Salvador, in Brazil

Founded by the Portuguese in 1549 and made the first colonial capital of Brazil, Salvador is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas.

Salvador, formerly São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos (“Holy Savior of the Bay of All Saints”) and known colloquially as Bahia or Salvador da Bahia(Brazilian Portuguese:  is the largest city and the third-largest urban agglomeration on the northeast coast of Brazil; it is the capital of the Northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia.

Founded by the Portuguese in 1549 and made the first colonial capital of Brazil, Salvador is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas. Salvador is the third-most populous Brazilian city, after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The metropolitan area of the city, with 3.5 million people, however, is the eighth-most populous Brazilian urban agglomeration. Salvador is known as “Brazil’s capital of happiness” due to its countless popular outdoor parties, including its street carnival. The city has the largest carnival in the world.

The city of Salvador is notable in Brazil for its cuisine, music and architecture, and its metropolitan area is the second wealthiest in Brazil’s Northeast. The African influence in many cultural aspects of the city makes it the centre of preto culture. African-associated cultural practices are celebrated.

The Historic Centre of Salvador, frequently called the “Pelourinho“, is renowned for its Portuguese colonial architecture, with historical monuments dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.

Salvador is located on a small, roughly triangular peninsula that separates All Saints Bay from the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The bay, which was named because of being ‘discovered’ by the Portuguese on All Saints’ Day, forms a natural harbor. The bay is the largest in Brazil and the second largest in the world. Salvador is a major export port, located at the heart of the Recôncavo Baiano, a rich agricultural and industrial region encompassing the northern portion of coastalBahia.

A particularly notable feature is the escarpment that divides Salvador into the Cidade Baixa (“Lower Town” – port area and neighborhoods along the bay), and Cidade Alta (“Upper Town” – rest of the city). The Upper Town is some 85 m (279 ft) above the Lower Town, with the city’s cathedral and most administrative buildings having been built on the higher ground for defenses and safety. An elevator (the first installed in Brazil), known as Elevador Lacerda, has connected the two sections since 1873, and has undergone several upgrades.


Baía de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay) was first encountered by the Portuguese and named in 1502 by the Italian Amerigo Vespucci, ispired to his parish church in his hometown Florence (the church of San Salvatore di Ognissanti). In 1501, one year after the arrival of Pedro Álvares Cabral’s fleet in Porto Seguro, Gaspar de Lemos arrived at Todos os Santos Bay and sailed most of the Bahia coast. But the first European man to disembark on “Morro de São Paulo”, Saint Paul’s Mount, was Martim Afonso de Sousa, in 1531, leading an expedition to explore the coast of the new continent.

In 1549, a fleet of Portuguese settlers headed by Thomé de Souza, the first Governor-General of Brazil, established Salvador. Built on a high cliff overlooking All Saints bay as the first colonial capital of colonial Brazil, it quickly became its main sea port and an important center of the sugar industry and the slave trade.

Salvador was, however, primarily influenced by Catholicism; it became the seat of the first Catholic bishopric of Brazil in 1552 and is still a center of Brazilian Catholicism.

Salvador was divided into an upper and a lower city, the upper one being the administrative and religious area and where the majority of the population lived. The lower city was the financial center, with a port and market. In the late 19th Century, funicularsand an elevator, the Elevador Lacerda, were built to link the two areas.

Salvador was the capital city of the Portuguese viceroyalty of Grão-Pará and its province of Baía de Todos os Santos. The Dutch admiral Piet Hein of the West Indian Company captured and sacked the city in May 1624, and held it along with other north east ports until it was retaken by a Spanish-Portuguese fleet in May 1625. It played a strategically vital role in the Portuguese-Brazilian resistance against the Dutch.

Salvador was the first capital of Brazil and remained so until 1763, when it was succeeded by Rio de Janeiro. It settled into graceful decline over the next 150 years, out of the mainstream of Brazilian industrialization. It remains, however, a national cultural and touristcenter. By 1948 the city had some 340,000 people, and was by then Brazil’s fourth-largest city. In 2010 it had 2,676,606 people in the city proper, the third-largest population in Brazil.

In the 1990s, a major city project cleaned up and restored the old downtown area, the Pelourinho, or Centro Historico (Historical Center). The Pelourinho jas been developed as a cultural center and the heart of Salvador’s tourist trade. This redevelopment resulted in the forced removal of thousands of working-class residents, who were relocated to affordable housing on the city’s periphery, where they have encountered significant economic hardship. They have been separated from ready access to previous work and amenities.

The Historical Center is now something of a depopulated architectural jewel; events are sponsored by local shopowners and the Bahianstate in order to attract people to the area, as fewer people live there full-time. Similar situations may be found in many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In light of Salvador’s economic inequalities and the ruling governmental coalitions of the 1990s, the redevelopment of The Pelourinho seems to have sacrificed its population to the needs of tourist-based preservation.

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