I’ve always looked at Brazil as the alternate version of the African-American experience.
After all, the people of African descent experienced a similar voyage in the trans-Atlantic slave trade to Brazil. Although they received a different language, Afro-Brazilians held on to more of their traditions and customs from Africa that they celebrate today. The epicenter of this experience lives in Salvador, Brazil, a city located in the northeast state of Bahia.
In Brazil, 50 percent of the population is black, and the majority live in the north. Salvador was once the capital of Brazil, which is apparent by the city’s 17th century architecture, predominately found in the old city, Pelourinho. Pelourinho is the soul of the city and tourist area.
Walking through the streets, your head is on swivel immersed in a sea of Afro-Brazlian flavor. Woman are dressed in traditional Baiana attire selling Acarajé, a traditional street food, made with black-eyed peas paste that is deep fried and accompanied with shrimp. The food in Salvador is rooted in dishes from Africa (which is one things I envy about Brazil, as they were able to hold on to customs from Africa). Another dish I fell in love with while dining at Axego Restaurant is Muqeca Mista. The dish is a seafood stew cooked in a traditional African clay pan called Capixaba. The pan is made with black clay and mangrove tree sap.
You can eat your days away because you can dance it all off at night. “It’s going up on a Tuesday” has been happening in Salvador long before it became a pop song in the States. Terça da Benção (Blessed Tuesday) is a weekly social gathering in the center of Pelourinho that has been going on for 30 years. After 6 p.m., mass vendors set up booths selling food and variations of Caipirinha, the national Brazilian cocktail made with Cachaça (sugar cane like rum), sugar and lime. The entire area is ablaze with African percussion groups performing electrifying arrangements. It felt like I was listening to the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands with African soul. The African drums are actually the warm-up to the stage performance that goes until midnight. People come to hear the popular singer Geronimo perform songs that have people dancing all night. I found myself lost in translation dancing to the soulful singer and his dynamic band. The thing I’ve noticed about Brazilians is they love to dance, sing and socialize; partying is a part of their DNA.
The climate in Salvador is similar to Miami, and the weekends are packed with beachgoers. Praia do Farol, located in the Barra area, is filled with Brazilians swimming in the sea, playing beach soccer and chilling in beach chairs, conversing with each other. Imagine if you took the people of Atlanta and transplanted them onto South Beach; that is what it felt like!
A few steps away from the beach is Museau Náutico de Bahia, which is situated on a cliff at the edge of the city. On Sunday afternoons, mobs of people are enjoying perfect, low-humidity, mid-80 F degree weather. As the sun begins to set, the mob transitions to the back side of Museu Náutico da Bahia to find a seat on the grass to watch the sunset. The crowd amasses in concert, sharing drinks, laughs and music as the sun descends. The oranges and reds of the sky appear, and the crowd claps and cheers in celebration of living the day.