnerships, the Brasil Brasil Center reaches more than 50,000 children annually in its quest to build healthy communities through the arts and enhanced cultural understanding.

“People need to feel connected in order to make a positive change in the world,” Mestre Amen said. “Our goal is to empower young people to learn here, and then take what they’ve learned to other communities where they can share the philosophy of respect for all cultures with others.”

The Brasil Brasil Cultural Center is also the home of the Ballet Folclorico Do Brasil – a dazzling Afro-Brazilian Dance Company that has been teaching children in Southern California for close to 30 years. Wiles recently attended the 22nd Annual Capoeira Bautuqe – a weeklong celebration of capoeira and Afro-Brazilian Culture – at the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center.

Here is just a sample of what we saw:



At the family-oriented cultural center, Mestre Amen and his team of instructors teach and live the ideal that capoeira, at its best, can be used as a tool to make each individual student a better person, and to make the world a better place.

[learn_more caption=”Learn More” state=”open”] The Brasil Brasil Cultural Center is located at: 11928 Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90066

For more information about Mestre Amen and the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center, please call (310) 397=3667 or visit them on the web at:[/learn_more]

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