Nation.Photo: Hans von Manteuffel
Maracatu, in the form that it is known today, has its origins in the old institution of the Black Kings, already well known in France and Spain in the 15th. century and in Portugal as from the 16th. century. In Pernambuco, voyagers were documenting the presence of the court of the black kings from as far back as 10th. September 1666, as confirmed by the testomonies of Souchou de Rennefort, in Histoire des Indes Orientales, published in Paris in 1688. Documents relating the coronations of the Congo and Angolan sovereigns in the church of Our Lady of the Black Men's Rosary, in the district of Saint Anthony, in Recife, go back to 1674, as confirmed in a collection of documents entitled: Collected documents for the history of slavery.1 

The Kings of the Congo and Angola

The courts of the black kings were often given attention by the press. During the festivals of Our Lady of Prazeres and of the Rosary of Saint Anthony, the local newspaper - the Diario de Pernambuco - in its issue of 20th October 1851, without actually citing the term maracatus, mentions that "... they were passing through the streets of the city during the afternoon, divided into nations, each with its own respective king at the head of the procession, protected by a large multi-coloured parasol. On this particular occasion, according to police reports, all went off peacefully and tranquilly. However, according to our sources, the police have in the past, lain the blame for any disturbances in their jurisdiction at the feet of the universal sovereignty of the African Nations, and consequently, as on this occasion, were keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings".

The black kings, especially the King of the Congo, who maintained a hierarchical position over the other African nations of the region, appeared at the religious celebrations protected by a large round parasol and surrounded by numerous dignitaries from their respective courts. The court would be led by the high flying flag of the nation, together with a collection of other flags. They would also be accompanied by percussion instruments, which were not, however, always to the taste of the white population. Padre Carapuceiro observed that, " A number of these parasols have appeared in these black people's batuques2 on days of Our Lady of the Rosary, protecting the character known as the king of the Congo. " (Diario de Pernambuco, 15.3.1843).

1 SILVA,  Leonardo Dantas (Org.). Alguns documentos para a história da escravidão. (Collected documents for the history of slavery) Recife: Editora Massangana, 1988.
2 Generic designation for Afro-Brazilian music and dances. Sometimes, especially in the past, it was used to refer to a noisy din, especially the music of the Africans.