Zé Pilintra

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Zé Pilintra clay image at a Umbanda parlor.

Zé Pilintra (Joe Pilintra), a.k.a. "Zé Pelintra", is a folkloric and spiritual character from the Afro-Brazilian and regional religions Umbanda and Catimbó (or Catimba).[1]

It is widely reputed, specially among umbandistas (Umbanda practicers), as the patron spirit of the barrooms, gambling dens and gutters (while not aligned with "evil" entities, however), a kind of archetypic transcription of the malandro (see malandragem) character in the form of a white suit-clad negro or mulatto (rarely a white person), sporting a Panama hat and a bright red tie and chrome white shoes. The Zé Pilintra spirit is famed by its extreme bohemianism and wild partying persona, a kind of South American trickster spirit right from the very urban setting as of the one from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo inner cities.

Despite parttaking importance among practicers of both Catimbó and Umbanda, Zé Pilintra is an entity originally from the latter, being absorbed into Catimbó rituals after the cities became nearer to the older rural settings (from where the Catimbó was born) and the priests of Catimbó started accepting Zé Pilintra as a fully fledged entity of their own cult (see religious synchretism).

The entity is summoned when his followers need help on domestical, business or financial affairs and is generally regarded as enforcer of charity or on the doing of good deeds.

On Afro-Brazilian and regional mythology and origins[edit]

First of all, Umbanda is an Afro-Brazilian religion with its own rituals and structure, while Catimbó is a regional form of syncretism, mixing elements from both African, American-Indian and European (animist, naturalistic and Catholic) beliefs.[2]

At Umbanda Zé Pilintra is widely believed to be one Exu, a whole magical entity from divinal nature, while on Catimbó the entity is seem as a wandering human spirit leading a phalanx (line) of malandros (spirits of vagabond, freewheeling, nighttime bohemians). Also, inside Catimbó, Zé Pilintra is believed to be from the '"line" of souls, or long-dead humans turned into spiritual beings for the benefit of Mankind.

Distribution of followers and fame[edit]

Mainly the followers of Zé Pilintra concentrates on the urban settings of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, but they are also encountered on the northwestern Brazil, among catimbozeiros, or "followers of Catimba", at rural areas.

Zé Pilintra, between the two instances, is regarded as a protector of the poor and a very important entity as well, gaining the nickname of "Lawyer from the Poor" from his patronage of the materially deprived people.

On media and popular culture[edit]

Famed Brazilian composer and singer Chico Buarque based the main character of his Ópera do Malandro according to the visual style and manners of Zé Pilintra [3]

Very closely, the world famed archetype of the Rio de Janeiro malandro (bohemian) was based on the physiognomy, clothes and lifestyle of the Zé Pilintra mythos.

Famed Brazilian musician and composer, Itamar Assumpção, wrote a song about Zé Pilintra back in 1988, with Wally Salomão as composing partner, called "Zé Pilintra".[4]

Another famed Brazilian samba composer and singer, Bezerra da Silva, recorded a song about Zé Pilintra back in his 1976 album O Rei do Côco, the song was aptly named "Segura a Viola (Zé Pilintra)" (Hold the Guitar, Zé Pilintra).


  1. ^ "Instituto Imágick". 01-12-2006. Retrieved 2010-05-03.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ "Origens do Catimbó". 04-09-2005. Retrieved 2010-05-13.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ "Chico Buarque's Ópera do Malandro". 01-12-2006. Retrieved 2010-05-03.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ "Rita Amaral e Vagner Gonçalves da Silva - Foi Conta pra Todo Canto". Retrieved 2010-05-26.