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Bahia

State Flag of Bahia
  1. Introduction
  2. Costa do Sauipe
  3. Capital: Salvador
  4. Historic Centre of Salvador
  5. Ilheus
  6. Porto Seguro
  7. Trancoso
  8. Data Table for Bahia

Introduction

Land of all saints and all gods, Bahia is the main centre in Brazil for religious syncretism (the pairing of saints and gods from the Christian and African religions). The state on whose coast the caravels of Pedro Álvares Cabral first dropped anchor, on the 22 of April 1500, it is one of the units of the Brazilian federation which is most closely linked to the history of the country. Here was founded the first Brazilian capital, Salvador It was also in Bahia that the mixing of the Portuguese arrivals with the indigenous peoples of the land, and some time later with the Negroes exiled from Africa as slaves, first gave rise to the miscegenation of the Brazilian population. Bahia was the last colonial command to join independent Brazil - it remained loyal to Portugal for two years - and was the scene of the War of Canudos one of the most bloody popular revolts ever recorded in the country's history.

The state always played a key role in the life of the nation, and from the second half of the 20th century, became one of the most important economic and cultural centres of Brazil. Bahia has the second largest petrochemicals centre in the country, second only to the state of São Paulo, and was the birthplace of the most innovative movement of Alternative Culture to arise in the country, called Tropicalism, at the end of the 60's. Riding on the worldwide Hippie wave, Tropicalism gave rise to artists like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa, three musicians of major importance on the national artistic scene. The state of Bahia is also the birthplace of songwriter Dorival Caymmi and the great singer of bossa nova João Gilberto, as well as Maria Bethania, one the great voices of MPB, ("Música Popular Brasileira" - Popular Brazilian Music). Also from Bahia are Jorge Amado, the most translated Brazilian author in the world (in 60 countries over five continents); Castro Alves, one of the most discussed poets in Brazil; and Glauber Rocha, a film director who is a symbol in his area.

In Bahia, the religious and secular feasts carry on the whole year round. It's such a captivating land that many foreigners "adopt" it, as in the case of the sculptor Carybé, an Argentinian artists who has lived in Salvador since 1938. Others, such as the French photographer and anthropologist Pierre Verger, not only adopted it but dedicated their life to studying it. In his main works, Verger expounded on the local religious syncretism. Also, the state of Bahia was always a force in politics, being one of the major leadership influences on the Brazilian scene. The jurist and politician Rui Barbosa was from Bahia, and one of the country's greatest prides, since he participated in the League of Nations conference at the start of the 20th century. Because of his great performance there, he came to be known as the "Eagle of the Hague".

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The elements of Brazil come together most perfectly in Bahia, in terms of art, mysticism and music. No other state has so well assimilated the mixture of African, indigenous and Portuguese elements in its cuisine, culture and religious life. These three races came together in such a way that the whole nation was illuminated by their influence. This state, therefore, continues to be the main centre in the country of the Candomblé (this and other terms come from the Yoruba language of West Africa), the syncretism of African origin which lives side by side with the Catholic church. In its ceremonies, babalorixás, ialorixás, and iaôs (priests or counsellors represented as spiritual "fathers" and "mothers", and their spiritual "sons" - younger members) dress in traditional costumes, dance and sing to the sound of the atabaques (long tubular drums struck with the hand) and agogôs (handheld bell-like instruments), and make offerings to the saints. These rituals invoke the Orixás, spiritual beings who correspond in some ways to the Catholic saints. However, these cults and the Catholic church have never found it easy to coexist, and even at the end of the 20th century there is still tension between them. For a long time, the Catholic leaders pressured the police into repressing the Candomblé, and even now, when it has become more or less accepted, the church continues to penalize priests and nuns who are more tolerant of this syncretism.

