The Northeast is a land of contrasts: the very rich and the very
poor, the luscious jungle and the barren desert, the traditional and the avant-garde. In
these nine states live close to 50 million Brazilians, one third of Brazil population. We
start in Bahia, Brazil’s most historic state, where the African heritage has been kept
alive and thriving.
The Northeast region, known in Brazil as the Nordeste, covers more than 18% of the
country’s land area and contains 45 million inhabitantsnearly 30% of Brazil’s
population. The region is divided into nine states: Bahia, Sergipe, Alagoas, Pernambuco,
Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará, Piauí and Maranhão. The archipelago of Fernando
de Noronha lies over 500 km east of Recife and was placed under the political
administration of Pernambuco state in 1988.
The many attractions of the Northeast include: historical cities (São Luís, Olinda
and Salvador); colonial villages (Alcântara, Lençóis, etc); national parks (Lençóis
Maranhenses, Chapada da Diamantina, Sete Cidades, etc); and the region’s fascinating
The geography of the Northeast is characterized by four divisions. The zona da mata (forest
zone) covers the coastal area and extends up to 200 km inland. The forest, known as the
Mata Atlântica, now exists only in tiny pocketsthe rest was destroyed to make way
for sugar-cane cultivation during the colonial period. With the exception of Teresina in
Piauí state, all the major cities of the Northeast were established in this zone.
Further west, the agreste forms a transitional strip of semi-fertile lands,
which merges into the sertão. The sertão (backlands) is characterized by a
dry and temperate climate. Droughts, sometimes lasting for many years, have been the bane
of this area for many centuries. The land is commonly referred to as caatingas because
the landscape is dominated by vast tracts of caatinga (a scrubby shrub). The
largest towns of the sertão are dotted along the Rio São Francisco, which
provides irrigation. The bleak and brutal life of the Sertanejo (inhabitant of the sertão)
has received literary coverage in Os Sertões (published in English as Rebellion
in the Backlands), by Euclides da Cunha, and the novel Vidas Secas (Dry Lives),
by Graciliano Ramos. The Cinema Novo films of Gláuber Rocha portray violence, religious
fanaticism, official corruption and hunger in the sertão.
The state of Maranhão and the western margin of Piauí state form the meio norte, a
transitional zone between the arid sertão and the humid Amazon region. The social
problems of the Northeast include poverty, underemployment, housing shortages, a decaying
educational system and an absence of basic sanitation. For example, in the state of Bahia,
many towns and villages lack basic sanitation, infant mortality rates are high and half
the population is illiterate. The number of unemployed in the state has been estimated at
around 30% of the adult population.
Superintendência do Desenvolvimento do Nordeste (SUDENE), the official government
agency for development in the Northeast, has attempted to attract industry and boost the
economy of the region, but these efforts have been hampered by the lack of energy sources,
transport infrastructure, skilled labour and raw materials. Many Nordestinos (inhabitants
of the Northeast) have emigrated to the Southeast and Central West in search of a living
wage or new land for cultivation.
The economy of the zona da mata depends on the cultivation of crops such as
sugar and cacao, and on the petroleum industry which is based on the coast. The
inhabitants of the agreste make their living from subsistence farming, small-scale
agriculture (vegetables, fruit, cotton and coffee) and cattle ranching (beef and dairy).
In the sertão, the economy is based on cattle ranching, cotton cultivation and
subsistence farming, which puts the carnaubeira, a type of palm, to a multitude of
uses. The meio norte is economically reliant on babaçu, another type of
palm, which provides nuts and oil. The latter is converted into lubricating oil, soap,
margarine and cosmetics. São Luís has become a major center for the production of
Bahia is Brazil’s most historic state, and has retained strong links with the African
heritage of many of its inhabitants. Its capital, Salvador da Bahia, was also once the
capital of colonial Brazil, from 1549 to 1763, and was the center of the sugar industry,
which sustained the country’s prosperity until the 18th-century decline in international
The state of Bahia divides into three quite distinct regions: the recôncavo, the
sertão and the litoral. The recôncavo is a band of hot and humid
lands which surrounds the Baía de Todos as Santos. The principal cities are Cachoeira,
Santo Amaro, Maragojipe and Nazaré, which were once sugar and tobacco centers and the
source of wealth for Salvador.
