Salvador da Bahia, the capital of colonial Brazil from 1549 to 1763, was for many years the jewel in the crown of the extensive Portuguese Empire. Salvador boasts of having a church for every day of the year, and it nearly does, many of them masterpieces of the gaudy, gold-inlaid Baroque style. The most famous of these churches is Our Lord of Bonfim, spiritual centre of pilgrimages from all over Brazil.
During its heyday, Salvador was the centre of the sugar trade, Brazil’s major export until the 18th-century takeover of the market by coffee. It was also the centre of Brazil’s major import during the eighteenth century. Brazil was the only South American country whose economy relied to an important extent on slave labor from Africa, and Salvador remains to this day the centre of Black culture in Brazil.
As the cradle of African culture in Brazil, Salvador has also made its name as the source in Brazilian popular music. This music, along with excellent reggae and jazz, can be sampled at one of Salvador’s many bars and clubs.
Bahian food, like Bahian music, has become a part of Brazilian folk culture. Many popular songs have been devoted to the figure of the “baiana”, an Afro-Brazilian woman in typical clothing – a white lace hoopskirt and turban, beads and bracelets – bearing her tabuleiro or tray of treats.
Visit www.ba.gov.br for further details.