As the fourth most populated state of Brazil, with more than 12 million inhabitants, Bahia is the leader in the North-East, and its capital Salvador is the largest city in this region. The Bahian economy has undergone major changes during the last 30 years, with the growth of industrial activity and the modernization of the commercial and service sectors. With the exception of a few centres of development in the interior, this forward thrust in the economy is concentrated in Greater Salvador. This growth has accelerated to the extent that the composition of the Gross Regional Product has changed: industry increased its contribution to the state's GDP, while agriculture declined, as did the trade and services sectors.

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The process of industrial expansion has accelerated with the installation, at the end of the 70's, of the Petrochemical Centre of Camaçari. This was characterized by the setting up of small and medium size companies, specializing in the production of intermediate goods and taking advantage of natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas and various types of minerals and agricultural products. The main sectors of the transformation in industry are chemicals / petrochemicals, metallurgy, foodstuffs, nonmetallic minerals and drinks, amongst others. Bahia is one of most mineral-rich states in Brazil. In 1991, an invoice total of US$ 259.4 billion was recorded in the trade in this area. Gold, copper concentrate, magnesite, chromite, rock-salt, barite and manganese gave leverage to this trade performance.

In spite of recent recession, commerce and agriculture continue to be strong within the total economy of North-East Brazil. Agriculture has been modernized, mainly in the irrigated regions on the banks of the river São Francisco, and has surpassed the regional norm for the production of goods. With 11 million cattle, in 1996 Bahia ranked among the six states with the largest herds in Brazil. In addition, there are 4.5 million goats and 3 million sheep. The trade maintains its importance and tradition in the region, to such an extent that the Commercial Association of Bahia, created in 1881, was the first organization of its kind founded in Brazil.

From the decade of the 60's on, tourism came to figure strongly in the economic profile of Bahia. In a survey conducted by Embratur, the government tourist organization, Bahia was shown to be the second port of entry for tourists to Brazil, after Rio de Janeiro. At the start of the 90's, the state had already received 2 million visitors per year.

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Costa do Sauipe

One of the main turistic regions of Brazil, has the biggest net of Resorts of the country. A fantastic place that enchants Brazilians and people of all the world.

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Capital: Salvador

Much more than just the capital of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil, is synonymous with a state of mind. It is the Brazilian city which most evokes relaxation, spontaneity, feasts and religiousness. "Bahians aren't just born, they take the stage" said the composer Caetano Veloso, one of the great stars of Brazilian Popular Music, when speaking of the large number of his fellow countrymen, artists, all concentrated in Salvador. Caetano's joke can be explained by the fact that no other Brazilian capital or centre, in recent decades, can claim to have such artistic exuberance as this city.

Moreover, this capital has such a strong presence in all areas - economic, social, cultural and political - that its name is confused with that of Bahia. It is common for someone to say that they are going to "the city of Bahia", when in reality they are travelling to Salvador. In the words of its best-loved son, Jorge Amado, the writer frequently refers to the "city of Bahia" when he is really writing about Salvador.

This Salvador, so deeply imprinted on the hearts of the people of Bahia, is the main port of entry of foreign tourist to North-East Brazil, who are captivated by its charm, by its infrastructure of hotels and the combination of city and architecture, which finds its greatest expression at the Pelourinho. The Pelô, as it is affectionately called by the Bahians, is located in the historical centre of Salvador, the greatest collection of colonial architecture in Latin America, listed for conservation by Unesco as a World Heritage site. Its pavements, steep streets and public squares serve as permanent stages for musical presentations, and are the strongholds of Olodum, Ilê-Ayê and the Sons of Ghandhi, Afro groups (percussion bands based on African rhythms) which draw crowds the whole year round, particularly during the Carnival.

Founded in 1549 on a hill overlooking the bay of All Saints, Salvador was the first capital of Brazil. In 1763, due to interests of the Portuguese Crown, it lost this status to Rio de Janeiro. It still retains its splendour from the golden years in which it enjoyed the status of seat of government of the Colony, in the form of the Basílica Cathedral, an example of Portuguese architecture, where in 1697 father Antônio Vieira died - a preacher of great eloquence, but whose sermons led him to be arrested and condemned by the Inquisition, the sentence being later annulled.