The sertão is a vast and parched land on which a suffering people eke out a
meager existence raising cattle and tilling the earth. Periodically, tremendous droughts,
such as the great drought of 1877-79, sweep the land. Thousands of Sertaneaw6kx pile
their belongings on their backs and migrate south or anywhere they can find jobs. But with
the first hint of rain in the sertão, the Sertaneaw6kx return to renew their
strong bond with this land.
The littoral south of Salvador, with beautiful, endless beaches, is a cacao-producing
region, and there are important cities like Valença, Ilhéus and Itabuna. North of
Salvador the coast is only sparsely populated with a few fishing villages. The southern
beaches are calm, while the northern beaches are often windy with rough surf.
Salvador is a fascinating city loaded with colonial relicsincluding many richly
decorated churches, one for every day of the year according to popular belief. You should
also take the time to explore outside Salvador and visit the smaller cities, towns and
fishing villages in Bahia, where life is unaffected by tourism and even less affected by
the 20th century.
If beaches are what you want, the only difficulty is choosing. You can go to Porto
Seguro for beaches with fancy hotels and restaurants or cross the river to Arraial
d’Ajuda, Trancoso and Caraiva for a hipper, less developed beach scene. To really escape
civilization, you can go to the beaches up north around Conde, or to the south along the
Península do Maraú.
The inland regions of Bahia are less well known, but are worth a visit if you want a
change from beaches. Cachoeira and Lençóis are both interesting colonial towns and
Lençóis provides a handy base for hiking trips in the Parque Nacional da Chapada
Diamantina. Travellers might also like to explore the bizarre moonscapes of the sertão,
where the Sertaneaw6kx have maintained a rich culture despite the poor environment.
Capoeira originated as an African martial art developed by slaves to fight their
masters. Capoeira was prohibited by the oppressors and banished from the senzalas (slave
barracks). The slaves were forced to practice clandestinely in the forest. Later, in an
attempt to disguise this dance of defiance from the authorities, Capoeira was developed
into a kind of acrobatic dance. The clapping of hands and plucking of the berimbau, a
stringed musical instrument that looks like a fishing rod, originally served to alert
fighters to the approach of the boss and subsequently became incorporated into the dance
to maintain the rhythm.
As recently as the 1920s, Capoeira was still prohibited and Salvador’s police chief
organized a police cavalry squad to ban Capoeira from the streets. In the 1930s, Mestre
Bimba established his academy and changed the emphasis of capoeira, from its original
function as a tool of insurrection, to a form of artistic expression which has become an
institution in Bahia.
Today, there are two schools of capoeira: the Capoeira de Angola, led by Mestre
Pastinha, and the more aggressive Capoeira Regional of Mestre Bimba. The former school
holds that Capoeira came from Angola; the latter believes that it was born in the
plantations of Cachoeira and other cities of the recôncavo region.
Capoeira combines the forms of the fight, the game and the dance. The movements are
always fluid and circular, the fighters always playful and respectful. It has become very
popular in recent years, and throughout Bahia and the rest of Brazil you will see the roda
de capoeiras (semicircles of spectator-musicians who sing the initial chula before
the fight and provide the percussion during the fight). In addition to the musical
accompaniment from the berimbau, blows are exchanged between fighter/dancers to the
beat of other instruments, such as caxixi, pandeiro, reco-reco, agogô and atabaque.
Bahia has some of Brazil’s best artisans, who usually have small shops or sell in the
local market. You can buy their folk art in Salvador, but the best place to see or
purchase the real stuff is in the town of origin because so much of the production is
regional and specialized.
The main materials used in Bahian folk art are leather, wood, earth, metal and fiber.
Feira de Santana is known for its leatherwork: the best examples are in the city’s Casa do
Sertão folklore museum. Maragojipinho, Rio Real and Cachoeira produce earthenware. Caldas
do Jorro, Caldas de Cipó and Itaparica specialize in straw crafts. Rio de Contas and
Muritiba have metalwork. Ilha de Maré is famous for lacework. Jequié Valença and Feira
de Santana are woodworking centers. Santo Antônio de Jesus, Rio de Contas and Monte Santo
manufacture goods made of leather and silver.
