In Salvador de Bahia - The Soul Of Brazil
|It is said
that the heart of Brazil is Rio. But everyone knows that the soul of Brazil
Still, if you
need your heart jump-started, head for Salvador do Bahia where the samba,
afoxé, capoiera, and the timbal pulsate through its veins. Where
Baianas move with grace and rhythm whether dancing in the cobbled streets
of Pelourinho, or walking the beach catwalk in thong bikinis, or whether
with sinuous arms pounding drums while parading on steep cobbled streets.
Even the palm trees lean in one direction and sway in time. Up and
down the alpine-steep streets of colonial Pelourinho, tourists and locals
alike sit outside at cafes, crumbly 18th century pastel edifices climb
and descend its hills and teeter teasingly at the precipice of its cliff.
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Below in the
lower city (Baixa), between the high rises which reach up to touch the
sky, Baianos who aren’t headed for the beach, are already there. And around
the circular bay, the sea breathes in and out with salty lungs. Bahian
nights are the stuff that dreams are made of, soothing in their warmth
cooled by the sea’s breath.
Night is when
you can see the fluttering of candomble flames on the hillsides. But that’s
after the pause at day's end, when everyone turns to watch the mango sun
meld into the sea, before resuming their celebration.
In 1549, Tomé
de Souza of Portugal, founded Salvador on a cliff top facing the sea.
do Bahia became the capital of the new region, and remained Brazil's
most important city for the next three centuries as white gold (sugar)
poured in, then tobacco, then gold of the golden and sparkly (diamonds)
variety. The opulent baroque architecture still standing is a testament
to the prosperity of that time.
Salvador was the second city in the Portuguese Empire: the glory of colonial
Brazil, famed for its many gold-filled churches, beautiful colonial mansions
and numerous festivals. It was also famous for its bawdy sensuality and
decadence, so much so that it became known as the Bay of All Saints...and
of nearly all sins!
Bahia is located at the mouth of Bahia de Todos os Santos. (Bay of All
Saints) The city of 2.1 million people has managed to retain its African
soul and develop the best of its colonial legacy into a unique, vibrant
culture. Rumor has it that there are 365 churches, one for each day of
spontaneous, wild, popular and frequent. Recent restoration of the historic
center of Salvador revitalized areas previously considered too dangerous
After two centuries
of decline, it has been only recently that Salvador has begun to make a
comeback. New industries such as petroleum and chemical plants have moved
in. And it is now the second most popular tourist destination in Brazil.
The upper tier
of Salvador, called Ciudad Alta (High City) is topped with the ornate
bell towers of old churches, like a tiered wedding cake, and the life below
in Baixa (lower city), resembles a wedding reception in eternal swing.
Bahia’s link to Africa is palpable and not all that surprising, when you
consider that Africa is closer to Bahia than much of Brazil.
to me, however, is how similar Brazil feels to the Southern United States.
consider the food: collard greens, yams, barbequed chicken and pork,
and spicy beans and rice dish with slices of pork, fried food, black-eyed
They even had
sweet potato pie and hot sauce bottles were placed on every table.
Soul food Brazilian
style!And there were other similarities making it obvious that the collective
memories of ancestral slaves in both countries have served to maintain
their common African heritage! Although Brazil imported five times more
slaves than North America, slave ships loaded up at the same African countries.
the collective memories of these most unwilling of émigrés,
make them like twins separated at birth – eerily similar in spite of being
raised thousands of miles apart.
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The house I
am renting for my month-long stay is high up in the colonial neighborhood
of Santa Antonio a few blocks from Pelourinho, a neighborhood filled with
17th-century houses and churches. The area began restoration in the early
90's. Today it is being transformed into a tourist mecca, packed with restaurants,
bars, art galleries and boutiques - but it still retains much of its original
One soft warm
evening, I swing lazily in the hammock on the terrace of my house overlooking
one of the world's largest harbors. The hum of the city of 2 million below
is background music to Joao Gilberto's buttery voice and strumming streaming
out of my house and into my night.
Realtor in Salvador
formerly a stockbroker living in Hollywood, California, bought the house
I am renting in the historical district soon after he began coming to Salvador
five years ago. It was $30,000 then for the fixer upper. After a few more
thousand greenbacks or make that hundreds of thousands of reais, a lot
of elbow grease, and five years later, Doug is getting offers for
upwards of $250,000 for the house. In the past few years, the historical
buildings on this street in Santo Antonio overlooking the Bay of All Saints
have been being purchased and fixed up for new lifes as pousadas and restaurants.
Even the Sofitel hotel chain has purchased an old convent down the street.
Yep, there goes the neighborhood. Then again, maybe not, because people
like Julian from England is also moving in, but more about him later.
writing, Doug is the only registered American realtor in Salvador. Some
samples of two of his properties follow:
A 3500 square
foot apartment covering one floor of a modern high rise, with a view of
the Bay of Saints for $230,000. and a beach home for sale http://www.bahia-online.net/dougsbeachhouse.htm
These are at
the higher end of the market he admits. Prices are rising in Salvador,
but you can still find an apartment or house for as little as $30,000.
When I ask
him about living in Salvador, he says, "The beaches, the music, the culture
and most importantly the people are the main reasons that I moved here.
Life is also more relaxed." The father of a new baby girl, Doug says, "Living
here as a family has many positives. Cost of medical and dental care is
much lower and very good. Food and staple commodities are lower, everything
in fact, except for gasoline. Help is much more affordable. And there is
a very good Pan-American school for kids."
You can reach
Doug by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website at
London and his Brazilian friend Ricardo bought an ancient crumbling building
in the historical center of Salvador just across from the Carmo Convent
last year. They too will do what so many others have done in the past three
years - restore the old relic and give it new life as a pousada. The price
of their building (see photo) was $60,000 Euros last year. Renovation (underway)
is projected to be double that. They plan to open in November 2005, which
is amazing to me considering we had to wear hard hats six months ago just
to step inside. So, next time you're in Salvador, be sure to stay at the
Pousada Vista dos Santos at 66 Rua do Paso and tell Ricardo and Julian
that Robin sent you!
Oh, and Julian
says that he loves Salvador because " of the energy and the people - the
love of life - the music the culture the history and the way that it is
so accepting + the access to beautiful beaches + great food and nightlife."
to page two - more photographs and more on Real Estate In Salvador de Bahia
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