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Though the city of Salvador, founded in 1549, lost its status as capital of Brazil in 1763 when that honor was given to Rio (and later to Brasília), it remains the capital of Bahia. At least 70% of its 2,250,000 population is classified as Afro-Brazilian. African rhythms roll forth everywhere—from buses and construction sites to the rehearsals of percussion groups. The scents of coriander, coconut, and palm oil waft around corners.
Salvadorians may tell you that you can visit a different church every day of the year, which is almost true—the city has about 300. Churches whose interiors are covered with gold leaf were financed by the riches of the Portuguese colonial era, when slaves masked their traditional religious beliefs under a thin Catholic veneer. And partly thanks to modern-day acceptance of those beliefs, Salvador has become the fount of Candomblé, a religion based on personal dialogue with the orixás, a family of African deities closely linked to nature and the Catholic saints. The influence of Salvador's African heritage on Brazilian music has also turned this city into one of the musical capitals of Brazil, with many of its exponents like Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, and Daniela Mercury acquiring international exposure.
Salvador's economy today is focused on telecommunications and tourism. The still-prevalent African culture draws many tourists—this is the best place in Brazil to hear African music, learn or watch African dance, and see capoeira, a martial art developed by slaves. In the district of Pelourinho, many colorful 18th- and 19th-century houses remain, part of the reason why this is the center of the tourist trade.
Salvador at a Glance
- Catedral Basílica
- Elevador Lacerda
- Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra
- Fundação Casa de Jorge Amado/Museu da Cidade
- Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos
- Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim
- Igreja de São Francisco
- Igreja São Domingos de Gusmão da Ordem Terceira
- Ilha de Itaparica
- Largo do Pelourinho (Pelourinho Square)
Elsewhere in Salvador and the Bahia Coast
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