Seat of the first Catholic diocese in the country, Salvador retains from that period and previous decades buildings which are considered true architectural relics. Of particular prominence amongst these are the church and convent of Saint Francis, one of the richest religious establishments in Brazil. The baroque façade of the church, dated 1723, conceals treasures inside, such as Portuguese panels which show the legend of the birth of Saint Francis and his renunciation of worldly goods.

Next to these buildings can be found the church of the Third Order of Saint Francis, dated 1702, and a convent. The set back façade of the temple alludes to the Spanish baroque. There are beautiful paintings on the roof, painted by Franco Velasco in 1831. In the convent, tiled panels created in 1729 portray the nuptials of the firstborn son of Dom João V, the infant Dom José, with the Lisbon of before the 1755 earthquake in the background.

However, the most popular church in Bahia is that of the Senhor do Bonfim, where every year during the second fortnight of January, Bahians in traditional costume wash its steps. Built on a hill, it was decorated with white Portuguese tiles in 1772, a century after it was finished. Its façade is rococo and the interior neoclassic.

There are also museums in Salvador, such as those of the Sacred Art and Modern Art; the Ancient Medical Faculty, first school of its kind in Brazil; the Lacerda Elevator with its four cabins, which since 1930 has linked the Tomé de Souza square in the Upper City to the Cairu square in the Lower City, separated by a drop of 72 metres; and the Model Market, with more than 300 stalls where one can buy arts and crafts products of Bahia, next to restaurants and bars with typical food and drink. In the capital of Bahia one of the most successful projects for the assistance and education of street children was developed, the Axé project (an object sacred to the African religion).

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Historic Centre of Salvador

According to old Portuguese tradition, Salvador was founded in 1549 on a hill dominating a huge bay. It was the first capital, and soon acquired two other functions: port of call on the Portuguese route to the Far East and the centre for the export of sugar. Both these functions contributed to the growth of a mixed population of Portuguese and Africans, imported in huge numbers to work as slaves on the sugar plantations. Other ethnic groups arrived from the end of the nineteenth century onwards, giving rise to a rich popular culture, which contains a mixture of Western, African and, to a lesser extent, Oriental influences.

No less original is the city on two levels created by these people. Prominent on the hill were the towers of the churches, the massive public buildings and the great houses of the plantation owners, slave dealers and merchants. On the lower slopes were the humble dwellings of the common people. In the port area, warehouses, offices and the houses of fishermen and sailors. The first wall was incapable of containing the city for very long, and even in the sixteenth century was extended to protect the Jesuit College, the Franciscan Convent and the community which had formed around them. Outside the wall were two more large monasteries and communities: Carmo to the north, and São Bento to the south.

One of the most characteristic public spaces of this city was the area that existed before the construction of the Carmo Gates, known as the Pelourinho (Pillory). The streets which ran down to the gates ended in a sloping, triangular shaped open space, which continued down towards Carmo. The name came from a stone monument erected there, in early days a symbol of justice and municipal autonomy, but which colonial rule transformed into an instrument of oppression and torture. This open space, which is a mixture of square, Mediterranean belvedere and African religious courtyard, gave its name to what was preserved of the historic centre of Salvador, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1985.

The discovery of gold and precious stones in central Brazil in the early eighteenth century brought more wealth to the city, and many buildings were constructed or refurbished in a more opulent style. Most of the churches of the religious orders, with their golden altarpieces and fine collections of baroque paintings, date from this period.

Until the end of the nineteenth century, when a crisis hit the sugar industry, the old city was preserved intact. In the second decade of the twentieth century, the expansion of the port of Salvador and the widening of its access points started a process of modernization in the southern half of the colonial city. The northern part was not involved and was therefore preserved, but it entered into a slow process of impoverishment as its original inhabitants fled to new middle class suburbs further out. The 1930s saw the addition of squalor to the poverty by the confinement of the city's prostitutes to the area.

