Dona Maria do Camboatá – Capoeira Song – Lyrics, Meaning and History

Dona Maria do Camboatá,

Ela chega na venda ela manda botar

Dona Maria do Camboatá

Ela chega na venda e dá salto mortá

Who was Dona Maria do Camboatá?

Dona Maria do Camboatá is a legendary female capoeirista, who is purported to have been a formidable fighter that lived in Bahía in the early 20th or late 19th century.

I tried to find some more information on her history, but essentially, the song is her history, so there isn’t really anything else to go on!

Full translation below, but basically the song tells the following story:

Dona Maria is at the market and is bossing everyone around. She sends a boy to go buy something, but when he comes back, she’s not happy with the produce, so she goes back to complain. When she gets there, she starts shouting, then she begins to ginga, and finishes with a back flip!

Where or What is Camboatá?

Camboatá is a town in the Pojuca region of the State of Bahia, about 100 miles North of Salvador.

Camboatá is also the name of a medicinal tree which is native to Brazil, scientific name Cupania Vernalis.

Its berries were traditionally used to treat digestive issues, inflammation and arthritis, and the leaves made into a tea to help high blood pressure.

Sounds to me like Dona Maria could have done with a bit of that tea!

Camboatá Tree – Cupania Vernalis

Ave Maria!

Dona Maria de Camboatá is not to be confused with Maria Doze Homens, Maria Homem, or Maria Felipa de Olivera – all eponymously named fearsome female figures from the history of capoeira.

Maria Homem was another infamous street fighting capoeirista from Bahia who’s memories live on in the oral tradition of capoeira songs and stories.

According to Mestre Pastinha she liked to drink at a bar on Pelourinho Square. One time 3 police officers tried to arrest her for being drunk and disorderly, and she managed to knock them all to the gound one after the other.

Maria Doze Homens and her friend Maria Salomé are said to have been two friends who loved samba and capoeira, and were renowned for causing trouble in Bahia in the 1920s and 1930s.

As is always the case with oral histories, however, the details are a bit muddled and confused!

There are versions that say that the name “Doze Homens” stuck after she defeated (or in some cases killed!) 12 police officers in a fight.

Others say that it was because she trained with a Mestre Doze Homens, others say that she was a friend and side kick of Besouro Mangangá, and others that she was in fact our final Maria for the day who was…

Maria Felipa de Oliveira

Maria Felipa de Oliveira, a sea food seller from Itaparica Island, was a reputed capoeirista who, along with around 40 other women, is said to have set fire to 42 boats belonging to the Portuguese Army at the Seige of Salvador that took place during Brazil’s War of Independance.

The large losses to the fleet caused by Maria and the other women is thought to have been a significant factor in the ultimate defeat of the Portuguese and liberation of the state of Bahia.

It is said that Maria played capoeira on the Cais Dourado (Golden Quay), which enabled her to gain intelligence on the Portuguese fleet.

Were the Marias really Capoeiristas?

That is a very difficult question to answer.

Though it seems certain that Maria Felipa was indeed a freedom fighter who played an important role in the liberation of Bahia, it is hard to confirm whether she really trained capoeira.

Equally, though there are official police records of women with the name “Maria” being arrested for fighting, there is very little evidence of women capoeiristas before the 20th century.

Evidence would tend to indicate that traditionally, as with most folkloric afro-brazilian traditions, gender roles were clearly defined, and the capoeira roda was dominated by men (As opposed to Candomblé for example where only women dance).

To learn more about the history of women in Capoeira, checkout our latest Papoeira Podcast.

Dona Maria do Camboatá – Song Lyrics and English Translation

Dona Maria do Camboatá

Ela chega na venda ela manda botar

(She arrived at the market and started shouting orders)

Dona Maria do Camboatá

Ela chama o menino e manda comprar

(She called the boy and sent him to buy)

Dona Maria do Camboatá

Se não tem, se não acha ela manda trocar

(If they don’t have, if he doesn’t find, she demands a swap)

Dona Maria do Camboatá

É do Camboatá, é do Camboatá

(She’s from Camboatá, from Camboatá)

Dona Maria do Camboatá

Volta na venda pra reclamar

(She goes back to the shop/market to complain)

Dona Maria do Camboatá

Ela chega na venda e começa a gritar

(She arrives to the shop/market and starts to shout)

Dona Maria do Camboatá

Ela chega na venda e começa a gingar

(She arrives to the shop/market and starts to gingar)

Dona Maria do Camboatá

Ela chega na venda e dá salto mortá

(She arrives to the shop/market and does a back flip)

Dona Maria do Camboatá

É do Camboatá, é do Camboatá

(She’s from Camboatá, from Camboatá)

Dona Maria do Camboatá


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