Explore: Salvador Brazil
By Alexander Winter
Published Apr 2015
It is Friday and Soteropolitanos—citizens of Salvador—meet on their way home from work, waiting on the bus, or at countless hot dog stands. There’s a Baiana, a woman from this very state of Bahia, eating her Acarajé, a dough of black-eyed peas fried in African palm oil stuffed with shrimp. The culture is one of celebration and Brazilians readily acknowledge this by saying that if Rio De Janeiro were partying with 200 people, Salvador would celebrate the same cause with 2000. Every year, about two million people will participate in the street festivities for Carnival in Salvador. "The weather matches the attitude at a comfortable 70-80° F" Whether at bus stops or in front of shopping centers, wherever people gather there is a popsicle vendor, another with a thermos offering coffee, and—held in especially sacred regard—a stand with a few plastic chairs and a styrofoam box with ice-cold beer. The phrases “tomar uma geladinha” (translating roughly to “grab a little chilled one”), or “tomar uma cervejinha” (“grab a little beer”) perfectly express the sentiment of this happy hour while oversized DIY speakers blast rhythmic music—from Pagode, to Axé-Music, to Arrocha. Soteropolitanos are warm, relaxed, and friendly; nothing works under stress in this town. The weather matches the attitude at a comfortable average mean in the 70s Fahrenheit year-round. According to long time Salvador resident Daniele Naglieri, clear class distinctions rooted in the city’s colonial history—including slavery—can still be felt today and are expressed in work ethic and reliability, because the average person feels used within the industries from service to production. However, over the last decade most people across the board have felt the beneficial effects of a better economy and increased industrialization, especially when compared to other parts of Brazil. The city was founded in 1549 by the Portuguese, driven by the colonial desire for riches and goods. It sits at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and the enormous Bay of All Saints, and boasts various architectural expressions from its European heritage. About 80% of the population self-identifies as having African heritage, which is a major component in cultural influences from food and music, to religion and worldviews. Bahian cuisine heavily relies on Dendê oil, derived from the African Oil Palm, to make dishes like Moqueca, a stew cooked in a clay casserole, prepared with fish or shrimp in coconut milk. Because of the climate, diverse fruits from around the world grow here full of flavor, which leads to tasty desserts like Cocada, which is either made with grated coconut, milk and egg yolks, or condensed milk and coconut milk. The old historic center Pelourinho is lined with colorful abodes. There the Jesuit church Igreja de São Francisco presents itself as modest from the outside, while its interior looks like it has been dipped in pure gold. On the plaza in front dancers perform Capoeira by a dry fountain, just a few blocks down from the huge art deco elevator Lacerda that leads down to the Mercado Modelo, a market filled with trinkets, fabrics, and convenience goods. Visit Salvador and immerse yourself in the warmth and vibrancy this city embodies to fully get a sense of their way of life. See the 6-page photo essay on Salvador in the Print Edition. Photos by Alexander Winter