man, adult, farmer



Caipira is a term of Tupi origin that designates, since Brazilian colonial times, the inhabitants of the country. The designation reached, above all, populations of the former captaincy of São Vicente (later captaincy of São Paulo) that today are the states of Santa Catarina, Paraná, São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Tocantins and Rondônia.

The term “caipira”, however, is usually used more frequently to refer to the population of the interior of the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás and Mato Grosso. Corresponds, in Minas Gerais, to capiau (a word that also means “bush cutter”), in the Northeast, matuto, and in the North (Pará) caboco (term derived from the word caboclo, but which lost its original meaning).


There are several etymological explanations for the origin of the term “caipira”, always from the Tupi language:

  • ka’apir or kaa – pira, which means “bush cutter”;
  • ka’a pora, “inhabitant of the bush”, from the junction of caa (bush) and pora (people);
  • kai’pira;
  • kopira, which means “cleared” or “cleared”.


“Capiau” is a term of Guarani origin. “Matuto” comes from “bush”. “Babaquara” comes from the combination of the Tupi terms mbae’bé (nothing), kwa’á (to know) and ara (to people), meaning “the one who knows nothing”. “Guasca” comes from the Quechua term kuask’a (loop, rope). “Araruama” comes from the toponym Araruama. “Biriba” and “biriva” come from Tupi mbi’ribi (small, little). “Botocudo” is a reference to the Botocudo Indians. “Bruaqueiro” is a reference to “bruaca”, a raw leather suitcase used to transport loads on the back of donkeys. “Caipora” comes from the Tupi caa’pora, “what’s in the bush”.

“Caboclo” comes from Tupi kari’boka, “from white”. “Caburé” comes from the Tupi kabu’ré. “Caiçara” comes from Tupi Kai’sara. “Camisão” is the augmentation of “shirt”. “Canguçu” comes from the tupi akãngu’su, “big head”. “Cape-goat” comes from the combination of “cover” and “goat”. “Capuaba” and “capuava” are of Tupi origin. “Casaca” comes from the French kazakh. “Catrumano” comes from quadrumano (prosodic change from “quadrumano”) (“who has four hands”). “Groteiro” comes from “grota”. “Jeca” is the short form of “Jeca Tatu”. “Macaqueiro” comes from “monkey”. “Mandi” comes from the Tupi Mãdi’i. “Mano-juca” is an affectionate form for “brother José”. “Mocorongo” may come from the Kolongo Quinguana (Swahili dialect), a small monkey. Tabaréu comes from the Tupi taba’ré, “the one who lives in the village”.


The first references to the hillbilly and the hillbilly dialect are related to the old villages located around the village of São Paulo: São Miguel de Ururaí, Carapicuíba, Barueri, Nossa Senhora da Escada, Pinheiros, Itapecerica, Embu. Particularly relevant is a book from the 18th century, by Father Manuel Bernardes, on the life of Father Belchior de Pontes, basically a birth certificate of the country culture. Important human nuclei of persistence of this culture, in São Paulo, are Alto Paraíba, particularly Cunha and São Luís do Paraitinga; Baixa Mojiana, especially Bragantina, particularly Bragança Paulista, Pinhalzinho, Socorro, Pedra Bela, Amparo, Serra Negra, Lindoia, Águas de Lindoia; and the region of Piracicaba, Capivari, Itu, Porto Feliz, Raffard, Rio das Pedras.

In the quadrilateral formed by the municipalities of Campinas, Piracicaba, Botucatu and Sorocaba, in the middle Tietê river, the caipira underwent many transformations, influenced by the massive Italian immigration to coffee farms in the interior of São Paulo. But the hillbilly, in turn, accultured the immigrant, both in this region and in the Santo Amaro region, in the capital, where German immigrants soon after Independence ended up being known as “the German hillbillies of Santo Amaro”.

In the northern region of São Paulo (from Campinas to Igarapava) populated at the beginning of the 19th century, the presence of several European immigrants was great, giving the region another characteristic. The West of São Paulo, of recent colonization (beginning of the 20th century), has already emerged with the Italian, Japanese, German presence among other peoples, also forming a very different culture from the older regions of São Paulo.

In the book Capitão Furtado, viola caipira or sertaneja? there is the following quote about free-range origins:

(…) Há, contudo, inúmeros traços de semelhança física e cultural entre caboclos concentrados em boa parte das regiões Centro-Oeste, Sudeste e Sul do Brasil (Paraná, Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Mato Grosso e Goiás), tendo-se, no atual século, generalizado para estes a uma designação tipicamente paulista: ‘caipiras’. Caipira, para muitos filólogos, é expressão de etimologia desconhecida. Silveira Bueno, todavia, atribui o vocábulo à contração das palavras tupis caa (mato) e pir (que corta), no sentido completo de cortador de mato.

