The past of the black population

Image: Rogério Trilhafavela


Outline for a cartography of the samba da Pauliceia

In recent days, various press vehicles have reported the discovery of archaeological artifacts in the area where the future 14 Bis station of the orange subway line will be built, in the Bela Vista region, in the center of São Paulo. The artifacts were located in a region full of symbolism for the black population and for the city's samba. Suffice it to say that according to researchers, the area in question belonged to the former Quilombo do Saracura, where the former headquarter of the traditional Vai-Vai samba school was located, which was demolished to make way for the subway tracks, the same situation experienced almost a century ago when dozens of of houses and tenements were demolished with the justification of “organizing” the city, along the lines of the plans for avenues created by Mayor Prestes Maia.

Thus, once again the black population sees its symbols being destroyed in the name of supposed progress. Another fact that also aroused attention was the discussion on social networks around the inauguration of a statue in honor of Deolinda Madre, the godmother Eunice, a prominent figure in São Paulo samba and founder of the Lavapés School in the Glicério region, the choice of Largo da Liberdade for the installation of the monument generated criticism from some groups that see the region only as an eastern neighborhood, disregarding its dark past. Cases like the ones cited make it increasingly necessary to shed light on both the memory of São Paulo samba and the occupation of these territories by the black population.

When it comes to samba, and specifically samba from São Paulo, it is not uncommon for names like Adoniran Barbosa, Paulo Vanzolini and the group Demônios da Garoa to appear in the collective memory; Eduardo Gudin and Germano Mathias are also remembered to be among the best known. However, the samba of São Paulo was not built only by these characters; we believe that because, among other factors, these characters have greater penetration in the city's artistic milieu, they ended up being chosen as the personalities that represented the samba paulista in the collective imagination.

It is important to highlight that we cannot, nor do we want to, detract from the production and talent of these characters, after all, Germano Mathias himself had his training as a sambista drumming with the shoeshines and playing tiririca in the Rodas of Sé and República, in addition to attending the founding Lavapés in the region of Glicerio. Adoniran, in turn, despite being a recognized radio artist in the forties and fifties, was easily found in the bohemian circles of Bixiga and the central region of the city. Thus, by placing such characters as the main names of samba from São Paulo, even if involuntarily, we leave aside a good part of the history around the construction of a unique manifestation.

Thus, ignoring this history means relegating to oblivion unique figures such as those who became known as the cardinals of São Paulo samba: Carlos Alberto Alves Caetano, Seu Carlão do Peruche (Unidos do Peruche), Inocêncio Tobias (Camisa Verde e Branco), Sebastião Eduardo Amaral, Pé Rachado (Vai-Vai), Alberto Alves da Silva, Seu Nenê (Nenê from Vila Matilde), Deolinda Madre, Madrinha Eunice (Lavapés) and Benedito Nascimento, Xangô from Vila Maria. It also means ignoring the presence of samba and the black population in regions such as Barra Funda, Bela Vista, Glicério-Liberdade and the central region of the city, places that despite little publicity and dispute over memory can, and should, be considered the birthplace of samba from São Paulo.

As a way of illustrating the diffusion of samba through these regions of the city, I turn to the work of Marcos Virgílio da Silva, where the author shows us the diversity of what we could call samba places in the city of São Paulo, see: “Praças da Sé, Clóvis and João Mendes, concentrations of shoe shiners who, at the end of the day, also practiced samba with (and in) their work instruments; on Rua Direita, a fundamental reference of black sociability in São Paulo (especially in the 1950s) and on Lavapés, in Cambuci, birthplace of the homonymous school, considered the oldest in activity in the city; at Largo da Banana (Barra Funda) or Peixe (Vila Matilde), among others. Other places […] include: Largo do Piques (now Praça da Bandeira), in “Prainha” – Praça do Correio, on the corner of Vale do Anhangabaú and Avenida São João […] –, at Bar do Chico (Rua Santo Antônio , in Bixiga) – the so-called “Cabaré dos Pobres” – and, in Barra Funda, at the intersection of Rua Conselheiro Brotero and Rua Vitorino Carmilo. Journalist Zuza Homem de Mello also mentions the Siroco bar, on Avenida Nove de Julho, near Praça da Bandeira, not to mention the lounges and stalls” (SILVA, 2001: p. 79-80).

