João Pereira dos Santos
João Pereira dos Santos or Mestre João Pequeno de Pastinha (27 December 1917 – 9 December 2011) as he was known within capoeira circles. He began his life in Capoeira as a student of Mestre Gilvenson (C. Daniel Dawson's book "Capoeira Angola and Mestre João Grande" cites Mestre Barbosa as João Pequeno's first teacher, see Mestre João Grande) and later became a disciple of Mestre Pastinha - the father of contemporary Capoeira Angola. Together with Mestre João Grande he is later to share the honour of being one of the late Mestre Pastinha's two most learned students - the ones to whom he entrusted his legacy. Mestre João Pequeno died on 9 December 2011 at the age of 93.
In 1970, Mestre Pastinha said the following about João Pequeno and João Grande, "They will be the greatest Capoeira players of the future and I have worked hard with them, and for them, to achieve this. They will be true masters. Not just impromptu teachers, as can be found anywhere, who only destroy our tradition which is so beautiful. I've taught everything I know to these young men. Even the Cat's Leap (lit. Pulo do gato, the one move that is kept to oneself to use in dire circumstances. It is usually never taught to anyone, to keep its element of surprise). That's why I have the greatest hopes regarding their future."
The recession of 1973
During the recession of the late 70s (See Oil Crisis of 1973), Capoeira Mestres and dedicated practitioners amongst the populace faced great hardships to continue the practice of their beloved art. Many of them died poor and hungry. Those who were able to, chose to migrate to other countries in search of greener pastures. Many Capoeira schools couldn't survive. However the most significant loss of the time, was to be the closing down of Pastinha's Capoeira academy (Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola) and his death in 1981.
The impact of Pastinha's death was far reaching and even João Grande chose to stop playing Capoeira for a time (See Mestre João Grande). Despite these events, João Pequeno persevered these difficult years, biding his time to revive Pastinha's school.
Revival of Pastinha's academy
On 2 May 1982, with the world barely starting to recover from the recession, João Pequeno founded the Academia de João Pequeno de Pastinha with the purpose of continuing the lineage teaching of Capoeira Angola in the manner it was taught in Mestre Pastinha's academy. This lineage was very nearly destroyed when Pastinha's academy was closed down by the government to "renovate" the buildings. The subsequent death almost a decade later of the great Angoleiro only made things more difficult. (See Mestre Pastinha).
The authenticity of João Pequeno's academy in following Pastinha's academy was not limited exclusively to the technique and teaching methods, but also in the manner of spiritual and cultural development. In a way, João Pequeno revived and succeeded in achieving the original purpose for which Pastinha's Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola was established - that is, to preserve and promote the traditions of Capoeira Angola, the fundamental tenets of the Angoleiro and to provide a community based support for Capoeiristas.
Later life and death
Mestre João Pequeno dedicated his life to teaching Pastinha's style of Capoeira Angola ever since and has graduated students who today are well-known Mestres in their own right. Into his 90s, Joao Pequeno continued to teach and practise capoeira at his academy in Forte de Santo Antônio Além do Carmo which has, through the work of Mestre João and GCAP, come to be called the Forte da Capoeira which is off to the north side of the historical center of Salvador, Bahia which is also called Pelourinho. Mestre João Pequeno died on 9 December 2011, at the age of 93.
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- "Capoeiristas give final farewell to Mestre Joao Pequeno in Bahia". G1 Bahia. Retrieved 14 December 2011.