Saint of the Streets
Zé Pelintra is a modern day Brazilian Nkuyu. In Kongo
nkuyu is a spirit which may be worked with as either an ancestor or a
spirit of the environment who often was at one time a living person.
While in Africa, these were often spirits who resided in the forest, in
the diaspora, especially in contemproary Brazil, these entities have
adapted to the urban and suburban environments in which the
marginalized blacks and other poor live. This type of entity is called Malandro,
which is usually translated as Bohemian, is an artistic, stylistic
outsider, who lives a pleasure driven and non-conventional lifestyle.
First appearing in a Catimbó song collected by the MPF
folklorists in 1938 in Paraíba from mestre Manuel Laurentino
Silva, Zé pelintra has spread from being a Northeastern
of Catimbó (an Afro-Indian religion) to being found in most
Afro-Brazilian religions today. He is most widely known in Umbanda and
Quimbanda, traditions in which he appeared somewhat later and continues
to be popular as both a Caboclo spirit and as an Exú spirit,
is called upon for both good and ill.
Zé Pelintra loved to drink, smoke fine cigars and
cigarettes, play cards, in fact one form of divining with cards is
credited to him, and kept the company of women of the street. He is
called upon to resolve love affairs, for luck with money and is an
ardent protector of women. He is closely associated with Santo Antonio
de Padua, who was widely known as "Santo Antonio, o santo Congo".
Many stories of
his life include violent encounters with the police in
which he annihilated all his opponents only to escape capture. He was
famous as a capoeirista. One
story common in Rio is that he died when he was crushed by a trolley
car he was trying to jump on sometime in the 1920s. Shortly after his
death he began to possess various mediums in macumba rites, and
eventually became one of the most beloved spirits in Umbanda and
Quimbanda. His figure was the inspritation for Chico Barque's widely
successful Opera do Malandro, set in Rio de Janeiro and which was based
upon Brecht's Three Penny Opera. Zé Pelintra even provided the
inspiration for the character Jose Carioca in Walt Disney's 1944
animated film, The Three Caballeros.
Recognized for his distinctive white
suit, red tie, red hatband and often wearing a red flower in his lapel
or jacket pocket, Zé
Pelintra is a powerful spirit who is called upon and
loved by many. He is renouned for performing many miracles.
Seu Zé Pelintra!
2006 by Eoghan C. Ballard,