A Small Chunk of Portugal


Historically, Salvador ("Savior" in Portuguese) was the first capital of Brazil, back in the colonial days; 1500s to 1800s. As lots of places chose to name themselves Salvador, this Salvador distinguished itself with the name Salvador of Bahia, Bahia being the Brazilian State along the mid-east coast of the country. One can see why the Portuguese decided to stick around here. The coast line consists of 30+ miles of beach intermingled with rocky shore, astounding views of the Atlantic all around. This historic center, Pelourinho, is a recently renovated World Heritage Site. With balconied windows, cobblestone streets, facades and lamp posts, it's like a little chunk of Europe was deposited on this hilltop.

It felt a bit Disneylandish; the opposite of old European cities that feel truly lived in, with local bakeries and grocers and residents - and a sense of pride for dwelling in beautiful historic houses. Perhaps it's because Salvador's population now consists mostly of those of Afro-Brazilian heritage; ie, those whose ancestors were brought along via the Portuguese slave trade. Maybe they have a different attitude towards remnants of Portuguese colonialism, than say if those with European ancestry still lived in this city? Just guessing here.

Pelourinho felt completely set up for tourists - the ground floor of all buildings were shops or cafes geared towards tourists - so in an odd way, it lacked character. I like to visit places and see people getting on with their own lives, instead of catering everything to my wallet. However, I'd been hankering to see some colonial architecture, so I was happy to finally have some buildings to photograph.

There are historic colonial towns all over the coast of Brazil, and perhaps others are less commercialized. Pelourinho overlooks the modern city that has grown up around it at the foot of the hills. It's not pretty. I commented that in many other cities in the world, such scenic coastline would be lined by nice looking buildings, hotels and expensive homes etc. It was pointed out to me that Brazil has endless scenic coastline, and thus it wasn't a big deal to be near a white sand, azure watered beach.