Funarte (1985). Capitão Furtado, viola caipira ou sertaneja?. [S.l.]: Funarte/Instituto Nacional de Música, Divisão de Música Popular. 131 páginas. ISBN 9788524600111

Caipira Culture

The so-called “caipira culture” is strongly characterized by bucolism and popular Catholicism resulting from the innovations of the Council of Trent, a religiosity of prayers, supported by the values of compadrio, and by religious manifestations whose calendar is combined with the agricultural calendar, as noted in his important researches Alceu Maynard Araújo, from São Paulo School of Sociology and Politics. The most important manifestation of caipira religiosity (and also of country religiosity in Brazil) is the Divino Espírito Santo festival, annually announced by the country houses and rural neighborhoods by the precatory group of Folia do Divino.

The caipira has its own dialect or “talk”: the caipira dialect, which preserves elements of the archaic Portuguese speaking (how to say “pregunta” and not “question”; “breganha” and not “bargain”) and, mainly, of Tupi , the general language of São Paulo and Nheengatu. Sixteenth-century missionaries, particularly Jesuits, had already observed that the Indians of the coast had enormous difficulty in pronouncing the folded consonants of Portuguese words (as in “straw”, “woman”, “spoon”, “ear”, “eyes” “etc.) and words ending in consonants, such as the infinitive of verbs. Organized grammatically by Father Anchieta, it was a language of everyday conversation and also a literary language, in which the first Brazilian poems and the first theater were written.

The Portuguese language was only the language of public office, of the chambers, of justice and of official correspondence. The Nheengatu language was banned in 1727 by the king of Portugal. The imposition of the Portuguese language gave rise to the caipira dialect, a dialectal language and not wrong Portuguese as many suppose. There are literary works in which the caipira dialect is strongly present, as in “Lereias”, by Waldomiro da Silveira and in the works of Otoniel Mota, Cornélio Pires and Amadeu Amaral, author of the fundamental “Dialeto Caipira”. The caipira dialect is not only a language, but also expresses a logic and a way of thinking and defining the world, of which the most beautiful expression is “Grande Sertão: Veredas”, by João Guimarães Rosa.

Due to the difficulty of pronunciation, the caipira population started to speak the Portuguese language (now mandatory) with a Nheengatu accent: “paia”, “muié”, “cuié”, “oreia”, “zoio”, “fulô” etc., and “speak”, “sing”, “pitá”, “see”, “felt”, “oiá”, “rezá” etc … The Nheengatu language still continued to be spoken at home by the mestizo population, not only the poor population, but also the elite, until at least the beginning of the 19th century. It persists, even today, in regions of Mato Grosso and in the Upper Rio Negro. In São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in the state of Amazonas, Nheengatu is one of the three official languages, along with Portuguese and Baniwa: all official acts must be published in these three languages.

Amadeu Amaral, in his study “Dialeto Caipira”, says, about the different speeches of the State of Minas Gerais: “In the very interior of this State (Minas Gerais), you can easily distinguish areas of different dialect: the Coast ; the so-called “North”; the South and the part adjacent to the Mineiro Triangle. “

The Portuguese philologist Cândido de Figueiredo in his book “Practical Lessons of the Portuguese Language”, volume 1, published in 1891, compared the “talking” of the São Paulo hillbilly with that of the Lisbon resident:

Sucede, em Lisboa, o mesmo que entre os caipiras de São Paulo, no Brasil, os quais, como os lisboetas, ditongam a terminação “io”, dizendo “tiu”, “rosciu” etc., em vez de “ti-o”, “rosci-o”…

— Cândido de Figueiredo

caipira Music

His music was called, initially, caipira music; later, to distinguish itself from the sertaneja music, it received the name “music from the root” is also known as “music from the interior”. The composer Renato Teixeira, with his composition “Rapaz Caipira”, was one of those responsible for the return of the name “caipira music”.

Caipira music has a rural theme and, according to Cornélio Pires, who knew it in its original state, it is characterized “by its romantic lyrics, by a sad song that moves and resembles the slave quarters and tapera, but its dance is happy”. Among its most outstanding variations is the viola fashion. The term “moda de viola” used by Cornélio Pires is the oldest name of the music made by the hillbilly.

The music is generally homophonic or, sometimes, in the style of the medieval organ.

Brazilian singer, songwriter and businessman Roberto Trevisan recorded the song “Matuto em Nova York”, in which he says he is “an immigrant hick in New York City”.

