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Salvador, Brazil

Salvador (in full, São Salvador da Baía de Todos os Santos, meaning "Holy Savior of the Bay of All Saints") is a city on the northeast coast of Brazil and the capital of the NE Brazilian state of Bahia. The city was for a long time also known as Bahia, and appears under that name (or as Salvador da Bahia) on many maps and books from before the mid 20th century, including in Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719). To natives of the city, "Bahia" means Salvador; to most other Brazilians, however, "Bahia" refers only to the state.

Salvador is located on a peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean coast, next to the Baía de Todos os Santos. It is a major export port and the heart of the Recôncavo Baiano metropolitan region, the region surrounding Todos os Santos bay. Its population was 2.54 million people in 2002, making it today the third largest city in Brazil, a position long held by Belo Horizonte (now demoted to fourth largest).


"Morning Street Scene, Bahia, Brazil", about 1900
"Morning Street Scene, Bahia, Brazil", about 1900

Although the Bay of Todos os Santos was first encountered by Europeans and christened in 1502, the city of Salvador wasn't founded until 1549 by a fleet of Portuguese settlers headed by Thomé de Souza, the first governador-geral (governor general) of the entire colony of Brazil. It quickly became Brazil's main sea port and the first colonial capital of Portuguese Brazil, a center of the sugar industry and the slave trade. The city became the seat of the first Catholic bishop of Brazil in 1552, and is still an ecclesiastical power center of Brazilian Catholicism. Its cathedral, still standing today, was completed in 1572. By 1583, there were 1,600 people residing in the city, and it quickly grew into one of the largest cities in the New World, surpassing any colonial American city at the time of the American Revolution in 1776.

Salvador was the capital city of the Portuguese viceroyalty of Grão-Pará and its province of Bahia de Todos os Santos. The Dutch captured and sacked the city in May of 1624, and held it along with other NE ports until it was re-taken by the Portuguese in April of the following year.

Salvador was the first capital of Brazil and remained so until 1763, when it was succeeded by Rio de Janeiro, the new economic power center of that era. The city became a base for the Brazilian independence movement and was attacked by Portuguese troops in 1812, before being officially liberated on July 2, 1823. It settled into graceful decline over the next few centuries, becoming a regional cultural center, but out of the mainstream of Brazilian life.

By 1948 the city had some 340,000 people, and was already Brazil's fourth largest city. By 1991 the population was 2.08 million.

In the 1990s, a major city project cleaned up and restored the old downtown area, the Pelourinho.

Salvador has been the birthplace of many noted Brazilians, including musicians such as song-writer Dorival Caymmi, MPB star Gal Costa , and Grammy-winner Gilberto Gil. Gil later went on to be a city council member (vereador) and is currently the Brazilian Minister of Culture

Salvador Today

The city is divided into a cidade alta ("upper city") and cidade baixa ("lower city"), with the Cathedral and administrative buildings on the higher ground. The city still contains many colonial buildings, including the first cathedral in Brazil, and the nation's oldest medical college, but it has become more famous due to the strong influence of African culture on the city. The majority of the population of the city are of African ancestry. It is the center of Yoruba Candomblé and the martial dance art of capoeira, and has so many churches (over 350 including the 16th century cathedral) it has been dubbed the "Black Rome". The African influence extends beyond religion to cover food, music (from the spiritually influenced afoxé and the community-based blocos afros to more popular axé and samba), and a dynamic cultural life.

The city's official literacy rate is 81%. As of the late 1990s, the average monthly income was R$ 537 (about 447 US dollars). Sanitation is a problem in the poorer neighborhoods. About 1/3 of the residents have neither sewage hookups nor septic tanks.

The city has several universities:

Salvador is noted for its large Carnival celebrations.

Esporte Clube Bahia and Esporte Clube Vitória are Salvador´s main soccer teams. EC Bahia has won a national title twice: Brazil's cup (equivalent to the Brazilian league prior to 1971) in 1959 and the Brazilian League in 1988. EC Vitoria, on the other side, has never won a national title and was able only to be a runner up of the Brazilian League.

Salvador is an important tourism destination, especially the Pelourinho or old town and the beaches.

Ford Motor Company has a plant on Salvador, assembling the Ford Courier.

External links

Last updated: 05-31-2005 17:11:34