"Mangueirense's Salvador Page" Salvador da Bahia by mangueirense

Salvador da Bahia Travel Guide: 636 reviews and 1,346 photos

Sorria, voce esta na Bahia. Smile, you're in Bahia

The state of Bahia's new tourist slogan is plastered all over the airport and across the capital city of Salvador. It's not hard to heed the advice; in Salvador, the sun shines almost year-round. Beneath the surface beauty of beaches and the island-studded Baýa de Todos os Santos (Bay of All Saints), there's a deep and powerful culture--one that bubbles up in the area's rich cuisine and in the infectious and ever-changing rhythms of Bahian music.

Amerigo Vespucci arrived on November 1, 1501, the first European to lay eyes on the beautiful bay around which Salvador now stands. He named it Baýa de Todos os Santos, after the day in the Catholic calendar. By 1549, the Portuguese colony on this site was important enough that the king dispatched royal governor Tomý de Souza and a small army of troops to protect it from attack by the French and the Dutch. What the crown wanted protected was not gold or silver, but something nearly as lucrative: sugar.

Sugar cane thrived in the northeast, nourished by the heat and rich soil. As plantations grew the money earned from this one crop would dwarf the value of Portugal's traditional spice trade to the East. But not before Portuguese planters plunged headfirst into the slave trade. Slaves bought in the markets of West Africa and shipped across the Atlantic to Salvador provided an endless supply of labor for the backbreaking work of cutting and milling cane. It's estimated that by the mid-19th century close to 5 million slaves had been taken from Africa to Brazil; most were Yorubý speakers from what is now Nigeria and Benin.

The wealth earned by that trade is evident in the grand mansions and golden churches in Pelourinho, the restored colonial core of Salvador. The legacy of the slave trade is also reflected in the population. Modern Salvador is a city of 2 million, the third largest in Brazil, and approximately 80 percent of its people consider themselves of Afro-Brazilian descent.

This heritage has had an enormous influence on Salvador's culture, food, religion, and especially its music. Many of Brazil's top singers seemed to emerge from the artistic cauldron that is Bahia. Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Joýo Gilberto, Daniela Mercury, Carlinhos Brown, and Maria Bethania are all card-carrying Baianos (as residents of Bahia are called).

The last 15 years have seen an explosion in music that draws heavily on African influences. A new term has been coined to describe an Afro-Brazilian blend of upbeat dance music: axý, from the Yorubý word for energy. Other musical groups such as Olodum and Timbalada have blended complex African drumming rhythms with reggae melodies, adding a dose of social activism to the mix.

Capoeira, the hypnotic, almost balletic, mix of marital arts and dance is now seen on almost every Salvador street corner. The West African religious practice of Candomblý is also emerging from generations in the shadows.

This same 15-year period has seen the resurrection of Salvador's Pelourinho neighborhood. Derelict until as recently as the '80s, over the last 10 years Pelourinho--the 16th-century heart of what was once the richest city on the Atlantic coast--has been painstakingly brought back to something very close to its former glory.

While Salvadorans have been rediscovering their city, Brazil and the rest of the world has been rediscovering Salvador. In a state that sees itself as having few other economic options, the government takes the tourism industry very seriously. Money has been pouring into things like a new airport and new roads. Funds have been made available to restore Pelourinho, to program concerts and events in its old courtyards every night, and for police to patrol its streets.

And then there's Carnaval. In recent years Salvador has made a serious play to usurp Rio as the biggest Carnaval site in Brazil. It's not there yet, but already over a million people come out to dance and revel their way through the city's streets. If things continue, Salvador may soon claim to hold the biggest street party in the world.

Bahia- the land of happiness

When I came to Salvador I was captured first by the happyness of the baianos (that's how the people are called in Bahia)...and of course I looooooved the axe music they are playing all around, especially in the old part of the town, named "PELOURINHO"!

Would like to come here for CARNIVAL, because I think (everybody says ) that it is the most wonderful street party...
but since today I had only the chance to see and participate in Rio!
Well, but one day....

In the meantime, please see the newest Carnival photos from Salvador in 2003 in my travelouges.

Actual weather in Salvador /Bahia:
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Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Salvador has wonderful beaches, african culture, tremendous axe music, Carnival on the street and happy people all around
  • Cons:have been mugged once in the dunes of Itapoa...so stay away!
  • In a nutshell:Sorria, voce esta na Bahia !!! (Smile, you are in Bahia!)
  • Last visit to Salvador da Bahia: Dec 1996
  • Intro Updated Jan 23, 2004
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Reviews (7)

Comments (25)

  • nomada's Profile Photo
    Apr 23, 2004 at 10:24 AM

    my "fitinha" still on my wrist for a year ...but have yet two wishes realized and going back to Salvador ;-)

  • Jmill42's Profile Photo
    Mar 6, 2004 at 3:36 AM

    Amazing pictures!! This loks like paradise! I need to get one of those Fitinhas, as well! I have a lot of wishes!

  • GillianMcLaughlin's Profile Photo
    Feb 4, 2004 at 6:23 AM

    Evelyn, your pages are bringing it all back! I MUST get out those photos! Your accommodation tips are great - wish I'd had them when I went. Thanks for this, and for stopping by my page

  • quartinb's Profile Photo
    Jan 24, 2004 at 1:42 AM

    bonito carnaval

  • Jan 23, 2004 at 6:46 AM

    Great Page... I can't wait till im in Brazil! I know I will enjoy myself....

  • keeweechic's Profile Photo
    Jan 8, 2004 at 8:31 PM

    Wow Carnival is great! wonderful pics.. very lively... Useful accomm info.. excellent! Obviously a great place to visit!!!..

  • Zoe_bcn's Profile Photo
    Jan 5, 2004 at 5:52 AM

    Ohhh Carnaval do Brazil!!!!!!!! How id like to go there! Great pics!

  • jgacis's Profile Photo
    Jan 4, 2004 at 1:29 PM

    Beautiful carnival pics in Salvador!!! Must be a unique difference from that of Rio. Wish to experience it too some day. Thanks for sharing! :)

  • Helga67's Profile Photo
    Nov 13, 2003 at 3:38 AM

    Good tips and lovely travelogues

  • lotharlerch's Profile Photo
    Nov 7, 2003 at 2:22 AM

    Que página! Em particular as fotográfias do Carnaval

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