São Luís is known for its tiles which most buildings in the historical centre are covered in. Because of it the city is also known as “The Tiles City”.
It also has some cultural peculiarities namely:
Tambor de Crioula
Afro-Brazilian dance in which gaily clad women court a bateria of tambors (a row of drums). Whirling and gyrating in time to the music they negotiate for prime position in the centre of the bateria.
Tambor de Mina
Not to be confused with the above, this is the local variant of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé.
Bumba Meu Boi
The Bumba Meu Boi is a popular farce which takes its form as a grand musical pantomime. Practice is a public affair and begins directly after Easter reaching its climax in June when literally hundreds of groups perform on a nightly basis for popular acclaim. Set personalities and characters play out a comedic tragedy with a metaphor for social harmony at its heart. Settlers, the infamous “Coroneis”, Indians, spirit workers, African slaves and forest spirits are enacted though costumes, choreography and music – all performed amongst the all-night revelry. The crowd joins in with singing, dancing and dependent on the groups sotaque (or style) the playing of matracas (two wooden blocks, held in each hand and struck together repeatedly). Like the festival of Sao João and its requisite Forró dance in the North-Eastern states further south Bumba Meu Boi is a harvest festival but with the bull as its centre-piece.
The São Luís form of capoeira is said to be akin to the kind of capoeira now recognized as ‘traditional bahian capoeira’ that predated the Bahian Angola/regional polemic which split the capoeira world in the 1950s.
In 1997 the city’s historical center was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Starting in 1989 there has been an extensive program to restore and renovate the colonial era buildings of the city’s historical center.