The Dutch controlled parts of the northeast between 1624 and 1654. With each Dutch invasion the security of the slave-ridden plantations and towns were weakened. The slaves, taking advantage of the opportunities, fled to the forests. Many, after escaping, founded independent villages called quilombos.

At least ten major quilombos formed, and they were very important to the evolution of Capoeira. The Quilombo dos Palmraes lasted sixty-seven years in the interior of the state of Alagoas, rebuffing almost all expeditions sent to extinguish it. The embryo of Capoeira as a rudimentary fighting style was thought to have been created in these quarters and perhaps would not have developed further if left only to that environment.