Thus, I will look throughout the text, in an introductory way; after all, the theme cannot be exhausted in such a small space, the development of samba in the city of São Paulo, especially in the regions of Bela Vista and Barra Funda, passing through the central region of the city. Scholars of the subject point out in their works (CONTI,2015; GONÇALVES,2014) that during the process of development and urbanization of the central regions and their surroundings, the poorest population little by little ended up being pushed to the edges of the city, in addition, a good part of the symbolic spaces of samba in São Paulo that could serve as representations of that past were swallowed up by the autophagy of the metropolis.

When walking through these regions, it is rare to find any trace of the samba of yesteryear, as in the region of Morro das Perdizes (foundation site of the first school in the city), Largo da Banana, which seems to have been purposely crossed off the map by the authorities in a way definitive, and so perfect, that even sambistas find it enormously difficult to pinpoint the exact point of the samba circles and the tiririca disputes in that region.

Professor Lígia Nassif Conti, in her research on Geraldo Filme, explains that “behind the old train station was where Largo da Banana is located, a space alluded to in the stories told by the sambistas. In this place, bananas and other goods arrived via the port of Santos, unloaded there and transported by trains to cities in the interior of the State. At the end of the 1950s, this urban scenario began to change. Largo da Banana was located at the end of Rua Brigadeiro Galvão, where the Pacaembu Viaduct was being built. According to the newspaper Folha da Manhã on July 09, 1959 announcing the inauguration of the viaduct that would take place that day, the viaduct “crosses the railway lines from Sorocabana and Santos to Jundiaí, reaches Rua Barra Funda and reaches the Rua do Bosque, connecting Praça Brigadeiro Galvão ('Largo da Banana') to Rua do Bosque”. (CONTI, 2015, p. 6)

It should be noted that in recent years several researchers, research centers, collectives, connected or not to academia, have sought to recover the memory of these regions; initiatives such as the identification of historical points, the setting up of informative plaques and the pressure for the installation of statues representing key characters in symbolic points (such as the tributes to the architect Tebas, the godmother Eunice and Geraldo Filme) have contributed to the discussion and dispute about the memory of these places.


The transformation of São Paulo at the end of the XNUMXth century: from village to metropolis

Until the middle of the 1870th century and the beginning of the 30.000th century, the city of São Paulo underwent a significant transformation process. Around 1880 the city had about 1971 inhabitants and its main area was restricted to the so-called central triangle (Rua Direita, São Bento and XV de Novembro). Warren Dean, in a study on the industrialization of São Paulo, shows that in 19 the city was home to around sixteen factories (DEAN, XNUMX, p.XNUMX). However, with the coffee expansion and the growing industrialization that will occur in the next period, the capital begins to change its appearance, initiating the process that would culminate in the formation of the metropolis that we know today.

In addition to the territorial expansion, a large population growth can be observed in the same period, in 1900 the city already concentrates an estimated population of 240 thousand people, the growth will continue as a constant until the mid-20s, when the capital will reach the mark of 600 thousand population. It is in this scenario that the city begins to follow the development of what became known as working-class neighborhoods (Barra Funda, Brás, Bixiga, Glicério, among others). As the composer and sambista Geraldo Filme explains, the black population was found in different regions of the city:

Look, the black zone here in São Paulo was Liberdade, Bixiga, Barra Funda, and a piece, very old, that few people remember, here where Vila Madalena, Vila Ida, Vila Ipojuca is located today, there it was already quite far away, there was already the people... But this whole region, from Liberdade, Barra Funda, from Bixiga was the center itself.

The emergence of various groups such as Barra Funda, Vai-Vai, the Lavapés school, later Paulistano da Glória, among others, only proves the vitality of the presence of the black population in these regions.

The breakdown of the black community, the code of conduct approved in 1886, can be considered as a milestone in the attempt to organize the urban space, and as a consequence of such transformations. This code substantially altered trade, as markets were restricted. to the neighborhoods, in addition to the ban on quituteiras working on public roads; In addition to these measures, there is also interference in private sociability practices, in this case the ban on the parents of saints from carrying out their religious work.