The earliest action to restore the area came in 1967, with the setting up of a fund for this purpose. A fifteen year programme directed towards tourism and social assistance failed to resolve the problem. During the difficult 1980s, the government withdrew investment and the area slipped even faster towards physical and social degradation. But the revival of the traditional blessing of St Francis and the rehearsals and shows of groups of black musicians and dancers, such as Filhos de Gandhi, Olodum and Levada do Pelô, began to attract large numbers of people to the area and drew the attention of other sections of society.

From 1992 onwards, the government of the state of Bahia started to carry out a large scale project for the restoration of the area, including the renewal of its infrastructure and the adaptation of many of its buildings for the purposes of tourism. The Restoration Plan for the Historic Centre of Salvador is the largest programme of its kind ever realised in Brazil, and is especially notable for having been completely financed by the state government. Up to mid 1996, around US$ 24 million had been invested by the state of Bahia, as well as the financial concessions allowed to traders in return for setting up business in the area. These funds have paid for the restoration of 334 large houses and the reconstruction of nine ruins. But the programme has also had a high social cost. More than 500 inhabitants had to abandon their houses and the new traders complain of the seasonal nature of tourism.

Both the population of Salvador and young tourists have rediscovered the area, attracted by its bars and an intensive cultural programme. Traditional cultural values are being relived by the inhabitants and discovered by new generations. A full assessment of the experiment will be fundamental for defining a policy for the complex problem of historic city centres, in Brazil and in Latin America. Despite all the vicissitudes through which it has passed, Pelourinho continues to be a feast of people, colour, music and magic.

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Ilheus

IlheusIlheus

Ilheus is a major city in the southern coastal region of Bahia, 430 km south of Salvador, the state's capital. The city was originally founded in 1534 as Vila de Sao Jorge dos Ilheus and is one of the most important tourism centers of northeast Brazil.

The city's economy is based mainly on tourism. With its beautiful beaches and a rich cultural heritage that includes early Portuguese buildings, history and culinary distinctions, Ilheus attracts many tourists, both Brazilian and foreign. Ilheus has approximately 222,000 habitants, with an area of 1850 km sq, and its downtown is located 1 km away from the Atlantic Ocean.

Once one of the biggest producers of cocoa, the city now depends almost entirely on tourism. Ilheus has a very good infrastructure for tourism, including excellent hotels and many travel agencies.

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Porto Seguro

Porto SeguroPorto Seguro

Porto Seguro is a beautiful town in the south of Bahia state. The region posses amazing beaches and preserved areas of Mata Atlantica, an original tropical jungle found by the portuguese discoverers in the year 1500. With an agitated night, Porto Seguro is one of the most looked point for young people in Brazil and foreigners. After you come to this charming and sensual village, you'll never forget how good your stay was!

Porto Seguro is a municipality in the Brazilian state of Bahia. It is the site where the Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral first set foot on Brazilian soil on April 22, 1500. It was the busiest port of the developing Portuguese colonies from 1500 into the early 1800s and is now a major tourist destination.

Porto Seguro is located on the Atlantic coast at a midway point between Salvador and Vitória. It is 707 km. south of Salvador and 613 km. north of Vitória. It is 62 km. east of the connection with the important BR-101 highway at Eunápolis.

Airport: An international airport was completed in 1993, and today Porto Seguro is an international tourist destination known for its busy nightlife, culture, history, ecological attractions and a good infrastructure to attend the demand for businesses and events. International chain hotels, resorts, little inns and hotels from 3 to 5 stars. The airport receives direct flights from Salvador, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro. The airlines serving the city are Varig, Tam, Gol, and Ocean Air, besides the charters flights arriving from Europe: Portugal, Amsterdam, Italy and France. The city is far away from the major cities around 40 minutes from Salvador and 1:30 from São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.

