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Salvador shelters a large Afro-Brazilian community. It is famous for "candomblé", a religion inherited from the slaves, whose rites are celebrated in "terreiros", small temples were African deities and Catholic saints are worshiped side by side. Despite its strong African heritage, the prevailing religion in Salvador is still Roman Catholicism. According to legend, there are 365 Catholic churches in Salvador, one for every day of the year.
European, African and American heritages have been intricately woven together in Salvador. There, three cultures interacted and were transformed by the shared climate, geography and social history. As a result, something entirely new has emerged. Salvador is culturally vital and defiantly different: a melting pot instead of a mosaic; a soup instead of a salad.
Salvador is also famous for its street carnival celebrations, when more than 2 million people dance on the streets for seven days in a row. Tourists from all around the world follow the “trio elétrico”, huge trucks packed with amplifiers that spread music and happiness all over town.
The state of Bahia has produced some of the best Brazilian musicians ever, such as Dorival Caymmi, Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethania, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Daniela Mercuri and Ivete Sangalo - not to mention João Gilberto, the "Pope" of bossa nova.
Breathless with its beauty, visitors will find that typical Salvador
is superb. The scent of dendê palm oil fills the streets of
Pelourinho, as the well preserved historic center of Salvador
is known. There you can find the traditional "baianas",
Bahian women dressed in traditional white, selling acarajé and
abará, symbols of Bahia's unique cuisine.
Salvador was the first Brazilian capital and still bears some of the colonial splendor that originated the beautiful architectural style seen in the whole city, but especially present in the historic center. There you can find cafes, restaurants and shops selling everything from crafts to precious stones. The music is everywhere.
Agile practioners of "capoeira" - a kind of ritual combat first devised by African slaves - perform their gracious movements on the streets, always accompanied by the sound of a "berimbau" - a single-wire, bowlike instrument.
A brief history of Salvador
Salvador was founded by the Portuguese in 1549 as an important stop for ships south of the equator. The city is located on a large bay, after which the state of Bahia ("bay", in Portuguese) was named.
Salvador hosted the main port in the southern hemisphere until the 18th century. Besides being the first Brazilian capital, Salvador was one of the most important cities in the southern hemisphere during the 17th and 18th century.
It was soon discovered that its climate and soil were favorable to sugar cane growing, which would later become fundamental to the regional economy. With trade and agriculture, great wealth was accummulated in Salvador during the 18th century, when monuments, temples, and public buildings were built.
Religions in Bahia
This is why many orixás are revered still today under the form of Catholic saints. For instance, Iansan, the fearless Goddess of storms, is identified with Saint Barbara; Ogun with Saint George, and Oxalá, the father of all orixás, is identified with Christ himself. See below some of the most important Orixas in their African original form.
When the drums sound at the terreiros, the initiates, literally the children of the saints, incorporate the holy spirits as they dance dressed in the clothes and colors characteristic of each orixá. According to Candomblé, each person on earth is a child of a specific orixá. For instance, a brave and impulsive man could be a son of Ogun, while an attractive and charming woman would probably be Oxum's daughter. In order to please one's orixá, a Candomblé adept always wear the deity colors in long beads collars.