I knew I was going to end up in Salvador (a city in the North of Brazil, not El Salvador which is a country). I didn’t know how, but somehow I had this rested assurance that I would make it. I try to trace the inception of this fascination with Salvador and Brazil generally: I hadn’t studied anything directly relating to Brazil as a law student or as part of my A-levels. I don’t recall, reading books or magazines relating to Brazil; I hadn’t seen City of God, had never been to a Brazilian rodizio restaurant. But I wanted to go to Salvador and I knew I was going to get there. The how, well I ultimately found myself working in a law firm with an office in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I’d make it my mission to get seconded to work out there. A year and 6 months later, HELLO BRAZIL!
– PORTUGUESE ARCHITECTURE
Some history for ya. Salvador was Brazil’s first colonial capital and one of the oldest cities in the Americas. The Portuguese arrived there in 1500 and brought with them their famous architectural flare – colourful buildings, cobbled streets and obsessions with churches. As a port town, Salvador became an entry-point into Brazil and a major location for international trade and commerce. Unfortunately one of its biggest imports and means of finance was in the buying and selling of humans from the west coast of Africa (more on Afro-Brazil later). For now, know that I am obsessed with Portuguese architecture, it’s always a travel focal point for me. Salvador was the catalyst for this obsession, since then I have travelled far and wide: to Lisbon, Morocco, Lagos and Macau to discover it. I’m still discovering and have my sights set on Cape Verde, Mozambique and Angola next.
During the Atlantic slave trade, Brazil imported more African slaves than any other country, estimated at a whopping 4.9 million slaves (I suspect that this number doesn’t include the slaves that never made it through that inhumane journey, or the mothers who were pregnant at the time of transport), they were also the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery. It then makes sense that Brazil (Salvador especially) has the the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa. I spent a long afternoon at the Museu Afro-Brasileiro (MAFRO) in Pelourinho learning about the impacts Africans had on Brazilian history, culture, music and art; but I never expected to learn so much about my Nigerian culture there.
Those Brazilians of African descent were ‘masters of maintaining’, they were able to find a way to keep their culture and heritage (despite it being illegal and brutally forced out of them), a task that was damn near impossible for Africans transported to places like North America and most of the Caribbean. Africans were not allowed to keep their name and were ‘baptised’ with christian/catholic names, they were forced to denounce their religions and convert to catholicism and were also forbid to practice all cultural practices and rituals. Somehow Africans in Brazil found a way to circumvent these restrictions, according to the Lonely Planet, “there’s no other place in the world where descendants of African slaves have preserved their heritage as well as in Salvador – from music and religion to food, dance and martial-arts traditions” (watch this video if you haven’t seen Capoeira before).
-BY THE COAST
We took a boat trip from Pelourinho to Morro de Sao Paulo (Morro), where we stayed for 4 splendid nights. Morro is a car-free village on the tip of Tinharé Island. The island is made up of 5 beaches, conveniently named First Beach (Primeira Praia), Second Beach (Segunda Praia), Third Beach (Terceira Praia) and so on. It’s really touristy in peak season but don’t let that stop you, if you walk far enough (towards the third, fourth and fifth beaches) you’ll find the respite you need.
Morro is also a stone throw away from a few other islands, so we took day boat trips to the neighbouring islands. It was truly magical. I also had the best Moqueca there; a Brazilian recipe of fish stew (but we had it with shrimp) in coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander and palm oil and eaten with black beans and a cassava based mash – yum.
“It felt like a dream”
I somehow found myself ahead of the rest of my friends. I say somehow, but in reality I probably got distracted and wandered off.
I was taking pictures of the coast and then noticed this boy. I don’t know where he came from; there was nobody else behind me other than my friends. I took two shots on my iphone4 before I lost him again.
Places that compel you to look up in amazement! I stroll aimlessly through the streets of the historic center of Salvador (Pelourinho) with awe and gratitude. UNESCO world heritage sites like Salvador make walking easy: the weather, although hot, is often muted by a cool breeze – the perks of being a coastal city. I notice here that walking is the most effective form of meditation for me. Just walking, no real destination, the only purpose: to explore and to express gratitude.
This has become somewhat of my life philosophy, approach everything with awe and gratitude.
I really hope you enjoyed this photostory of Salvador, Brazil. It was one of the most mesmerising places I have ever been to, it touched me in ways I cannot even begin to put into words, all I can say is: you have to visit this place! All photos belong to me and were taken on my iPhone 4.
-SHARING IS CARING
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