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Tourism: The region is also noted for its many attractive beaches and vestiges of its colonial past. There are still vestiges of the Atlantic Tropical Forest nearby. There are also a number of beach-side dance floors, playing Bahia's popular music, known as "Axe". Axe is an electrifying rhythm similar to samba. Another attraction in the city is the "Passarela do Alcool" (Alcohol Passway) where you will be fought over to try one of the local alcohol-based drinks.

Tourism has expanded fast in recent years and there is highly visible growth in Porto Seguro. What was once a small town of fewer than 10,000 people in the 1970s has become a city of over 100,000 people. One suburb on the southern bank of the Buranhem River, Arraial d'Ajuda, has grown from approximately 900 people in 1990 to 11,411 in 2005.

Economic Information: The economy is based on services, tourism, light transformation industries, fishing, government employment, agriculture, and cattle raising.

In 2003 there were 66,513 head of cattle, of which 8,647 were milk cows. The main agricultural products were pineapple, sugarcane, manioc, banana, rubber (1,980 hectares in 2003), cacau (640 hectares), coffee, coconut (1,995 hectares), guava, oranges, lemons, papaya (1,000 hectares), passion fruit, and pepper.

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Trancoso

TrancosoTrancoso

Trancoso is a small town in the municipality of Porto Seguro in the state of Bahia, Brazil. It was the landing point of the Portuguese explorer, Pedro Alvares Cabral in Brazil, on April 21st1500. It was founded by the jesuits priests, on 1583, with the name of Saint John Baptist of the Indians.

The town is in a rectangular shape, with houses in the original style. It is famous for its beaches, such as Praia dos Nativos, Praia dos Coqueiros and Praia do Espelho. In recent years the location has been developed by the hotel industry, including the French Club Mediterranée. This has pushed up property values. Amidst the many rich and famous people that live in or visit the town, Trancoso continues to retain its rustic charm, with its extensive pristine beaches, exuberant nature and friendliness of the locals. It offers a wonderfully warm and sunny tourist destination for its diversified visitors from Brazil and abroad, a place to slow down and relax. Services range from modest and economical accommodations and meals to the most luxurious and sophisticated.

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The federal Ministry of the Environment is currently expanding several National Parks and Natural Reserves nearby with the goal of preserving remaining areas of Atlantic Rain Forest. In addition, Trancoso is located at the starting point of a state Environmental Protection Area, the APA Caraíva-Trancoso, whose goal is to discipline touristic and economical development in the region, thereby minimizing negative impacts that may harm this sensitive and rare biosphere.

The population is formed of indigenous and afro people and those of Portuguese origin. In recent years many foreigners have also moved to the town. The main square is known as 'Quadrado', although it is rectangular. To its east is a sixteenth century Catholic Church dedicated to St. John.

On January 20 the 'Quadrado' celebrates a popular party in recognition of its patron, Saint Sebastian, during which the natives sing and play drums and guitars. The main verse is: "São Sebastião, hoje chegou o dia, vinhemos festejar com todo alegria".

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Data Table for Bahia

Capital Salvador
Area 564,273.3 km2
Towns 417
Location South of the North-East Region
Population 13,066,910 inhabitants (2000)
Population in the Capital 2,550,000 inhabitants
Climate Tropical
Mean Annual Temperature (capital) 25º C
Time in Relation to Brasília The same
Density of Population 23.2 inhabitants/km2
Urbanization Index 67.1% (2000)
Infant Mortality 44.7 per thousand live-born (2000)
Illiteracy Rate 24.7% (2000)
Contribution to GDP 4.4%
Representation at National Congress 42 Members of Parliament
Vegetation Tropical rain forest, coastal swamps, dry scrub and thorn forest and savanna

Sources

  • IBGE 2000 and Projections for 2002
  • Abril Almanac
  • Gabeira, Gabriel Luiz - "Synthesis of the Brazilian Economy", Rio de Janeiro, National Trade Confederation (CNC), 1999