Enjoying the Bahian Culture
Trip Start Jul 21, 2009
196Trip End Jul 21, 2010
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For the past week we have heard and danced to Salvadorian music – and you can't go anywhere without music playing. At first we thought it was just because of Carnaval – but it’s just the way Salvador operates. Grocery stores, pharmacies, the bus station; we went to the laundromat and music was blaring. Music is life here. And as we’ve learned there are so many different types: axe, pagoda, samba. We’ve written a number of names down and even copied a couple of CDs from our hostel manager.
We love Bahian food – which of course has a heavy African influence
Salvador as a whole is an old city with tons of colonial buildings, and there are churches everywhere. We have spent the last couple of days in the cobbled stone streets of Pelourinho/the Cidade Alta (High City) where there is a high concentration of 17th and 18th century architecture. Here’s an interesting fact: Pelourinho means whipping post. Pelourinho Square was a wide square that was once the site of the spot where slaves were auctioned.
There are 365 churches in Salvador, yep one for every day of the week! Some people make a church pilgrimage when they are here – but we just chose 3 to visit
Salvador is well known for its colorful ribbons - they are everywhere and printed on the ribbons is the name of an 18th century church – Igreja NS do Bonfim. People wear them, hang them from their car mirrors, give them away for free. If you get a ribbon tied around your wrist you have to keep the ribbon on because cutting it off would create bad omens for you. We both had ribbons tied on us – so expect to see them on our wrists for the next couple of months
Although Catholicism is the main religion here; many people practice Candomble, a religion that links Afro-Brazilians to their West African ancestry. We were thinking about contacting an agency to visit a candomble ceremony but we were discouraged by the price (very expensive), the time commitment (the ceremonies last for hours) and the advice of locals and other travelers who stated that the candobmle ceremonies agencies take you to are fake – and just set up to take the foreigners money – the real ceremonies you have to be invited to attend. This made sense to us – and instead we attended the Bale Folclorico - an astounding show put on by a professional company that travels throughout the world
Walking around Salvador – art is everywhere - the Elevador Lacerda which connects the Cidade Alta (high city) with the cidade baixastreets leading to the port below has an art deco design and the statutes throughout the city are not boring. We had to take pictures next to the Grande Mujers – 3 statutes depicting the 3 major ethnic groups of Bahia: African, Indian, and European. There is also the butt statute – which is pretty explanatory! There are also a lot of street performers of capoeira. Capoeira was developed by the slaves as a means of maintaining their African martial arts - a weapon against their masters. The martial art was prohibited by slave owners forcing slaves to practice secretly in the forest. In order to disguise it, capoeira was transformed into a kind of acrobatic dance. Capoeira is amazing to watch – and the bodies of the dancers are incredible – extremely toned; you have to have a lot of core strength in order to do these moves. Watching these dancers made us want to pick up the sport ourselves! The movements are very fluid and the “fighters” move in a circle as they exchange mock blows
We’re glad that we spent more days in Salvador after Carnaval to get a true feel for the city. Our final night was capped-off by attending a university class with our new Bahian friend, Fatima. She is in her final year of study majoring in English and graciously brought us along to her class for the evening and we were able to meet many of her friends as well as a couple of her professors. We were very impressed at the high academic level of English we witnessed in a Second Language Acquisition class (Mike took this course as a Masters class at American University). Some of the students gave presentations in the form of mini-lessons and poster presentations--all extremely high quality--and in English! What made it extremely special though was simply accompanying Fatima--riding the bus, chatting about life, her hopes and dreams and sharing lots of laughs. Needless to say, this is what traveling is all about!