Salvador Travel Guide

History

Baía de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay) was first encountered by the Portuguese and named in 1500. 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.

The general failure of the captaincy system spurred the Portuguese Crown (in the person of Dom João III) into setting up a governorship of Brazil to be led by Thomé de Souza. De Souza arrived in Bahia on 29 March, in 1549, and he went to work building a capital for Brazil and a place for himself to live (or for the governor-general to live and administrate from, rather). The latest incarnation of his palace, now called Palácio Rio Branco, sits on a commanding position overlooking the bay, on the same public square giving onto the Elevador Lacerda which takes one down to the lower city. The palace, in all its neo-classical glory, is open to the public.

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, funiculars and 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 then 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 tourist center. By 1948 the city had some 340,000 people, and was already Brazil's fourth largest city. In 2010 was 3,480,790 people, 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"). Now, the Pelourinho is a cultural center, and the heart of Salvador's tourist trade. Nonetheless, this social prophylaxis resulted in the forced removal of thousands of working class residents to the city's periphery where they have encountered significant economic hardship.

Additionally, the Historical Center is now something of a depopulated architectural jewel whose "animation" must be brought in and sponsored by local shopowners and the Bahian state. Similar situations may be found in many UNESCO World Heritage Sites today but the Pelourinho, in light of Salvador's economic inequalities and ruling governmental coalitions of the 1990s, seems to have gone farther than most in sacrificing its population to the needs of tourist-based preservation.


source: Wikipedia

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