Much of Bahian life revolves around the Afro-Brazilian religious cults known as
Candomblé. To the Christian observer, Candomblé provides a radically different view of
the world. It combines African traditions of music, dance and language into a system of
worship and enjoyment of life in peace and harmony.
Much of Candomblé is secretit was prohibited in Bahia until 1970but the
public ceremony, conducted in the original Yoruba tongue, takes place in a terreiro. In
Salvador, the Casa Branca on Avenida Vasco da Gama 463, in the Engenho Velho neighborhood,
is a center for Candomblé activities.
Salvador da Bahia, often abbreviated to Bahia by Brazilians, is the capital of Bahia
state and one of Brazil’s cultural highlights. This city of 2.1 million people has managed
to retain its African soul and develop the best of its colonial legacy into a unique,
vibrant culture. Ornate churches still stand on cobblestone streets. Festivals are
spontaneous, wild, popular and frequent. Candomblé services illuminate the hillsides. Capoeira
and afoxé dance through the streets. The restoration of the historic center of
Salvador has revitalized areas that were previously considered dangerous and largely off
limits to tourists. However, despite the current boom in tourism, Salvador also suffers
from social and economic problems, with a great number of citizens who are jobless,
homeless, hungry, abandoned and sick.
According to tradition, on 1 November 1501, All Saints’ Day, the Italian navigator
Amerigo Vespucci sailed into the bay, which was accordingly named Baía de Todos as
Santos. In 1549, Tomé de Souza came from Portugal bringing city plans, a statue, 400
soldiers and 400 settlers, including priests and prostitutes. He founded the city in a
defensive location: on a clifftop facing the sea. After the first year, a city of mud and
straw had been erected, and by 1550 the surrounding walls were in place to protect against
attacks from hostile Indians. Salvador da Bahia became the capital of the new region, and
remained Brazil’s most important city for the next three centuries.
During its first century of existence, the city depended upon the export of sugar cane,
but tobacco cultivation was later introduced and cattle ranching proved profitable in the sertão.
The export of gold and diamonds mined in the interior of Bahia (Chapada Diamantina)
provided Salvador with immense wealth. The opulent baroque architecture is a testament to
the prosperity of this period.
Salvador remained the seat of government until 1763 when, with the decline of the
sugar-cane industry, the capital was moved to Rio. Overlooking the mouth of Baía de Todos
as Santos, which is surrounded by the recôncavo, Brazil’s richest sugar and
tobacco lands, Bahia was colonial Brazil’s economic heartland. Sugar, tobacco, sugar-cane
brandy and, later, gold were shipped out, whilst slaves and European luxury goods were
After Lisbon, Salvador was the second city in the Portuguese Empire: the glory of
colonial Brazil, famed for its many gold-filled churches, beautiful colonial mansions and
numerous festivals. It was also renowned, as early as the 17th century, for its bawdy
public life, sensuality and decadence, so much so that it became known as the Bay of All
Saints…and of nearly all sins!
The first black slaves were brought from Guinea in 1538, and in 1587 historian Gabriel
Soares estimated that Salvador had 12,000 whites, 8000 converted Indians and 4000 black
slaves. A black man was worth six times as much as a black woman in the slave market. The
number of blacks eventually increased to constitute half of the population and the
traditions of Africa took root so successfully that today Salvador is called the African
soul of Brazil.
In Salvador, blacks preserved their African culture more than anywhere else in the New
World. They maintained their religion and spirituality, within Catholicism. African food
and music enriched the homes of both black and white, while capoeira developed
among the slaves. Quilombos, runaway slave communities, terrified the landed
aristocracy, and uprisings of blacks threatened the city several times.
