capital of the
state of Bahia, was the first major port and the capital of colonial Brazil for
almost two centuries.
The city lies between green tropical hills and broad beaches along the bay
of Todos os Santos. It was built on two levels with administration
buildings and residences constructed on the hills; forts, docks, and
warehouses on the beaches. To this day the city is still divided
into upper and lower cities. From 1500 to 1815 Salvador was the
nation's busiest port. A significant portion of the sugar from the
northeast and gold and diamonds from the mines in the southeast passed through Salvador. It was a golden age for the town; magnificent homes and
churches resplendent in
gold decoration were built. Many of the city's baroque churches, private homes, squares, and even the
bricks have been preserved as part of Brazil's historic patrimony.
In Salvador, more than anywhere else in the country, the African
influence in the makeup of Brazilian culture is readily visible,
from the spicy dishes still called by their African names (caruru,
vatapa, acaraji), to the ceremonies of candombli which honor both
African deities and Catholic holidays, to the "capoeira" schools
where a unique African form of ritualistic fighting is taught. Its
population is around 2,250,000 inhabitants.