Excerpts from 1,270 word article


Salvador, Bahia: Arrive in Salvador on a Tuesday and you'll quickly see why Brazilians consider it their country's most exciting vacation destination. I'm with them, for not only is this the most African city in the Americas but it is the only place I know where everyone parties on Tuesdays as well as weekends. On other days it presents itself as a prosperous upbeat place of modern buildings, tree-lined avenues, well-maintained parks and great beaches......

Leaving the beaches I passed a sign proclaiming "Bahia, The Land of Happiness" describing the State of which Salvador is capital. (It also explained why the locals call themselves Bahians.) Soon I came upon a landscaped park where a lake contains statues of the Orixas who make sure the place stays happy. They represent candomblé Gods brought by African slaves, whose labour in mines and plantations produced the colony's wealth. When the slaves were no longer allowed to follow their own religions they matched each of their own deities with a Catholic saint in a practice known as syncretism. And when their African martial arts were banned, they disguised them as an acrobatic dance called capoeira. Now this is a national art form, an influence reflected even in Brazil's brilliance on the soccer field.


Salvador's Afro-Brazilian culture still has enormous impact on life in this community where 80 per cent of the population have at least some African blood. Catholic churches here are outnumbered three to one by Candomblé temples, and many devout people are comfortable to worship in both.

This is no more apparent than at the church of Nossa Senhor do Bonfim (Our Lord of Good Ending) frequented by worshippers of both the Catholic and candomblé faiths. Built in 1754, it is a popular site for religious pilgrimages. Pope John Paul 11 has conferred a rare honour upon it by coming to pray here on two occasions. Outside, vendors sell bunches of coloured ribbons as good luck charms. Representing candomblé gods they bear names of syncretized Catholic saints and are blessed by the clergy. But the mixture of piety and paganism (along with superstition) goes far beyond this. Africa influences an entire way of life in the realms of music and dance, and even dress. Bahians carry loads on their heads as people do in Africa, while inshore fishermen use dug-out canoes. The university curriculum includes Yoruba, a dominant West African language. Restaurant menus feature such items as caruru, vatapa and acaraji, Yoruba names for spicy dishes from Nigeria and Senegal.