In 1798, the city was the stage for the Conjuração dos Alfaiates (Conspiracy of the
Tailors), which intended to proclaim a Bahian republic. Although this uprising was quickly
quelled, the battles between those who longed for independence and those loyal to Portugal
continued in the streets of Salvador for many years. It was only on 2 July 1823, with the
defeat in Cabrito and Pirajá of the Portuguese troops commanded by Madeira de Melo, that
the city found peace. At that time, Salvador numbered 45,000 inhabitants and was the
commercial center of a vast territory.
For most of the 19th and 20th centuries the city stagnated as the agricultural economy,
based on archaic arrangements for land distribution, organization of labor and production,
went into uninterrupted decline. Only recently has Salvador begun to move forward
economically. New industries such as petroleum, chemicals and tourism are producing
changes in the urban landscape, but the rapidly increasing population is faced with major
Salvador sits at the southern tip of a V-shaped peninsula at the mouth of Baía de
Todos os Santos. The left branch of the ‘V’ is on Baía de Todos as Santos; the right
branch faces the Atlantic Ocean, and the junction of the ‘V’ is the Barra district, south
of the city center.
Finding your way around Salvador can be difficult. Besides the upper city and lower
city, there are too many one-way, no-left turn streets that wind through Salvador’s
valleys and lack any coherent pattern or relationship to the rest of the existing paved
world. Traffic laws are left to the discretion of drivers. Gridlock is common at rush
hour. Perhaps most difficult for the visitor is the fact that street names are not
regularly used by locals, and when they are, there are often so many different names for
each street that the one you have in mind probably doesn’t mean anything to the person
you’re asking to assist youthe road along the Atlantic coast, sometimes known as
Avenida Presidente Vargas, has at least four aliases.
Street-name variations include:
Praça 15 de Novembro is popularly known as Terreiro de Jesus.
Rua Dr. J J Seabra is popularly known as Bairro do Sapateiro (Shoemaker’s
Neighborhood). In early colonial days, this street was the site of a moat, the first line
of defence against the Indians. Rua Francisco Muniz Barreto is also called Rua das
Laranjeiras (Street of Orange Trees).
Rua Inácio Accioli is also known as Boca do Lixo (Garbage Mouth)!
Rua Leovigildo de Carvalho is known as Beco do Mota.
Rua Padre Nóbrega is commonly referred to as Brega. The street was originally named
after a priest. It developed into the main drag of the red-light district, and with time,
Nóbrega was shortened to Brega, which in Brazilian usage is now synonymous with brothel!
A steep bluff divides central Salvador into two parts: Cidade Alta (Upper City) and
Cidade Baixa (Lower City). These are linked by the Plano Inclinado Gonçalves (funicular
railway), the Lacerda Elevator, the Plano Inclinado Liberdade/Calçada and some very steep
This is the historic section of Salvador. Built on hilly, uneven ground, the site of
the original settlement was chosen to protect the new capital from Indian attacks. The
most important buildingschurches, convents, government offices and houses of
merchants and landownerswere constructed on the hilltops. Rational planning was not
a high priority.
Today, the colonial neighborhoods of Pelourinho, Terreiro de Jesus and Anchieta are
filled with 17th-century churches and houses. The area has been undergoing major
restoration work since 1993, which continues today. The result is that Pelourinho has been
transformed into a tourist mecca, packed with restaurants, bars, art galleries and
boutiques. Although it’s lost some of its character in the process (many of the street
vendors and local residents have been shunted off), the area is now much safer and tourist
police are posted on just about every other corner.
Just around the corner from Praça da Sé and the Lacerda Elevator, you’ll see a large
cream-colored colonial building, which houses Bahiatursa, the state tourism agency. A few
blocks further is Praça Castro Alves, a major hub for Carnaval festivities.
From here, Avenida 7 de Setembro runs southwards (parallel to the bay) until it reaches
the Atlantic Ocean and the Barra district, which has many of the city’s top-end and
mid-range hotels and bars.