During the government of Mayor Antônio Prado, between 1899 and 1911, the capital underwent a major process of urban transformation, compared to the reform carried out by Pereira Passos in Rio de Janeiro. The measures taken by Prado aimed to transform São Paulo into a mirror of European metropolises, and for that purpose it was necessary to erase the traces of the black population. One of the most drastic measures and considered a symbol of this policy was the demolition of the Igreja do Rosário and the surrounding buildings (the black cemetery and several rental houses occupied by black families) to give rise to what would become the current Praça Antônio Prado, where where the Martinelli Building and the Stock Exchange building are located, symbol of the heyday of coffee growing at the time.


The origins of São Paulo samba

São Paulo samba has its origins in the samba de bumbo and in the celebrations of Bom Jesus de Pirapora, mixing African ancestry and the Catholic religion, the parties became a great meeting of the black community of the state, it was in the barracks where the blacks stayed that the bumbo samba began to take shape. Figures such as the legendary Dionísio Barbosa, founder of the first São Paulo cordon, the Barra Funda Group, passed through the barracks in Pirapora; the sambista and actor Henricão who would become a member of the Vai-Vai composers wing; Geraldo Filme, Madrinha Eunice and other figures that would make history in the samba of Pauliceia.

According to Olga Von Simson: “It was this intense interior/capital contact that brought to São Paulo a first wave of traditional sambistas, born and trained in the interior of the State and who created and maintained the cordões with their constant and almost mandatory annual return to Pirapora, until the 50s of the last century. This fact allows us to say that the interior of the State of São Paulo was the cradle and the great power that nourished the tradition of samba in São Paulo” (SIMSON, 2008, p.16).


 The samba in Barra Funda

”Hello, hello people,\ In Barra Funda is where samba lives…”

As previously noted, it is at the beginning of the XNUMXth century that the São Paulo elite will forge a discourse seeking to transform the city into a true metropolis, thus, with the intense process of urbanization in the central region, the poor and black population of the region begins to be withdrawn. of these places. Removed from the central region, they will occupy less valued regions such as the Glicério floodplain, the Saracura floodplain in Bixiga and the Barra Funda region where, thanks to the railway network, it was possible to work in the loading and unloading of trains.

The junctions of the ties created in the housing areas, added to the meetings at the parties in Pirapora, made possible the emergence and development of samba, as attested by José Geraldo Vinci de Moraes in a work that is a reference for understanding the theme: “The first cords appeared in the 1910s. 1914, in neighborhoods with the highest incidence of black population, such as Barra Funda, Bexiga and Liberdade, always based on family nuclei and neighborhood circles. The precursors were the Grupo Carnavalesco Barra Funda, better known at the time as Camisa Verde e Branco, founded in 20, and Campos Elíseos, which appeared the following year. In the 4s, Flor da Mocidade (Barra Funda), Desprezados (Campos Elíseos) and Vai-Vai (Bexiga) appeared, which, at the turn of the decade, became Barra Funda’s biggest rival and competitor” (MORAES, pages 5 and XNUMX).

Influenced so much by the Carioca samba that he had known after a short stay in Rio de Janeiro and by the bass drum samba at the parties in Pirapora, in 1914 Dionísio Barbosa founded the Barra Funda Group that would later become the Camisa Verde e Branco Samba School. In addition to the carnival groups, another stronghold of samba dancers in the region was the legendary Largo da Banana located in the region of the current Memorial da América Latina; while waiting for the trains to be loaded and unloaded that arrived and left for the countryside, workers played sedge and sang samba.


The Samba in Bixiga

“Bixiga today is just a skyscraper\ And you can no longer see the light of the moon\ But Vai-Vai is firmly in the place\ It is tradition and samba continues”

At the end of the XNUMXth century and the beginning of the XNUMXth century, with the beginning of the occupation of the region of Avenida Paulista and Consolação by the coffee elite, the employees of these families, generally black women who work as cooks and laundresses and immigrants who also perform domestic work, begin to occupy the region of Várzea do Saracura, (area where Avenida Nove de Julho now passes) with their families.

At the time when the city had several floodplain fields, it was not difficult to see mixed teams in the fields of the region, and one of these teams, Cai-Cai, would give rise in 1930 to the appearance of the Vai-Vai cord, which would later become a samba school for enormous tradition and which until today holds the title of greatest champion of the carnival in São Paulo. Shortly after its founding, Vai-Vai already appeared as one of the city's main strings, rivaling the Barra Funda Group for the role of carnival. According to testimonies from the time, it was not uncommon to see fights between members of the two groups in the streets. However, unlike the varzea football teams, until the 2011s only the black community paraded in Vai-Vai, some scholars on carnival and samba from São Paulo (DOZENA, 2013; PRADO, XNUMX) point out that this characteristic may have been a crucial factor in the consolidation of Vai-Vai as a point of reference and resistance for samba in São Paulo.