Caipira Tales Or Causos

The “causos” (stories told from father to son for centuries) are also typical of the hick, which the hick likes to tell. An example:

Havia um grupo de dez sacis que vivia numa fazenda com um fazendeiro muito mau. Tinha saci de todo tipo: malandro, bagunceiro, reinador, briguento, como qualquer moleque. Um dia, o fazendeiro desapareceu e os sacis também desapareceram e ninguém sabia pra onde haviam ido. Com o tempo, começaram a aparecer em estradas, para tropeiros e cargueiros, que davam pinga para os sacis. Com o tempo, foram acabando as tropas, foram aparecendo os carros e eles não foram mais aparecendo nas estradas. Mas continuaram aparecendo para os pescadores, assombrando fazendas, destruindo criação pequena, que sumia das fazendas, tiravam ovo da galinha que estava chocando (…)

The Various Types of Caipira

The human type of the caipira and its culture had its origin in the contact of the white pioneering colonizers with the native Amerindians (or “gentiles da terra, or” bugres “) and with the enslaved black Africans. from Angola and Mozambique, unlike blacks from Bahia, mostly from the coast of Guinea.

Thus, the caipira was divided into four categories, according to his ethnicity, each of them with their peculiarities:

  • caboclo caipira: descendant of Indians catechized by the Jesuits. It was there that the inspiration for the character Jeca Tatu described in the short story Urupês and in the article “Velha Praga” by Monteiro Lobato and for the creation of Caboclo Day, celebrated on June 24, São João Batista day; says Cornélio Pires:

Coitado do meu patrício! Apesar dos governos os outros caipiras se vão endireitando à custa do próprio esforço, ignorantes de noções de higiene… Só ele, o caboclo, ficou mumbava, sujo e ruim! Ele não tem culpa… Ele nada sabe. Foi um desses indivíduos que Monteiro Lobato estudou, criando o Jeca Tatu, erradamente dado como representante do caipira em geral!

— Cornélio Pires
  • caipira negro: descendant of slaves, at the time of Cornélio Pires called “Caipira Preto”. He was immortalized by the folk figures of the “black mother” and the “old black man”, who is honored by Tião Carreiro and Pardinho in the songs “Preto innente” and “Preto Velho”. It is, in general, poor. To this day, it suffers the consequences of slavery; Cornélio Pires says of him: “He is a drummer, a sambador, and” strikes “ten leagues on foot to sing a challenge in a fandango or” chacuaiá “the body at a ball in the country”.
  • caipira branco: descendant of the bandeirantes, a fallen nobility, is proud of his bandeirante surname: Pires, Camargos, Paes Lemes, Prados, Siqueiras, among others. He is Catholic, and mixed with the Italian settler. Poor, but he still owns small plots of rural land: the so-called “sites”. Cornélio Pires, in his book “Conversas ao Pé do Fogo”, tells that the white hillbilly, descendant of the “first settlers, noblemen or fallen nobles”, was proud of his surname:

Se o caipira branco diz: ‘Eu sou da família Amaral, Arruda, Campos, Pires, Ferraz, Almeida, Vaz, Barros, Lopes de Souza, Botelho, Toledo’, ou outra, dizem os caboclos: ‘Eu sou da raça, de tal gente’!

— Cornélio Pires
  • caipira mulato, descendant of Africans with Europeans. They are rarely owners. Cornélio Pires has them as patriots and haughty. Cornélio Pires says of him: “the most vigorous, proud, the most independent and the most patriotic of Brazilians”. Excessively courteous, flirtatious with the ladies, he never humbles himself before the boss. He appreciates sambas and dances, he doesn’t mix with the ‘black caboclo’ “.

Cornélio Pires informs, in “Conversas ao Pé do Fogo”, where he described the life of the hillbilly, that the caipira cafuzo and the caipira “caboré” are rare in the State of São Paulo.

Caipira In Brazilian Culture

The caipira was stigmatized by Monteiro Lobato, who only met the caipira caboclo, taking him as a paradigm and prototype of all caipiras.

Filmmaker Amácio Mazzaropi created a character in the 1950s that was very successful in Brazilian cinema: Jeca, inspired by the white caipira (Mazzaropi was of Italian descent).

The cartoonist Maurício de Sousa also has a hick character in the stories of Turma da Mônica who is Chico Bento: a caipira boy who represents the confrontation of hick culture with the urbanization of Brazil. Noteworthy is the fact that the lines in the comic books of “Chico Bento” are written in the caipira dialect, instead of cultured Portuguese.

The caipira was portrayed with precision and mastery by the painter José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior in his masterpieces “caipira pricking smoke” and “violeiro”.

The greatest scholar of the caipira was Cornélio Pires who understood, valued and disseminated the hillbilly culture in the urban centers of Brazil. Cornélio Pires in his work Samba e Cateretês, recorded countless caipira music lyrics, which he heard on his travels, and which, without this work, would have fallen by the wayside. He also registered the influence of Italian immigration by contacting the caipira. Cornélio Pires also recorded the most used caipira terms in his “Dictionary of the Caipira” published in the work “Conversas ao pé do Fogo”.

Cornélio Pires was the first to release, in 78 Rpm discs, caipira music, today called “root music”, as opposed to sertaneja music, and produced around 500 discs at 78 rpm.

"Caipira picando fumo", de Almeida Júnior, de 1893
“Caipira picando fumo”, de Almeida Júnior, de 1893

Source: Wikipedia


Comment on the article