Heading east from Barra district, the main road along the Atlantic coast, sometimes
called Avenida Presidente Vargas (at least on the maps), snakes along the shore all the
way to Itapoã. Along the way it passes the middle-class Atlantic suburbs and a chain of
This is Bahia’s commercial and financial center, and port. Busy during working days,
and filled with lunch places, the lower city is deserted and unsafe at night. Heading
north, away from the ocean and along the bay, you pass the port and the ferry terminal for
Ilha de Itaparica, and continue to the bay beaches of Boa Viagem and Ribeira (very lively
on weekends). These are poor suburbs along the bay and the further you go from the center,
the greater the poverty. Watch for the incredible architecture of the algados, which
are similar to favelas, but built on the bay.
CIA, the Centro Industrial de Aratu, is three times the size of Salvador and sprawls
around the bay of Aratu, which empties into Baía de Todos as Santos. It’s the first
rationally planned industrial park in Brazil and over 100 firms operate there.
There is an ongoing feud between Emtursa, the tourist authority for the city of
Salvador, and Bahiatursa, the state tourist organization. As a result, neither authority
is keen to tell travellers about information available from their counterpart.
Emtursa’s main office (Tel.: 243-6555) is at Largo do Pelourinho 12, and there’s a
small information post inside the Museu da Cidade across the street, open Tuesday to
Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.
The main tourist office of Bahiatursa (Tel.: 241-4333) is in Palácio Rio Branco, Rua
Chile 2. The office is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. The staff are helpful and provide
advice on accommodation, events, and where and when to see capoeira and Candomblé.
The notice board inside the office has messages to help you find friends, rent houses and
boats, buy guidebooks and even overseas airline tickets.
There are also Bahiatursa offices at Rua Francisco Muniz Barreto 12, Pelourinho (Tel.:
321-2463), open daily from 8 am to 7 pm; Praça Azevedo Fernandes, Largo do Barra (Tel.:
247-3195), open Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 7 pm; Mercado Modelo (Tel.: 241-0242),
open from 8 am to 6 pm Monday to Saturday; the rodoviária (Tel.: 358-0871), open
daily from 9 am to 9 pm; and the airport (Tel.: 204-1244), open daily from 8.30 am to 10
Bahiatursa operates an alternative accommodation service to locate rooms in private
houses and the like during Carnaval and summer holidays. This can be an excellent way to
find cheap rooms. Information on travel throughout the state of Bahia is also available,
but don’t expect much detail.
For general tourist information or help, you can try dialing Tel. 131 for a service
called Disque Turismo (Dial Tourism).
Gay & Lesbian
Information is available from Centro Cultura (Triângulo Rosa; Tel. 243-4903), Rua do
Sodré 45, which is close to the Museu de Arte Sacra da Bahia. The center publishes an
entertainment guide to Salvador’s gay scene, Guia para Gays, which costs $4. You
can also contact the center for information on HIV/AIDS.
The main branch of Banco do Brasil is at Avenida Estados Unidos 561, in Cidade Baixa.
Other useful branches of this bank are on Terreiro de Jesus, Pelourinho; on Avenida Miguel
Bournier, Barra; and at the airport. Banco Econômico also has a handy branch at Rua
Alfredo Brito 17, Pelourinho.
Currently, street moneychangers aren’t the slightest bit interested in foreign
currencies. This situation may change, but it’s not advisable to change money on the
street at any time.
There’s an American Express/Kontik-Franstur SA office (Tel.: 242-0433) in the Cidade
Baixa, at Rua da Argentina 1, which holds mail for travellers. It’s open Monday to Friday
from 8 am to 6 pm, but the mail office often closes for lunch.
Post & Telephone
The central post office is in Cidade Baixa, on Praça da Inglaterra. There are also
post offices at Rua Alfredo de Brito 43, Pelourinho; at the airport; and at the rodoviária.
Watch out for price hikes and make sure items are franked.
Many hotels have an international phone service, which is more convenient than running
off to a telephone station. If you are not so lucky, some of the convenient Telebahia
Telebahia Mercado ModeloPraça Visconde de Cairu, Comércio. Open Monday to
Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm, and from 8 am to noon on Sunday. Telebahia Barra Avenida 7 de
Setembro 533, Porto da Barra. Open daily from noon to 10 pm. Telebahia Shopping Barra
Avenida Centenário 2992, Barra. Open daily from 9 am to 10 pm, and from 9 am to 7 pm on
Telebahia RodoviáriaOpen daily from 6 am to 10 pm.
