Africa, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean are places we think of and are familiar with when it comes to the African Diaspora. However, there is another place I have grown to love and feel extremely close to because of its African ancestry and that place is Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Keep in mind that Brazil has the second-largest Black population outside of the United States. A large portion of that Afro-Brazilian population lives in Salvador da Bahia, better known as the Land of Alegria (Joy).
From the moment you arrive in the city of Salvador, within the state of Bahia, you’ll see beautiful brown and Afro- Brazilian faces that make strong African influences clearly visible. Bahians of all hues are proud of their African heritage. As you leave the airport, you’ll ride through a beautiful bamboo canopy naturally formed that renders a peaceful welcome to the state. The best part is yet to come. As you approach the beach area, you’ll come upon miles and miles of sandy beaches and beautiful people playing soccer, soaking up the sun, picnicking and partying to the festive sounds of Brazilian music. Now, if you don’t like this type of active beach, just walk or ride down the street where there are more beaches to explore– somewhere you can simply relax, soak up the sun and take in the peace and beauty.
Getting to Know Salvador by the Food and Culture
If you are not a foodie, you’ll quickly become one as you venture through Salvador. The richness of many spices of African origin flavoring the foods you encounter will make one’s mouth water just from the smell alone. These are dishes and spices of African slaves brought to Brazil to work the fields of the cocoa barons, some mixed with Portuguese influence. You have your choice of seafood, chicken, or beef dishes and exotic fruits, some of which you will not find outside of this intoxicating part of Brazil. My favorite dish is Moqueca, a sumptuous stew composed of salt fish or shrimp, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coconut milk, dense palm oil and coriander or cloves served over rice, often in a wooden bowl. It somewhat reminds me of another favorite dish — gumbo. To top off any meal, you must have a caipirinha, which is the national drink of Brazil. Drink a couple of them, along with a good meal and you will begin to feel like you can do the samba.
If you want music and nightlife, Salvador can more than entertain you. Just walking through the streets or sitting at an outdoor café, you’ll realize that music is a major part of Bahian life. The sounds of samba and festive groups of people enjoying the night penetrate the air. The Pelorinho is the place to go for party time after dark especially on the weekend. Just imagine the French Quarters of New Orleans but on steroids. Drummers drumming Afro-Brazilian rhythms throughout the narrow streets, glasses clinking, bodies swaying to the music. Your only decision is what club or restaurant to go to next as you wander through these pulsating streets. If you like a party atmosphere, this is definitely the place to be seen.
So, if you ‘re seeking tantalizing food and drink, rich African culture and history, great music, amazing beaches and warm and welcoming people of African descent Salvador da Bahia must be top on your go-to travel list. You will return to the United States yearning to go back, and like me deeply in love with this culturally rich place. Oh, one last thing to keep in mind–the American dollar is still very strong there and you’ll find some fantastic shopping bargains.
This article was written by Fred Wilds.