Salvador, Bahia is the third largest city in Brazil, founded by the Portuguese in 1549. The city was safely situated on a hill seventy meters above sea level in the least accessible position on the coast, and spreads inland while facing the huge body of blue-green water named Bahia de Todos os Santos – Bay of All Saints. Prominent on the hill were the towers of the churches, the massive public buildings the great houses of the plantation owners, slave dealers and merchants. On the lower slopes were the modest dwellings of the common people. The upper city sits on a bluff that rises abruptly 230 feet above the lower city. Steep terrain made passage between the two sections difficult. Technological innovations laid the ground work for moving between the lower and upper cities, and by 1873 there was the construction of a vertical lift - the Lacerda Elevator. Now, elevators move up and down the vertical cement shafts in less than 20 seconds, carrying over 50,000 riders each day.
Salvador recognized in 2016 by UNESCO as A CREATIVE CITY OF MUSIC is truly magical. The region and the city have a particular combination of old world and new world cultural elements, natural beauty, and a special human energy that captivate one’s imagination and heart. Bahia is at once historically old world and colonial. Its material architecture and human traditions reflect this reality. The city has a coastline of beaches stretching north to south for 75 miles. Moving through the city you see and feel the rich, vibrant colors flowing from all of nature; they are everywhere and in everything. Greens and blues from the sky and sea surround and cover you. The aromas of dende, coconut, coffee, caju, fresh fish, tomatoes, onions and cilantro are in the air hinting of tastes you will find in a Bahian meal. Diverse elements - art, cuisine, mysticism, music - come together flawlessly in Bahia. Perhaps no other state in Brazil has assimilated the mixture of African, indigenous and Portuguese groups into the core of the region’s spiritual customs, cultural history, and daily life. Inland from Salvador, is the recôncavo of Bahia an expanse of fertile lands that extends around All Saints Bay and has excellent growing conditions for sugar cane, tobacco, manioc and cattle. The recôncavo was the base of the hemisphere’s most important sugar economies during the 16th century. Salvador is the center for African spiritual traditions transported to Brazil during centuries of the Atlantic slave trade. These practices with roots in West and Central West Africa accommodated themselves to their new environment, and emerged as complex religious-philosophy systems. African spiritual traditions in Brazil are called Candomblé.
The recôncavo is the region of fertile lands spread around the Bay of All Saints. The red earth of the recôncavo has excellent properties for growing crops. By 1570 there were 18 sugar mills – engenhos; and by 1584 there were 40. The sugar-plantation system was firmly entrenched in the countryside by the end of the 16th century and continued to grow from the killing labor forced on African slaves for another 300 years.
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The Baianas are the descendants of African women who during 400 years of enslavement, were unpaid domestic workers for Brazilian families. They cooked the food, nurtured the children, served as healers, as concubines, worked in fields, took up arms and rebelled against their enslavement. Many purchased their freedom by saving money earned vending food products on street corners and at open-air markets.
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Salvador and the surrounding countryside - the recôncavo, stage an annual calendar of sacred and secular festivals. Throughout the cycle of these large-scale spectaculars - which culminates with carnival - celebrations grounded in African spiritual traditions are public affirmations of religious beliefs expressing community identity, devotional practices, and frivolity.
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