Telebahia AeroportoAeroporto Internacional Dois de Julho. Open daily from 7 am to
There are also telephone stations in Iguatemi Shopping Center, Campo da Pólvora and
Centro de Convenções da Bahia.
The following countries maintain consulates in Salvador:
Travessa Francisco Gonçalves 1, Comércio (Tel.: 241-0168). Open Monday, Tuesday and
Thursday from 2.30 to 5 pm.
Rua Lucaia 281, salas 204-6, Rio Vermelho (Tel: 247-7106) Open Monday to Friday from 9
am to noon.
Avenida Estados Unidos 4, salas 1109-1113, Comércio (Tel.: 243-9222). Open Monday to
Thursday from 9 to 11 am and 2 to 4 pm, and Friday from 9 to 11 am
Avenida Antônio Carlos Magalhães, Edifício Cidadela Center 1, sala 410, Pituba
(Tel.: 358-9166). Open Monday to Friday from 9 to 11 am and 2 to 4 pm.
For visa extensions, the Polícia Federal (Tel.: 321-6363) is at Rua Oscar Pontes,
Água de Meninos s/n (no number), Comércio. Take a ‘Calçada’ bus from the Avenida da
França bus stop at the base of the Lacerda Elevator, and get off at the Mercado Popular.
Walk back about 100 meters towards the city center and turn right. You’ll see the blue and
grey Polícia Federal building at the end of the street, near the docks.
Tatu Tours (Tel.: 245-9322) is at Avenida Centenário 2883, Edifício Victoria Center,
sala 105, Barra, Salvador, CEP 40147-900, BA. The company specializes in natural and
cultural history tours around Bahia, including specialist topics such as Afro-Brazilian
culture, and is happy to deal with groups or independent travellers.
The following travel agencies sell bus tickets in addition to all the normal services.
They can save you a trip out to the rodoviária, but check first, as some agents do
not sell tickets to all destinations:
Barra (Tel.: 336-1099)
Avenida Manoel Dias da Silva 1211, Pituba (Tel.: 248-3433)
Avenida 7 de Setembro 1420 (Tel.: 321-6633)
Campo da Pólvora 21, Centro (Tel.: 321-0141)
Avenida Estados Unidos 60, Cidade Baixa (Tel.: 243-8598)
Livraria Brandão, at Rua Rui Barbosa 15B, is a huge second-hand bookstore with a large
range of foreign-language books to buy or exchange.
Maps & Guidebooks
Most news agencies have maps on salePlanta Turística de Salvador is useable,
and Emtursa sells a handy small map, SalvadorMapa de Bolso. Bahiatursa has a
free map and services guide to Pelourinho, and a monthly guide to cultural events, Bahia
Eventos & Serviços. The Fundação Cultural puts out a similar, but more detailed
guide with reviews, called Agenda Cultural, available at Bahiatursa offices.
Bahiatursa also publishes a glossy, detailed guide once a year, Guia Turístico
Bahia, which has useful listings. Most tourist offices and hotels have copies of Itinerário,
a free monthly listing of cultural events in Salvador. The weekly magazine Veja also
publishes a regular supplement containing excellent articles and listings for the latest
cultural events in Bahia.
In Salvador, shopkeepers often close for lunch from noon to 3 pm. Work has a different
flavor: slow, relaxed and seemingly nonchalant.
The slow pace often frustrates and irritates visitors, but if you can reset your
internal clock and not get uptight or unsettled, you are likely to be rewarded with many
kindnesses and surprises.
Dangers & Annoyance
Salvador has a reputation for theft and muggings, and tourists clearly make easy
targets. Paranoia is counterproductive, but you should be aware of the dangers and
understand what you can do to minimize problems.
The following are some general points to remember when visiting Salvador: dress down;
take only enough money with you for your outing; carry only a photocopy of your passport;
and don’t carry a camera outside Pelourinho.
