History in Salvador

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The Portuguese Pedro Álvares Cabral landed at what is now Porto Seguro, on the southern coast of Bahia in 1500, and claimed the territory for Portugal. In 1549, Portugal established the city of Salvador. The city and surrounding captaincy served as the administrative and religious capital of Portugal's colonies in the Americas until 1763. The Dutch held control of Bahia from May 1624 through April 1625. Charles Darwin visited Bahia in 1832 on his famous Voyage of The Beagle.

The state was also the last area of Brazil to join the independent confederation; it remained loyal to the Portuguese crown for two years after the rest of the country was granted independence.

Bahia was a center of sugar cultivation from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and contains a number of historical towns dating from this era. Integral to the sugar economy was the importation of a vast number of African slaves; more than 37% of all slaves taken from Africa were sent to Brazil, mostly to be processed in Bahia before being sent to work in plantations elsewhere in the country.

As the chief locus of the early Brazilian slave trade, Bahia is considered to possess the greatest and most distinctive African imprint, in terms of culture and customs, in Brazil. These include the Yoruba-derived religious system of Candomblé, the martial art of capoeira, African-derived music such as samba, afoxé, and axé, and a cuisine with strong links to western Africa. Bahia is the birthplace of such noted Brazilian musicians as Dorival Caymmi, João Gilberto, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and his sister Maria Bethânia, Daniela Mercury, Ivete Sangalo, and Carlinhos Brown, and home to internationally famous groups like Olodum, Ara Ketu, and Ilê Aiyê.

There also are indigenous tribes, such as the Pataxó, who reside on the southern Atlantic coast and in the state's interior.

The state's geographical regions comprise the mata atlântica or remnants of the Atlantic coast forests; the recôncavo region radiating from the Bay (the largest in Brazil), the site of sugar and tobacco cultivation; and the planalto, which includes the fabled sertão region of Bahia's far interior. Brazil's second longest river system, the São Francisco, runs from the Atlantic along the state's northern border down through the planalto into the neighboring southern state of Minas Gerais.

Bahia is the main producer and exporter of cacao in Brazil. In addition to important agricultural and industrial sectors, the state also has considerable mineral and petroleum deposits. Another major industry is tourism: Bahia's long coastline, beautiful beaches and cultural treasures make it one of the Brazil's chief tourist destinations.

Other important cities in the state include Ilhéus, the birthplace of one of Brazil's major 20th century writers, Jorge Amado; the old island city of Itaparica, on the island of the same name, in the bay; Cachoeira; Vitória da Conquista; and Lençóis, in the Chapada Diamantina region.

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