As much as the authorities have tried to erase the roots of black people and our samba, either through the destruction of Largo da Banana or now with the demolition of the Vai-Vai court on Rua São Vicente, the sambistas themselves have sought ways to resist and bring these memories to the public. Examples abound: Kolombolo Diá Piratininga, Instituto Samba Autêntico, Samba da Maria Zélia, Berço do Samba de São Mateus, Maria Cursi, Samba da Vela, Samba do Congo and various groups and communities that seek to rescue and conserve the tradition of samba da Pauliceia.

I close this text with the opening transcription of the album In Prose and Samba - Nas Quebradas do Mundaréu, a work released in 1974, inspired by the musical by playwright Plínio Marcos that brought together Geraldo Filme, Zeca da Casa Verde and Toniquinho Batuqueiro and is considered to this day a pioneering work in the dissemination of samba from São Paulo.

“Excuse the elders, let's go samba. Seu Dionísio da Barra Funda, Inocêncio Mulata from Camisa Verde e Branco, Nenê from Vila Matilde, Bitucho, Marmelada, Jamburá, Sinval from Cambuci, Nego Braço, Carlão from Peruche, Pé-Rachado from Vai-Vai (the glorious alvinegra from Bixiga) , Pato n'Água, Vassourinha, Seu Zezinho do Morro, Dito Caipira da Unidos de Vila Maria –to all of you who have been in samba since the days of the square tambourine and the barrel surdo. Time when the police ended up with the pagoda at the base of the chamfalho. Time that the black to support samba in the street, had to do and happen. To all of you, I apologize. Dona Sinhá da Barra Funda, Dona Eunice do Lavapés, Donata – ladies of proven value in the Avenida parades: blessings and permission, I’m going to talk about the samba from Pauliceia. Juarez da Cruz, from Mocidade Alegre, from the Limão neighborhood, Eduardo Basílio, from Rosas de Ouro, from Vila Brasilândia, Ângelo from Vai-Vai, Feijoada and Chiclé from Vai-Vai, too, hello!, Mestre Mala, brother, there from Tatuapé, the owner of samba, hello!, hello!, Renato Correia de Castro, hello!, hello!, Sarmento: all of you who are from samba, excuse me and I'm going to talk about the samba of Pauliceia. I will tell the story of Geraldão da Barra Funda, Zeca da Casa Verde, Toniquinho Batuqueiro: three stories of samba in São Paulo. I'm going to the swing of the samba of the batuqueiros of Santa Isabel”.

* Daniel Costa graduated in history from UNIFESP, composer and member of the Grêmio Recreativo de Resistência Cultural Kolombolo Diá Piratininga.



AZEVEDO, Amailton Magno. The Musical Memory of Geraldo Filme. Sambas and micro-Africas in São Paulo. São Paulo: PUC, 2006.

CONTI, Ligia Nassif. The memory of samba in the labor capital: the sambistas from São Paulo and the construction of a singularity for samba in São Paulo (1968-1991). Thesis presented to PPG in Social History at FFLCH-USP. São Paulo: 2015.

DEAN, Warren. The Industrialization of São Paulo. São Paulo: DIFEL, 1971.

DOZENA, Alessandro. The geography of samba in the city of São Paulo. São Paulo: Polisaber Foundation, 2011.

MORAES, Jose Geraldo Vinci de. Polyphony in the metropolis: history and popular music in São Paulo. Tempo Magazine, no. 10, pp. 39-62. Rio de Janeiro.

PRADO, Bruna Queiroz. Geraldo Filme's passage through the 'samba paulista': narratives of words and music. Campinas: IFCH/Unicamp, 2013.

SILVA, Marcos Virgílio. Under the “Pogressio”. Urbanization, culture and popular experience in João Rubinato and other sambistas from São Paulo. (1951-1969). São Paulo: FAU/USP, 2011.

SIMSON, Olga de Moraes Von. The samba from São Paulo and its stories. (Texts, oral testimonies, music and images in the reconstruction of the trajectory of a manifestation of popular culture in São Paulo.).Memory Center/UNICAMP Campinas: 2008.


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