Look at a map for basic orientation before you set out to see the sights. Although
tourist police maintain a highly visible presence in the center of Salvador, particularly
Pelourinho, this does not apply in other areas. The Lacerda Elevator is renowned for
crime, especially at night around the base station, and pickpocketing is common on buses
and in crowded places. Don’t hesitate to use taxis during the day and especially after
On the beaches, keep a close eye on juvenile thieves, often referred to as capitães
d’areia (captains of the sand), who are quick to make off with unguarded possessions.
During Carnaval, tourist authorities highly recommend that tourists form small groups
and avoid deserted places, especially narrow alleyways.
Useful numbers include: Disque Turismo (dial tourism) Tel.: 131; Pronto Socorro (first
aid) Tel.: 192; and Polícia Civil (police) Tel.: 197. There are several police posts in
the city centerfor example, near the bus stop on Praça da Sé. In the same area,
there are tourist police (identified by an armband) on patrol.
Things to See & Do
Historic Salvador is easy to see on foot, and you should plan on spending a couple of
days wandering among the splendid 16th and 17th-century churches, homes and museums. One
good approach is to ramble through the old city in the morning, head out to the beaches in
the afternoon, and devote the evening to music, dance or Candomblé.
The most important sections of Salvador’s colonial quarter extend from Praça Castro
Alves along Ruas Chile and da Misericórdia to Praça da Sé and Terreiro de Jesus, and
then continue down through Largo do Pelourinho and up the hill to Largo do Carmo.
Starting at the Praça da Sé, walk a block to the Terreiro de Jesus (Praça 15 de
Novembro on many maps). The biggest church on the plaza is the Cathedral of Bahia, which
served as a Jesuit center until the Jesuits were expelled from Brazil in 1759. The
cathedral was built between 1657 and 1672, and its walls are covered with Lioz marble
which served as ballast for returning merchant ships. Many consider this the city’s most
beautiful church. The interior has many segmented areas and the emphasis is on
verticalityraise your eyes to admire the superb ceiling. Entrance costs $1. The
cathedral is open from 8 to 11 am and 3 to 6 pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 5 to 6.30 pm
The Antiga Faculdade de Medicina (Old Medical Faculty) houses the Afro-Brazilian
Museum, with its small but excellent collection of orixás from both Africa and
Bahia. There is a surprising amount of African art, ranging from pottery to woodwork, as
well as superb ceremonial Candomblé apparel. Other highlights include wooden panels
representing Oxum (an orixá revered as the goddess of beauty) which were carved by
Carybé, a famous Argentine artist who has lived in Salvador for many years. Entrance
costs $0.50 and the museum ( Tel.: 321-0383) is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 5
In the basement of the same building is the Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia (Archaeology
& Ethnology Museum), which is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm.
Igreja São Francisco
Defying the teachings and vows of poverty of its namesake, this baroque church, east of
Praça da Sé, is crammed with displays of wealth and splendor. Gold leaf is used like
wallpaper. There’s an 80-kg silver chandelier and imported azuleaw6kx (Portuguese
Forced to build their masters’ church and yet prohibited from practicing their own
religion (Candomblé terreiros were hidden and kept far from town), the African
slave artisans responded through their work: the faces of the cherubs are distorted, some
angels are endowed with huge sex organs, some appear pregnant. Most of these creative acts
were chastely covered by 20th-century sacristans. Traditionally blacks were seated in far
corners of the church without a view of the altar.
Notice the polychrome figure of São Pedro de Alcântara by Manoel Inácio da Costa.
The artist, like his subject, was suffering from tuberculosis. He made one side of the
saint’s face more ashen than the other so that São Pedro appears more ill as you walk
past him. José Joaquim da Rocha painted the hallway ceiling using perspective technique,
which was considered a novelty at the time.
The poor come to Igreja São Francisco on Tuesday to venerate Santo Antônio and
receive bread. The Candomblistas respect this church’s saints and come to pray both here
and in Igreja Nosso Senhor do Bonfim. Depending on restoration work, opening hours are
Monday to Saturday from 7.30 to 11.30 am and 2 to 6 pm, and Sunday from 7 am to noon.
Excerpts from Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by
Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro, and Robyn Jones. For more
information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications.
Used by permission.
Buy it at
Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit
by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones