Antônio Cardoso, in the northeastern state of Bahia, is the blackest city in Brazil and a place where lifestyles haven’t changed much since slavery ended

Family in the city of Antônio Cardoso in the northeastern state of Bahia and one of the city's most respected citizens
Family in the city of Antônio Cardoso in the northeastern state of Bahia and one of the city’s most respected citizens

Note from BW of Brazil: The article below touches on many of the topics usually covered on this blog. The struggle and acceptance of racial identity, denial, slavery, cultural practices and survival techniques adapted by black Brazilians to cope with social/racial inequalities that have been maintained in Brazil since the end of slavery in 1888. Please refer to notes at the end of the article for classification of terms used throughout the article.

Antônio Cardoso is the blackest city of the country
by Victor Uchôa

Is Salvador (Bahia) the black capital (of Brazil)? If it is, people don’t say so, as the only city in the country where more than half the population pumped up their chest and said, ‘sou preto (I’m black)’ in the last census was (the city of) Antônio Cardoso.

“You’re very pretty, morena*,” Mirian heard of a man trying to court her. “Morena, no, this does not exist. I am a pretty negra (black woman)!” was what she responded, the daughter of the quilombo (maroon community) of Gavião, in Antônio Cardoso, 145 kilometers from Salvador, somewhat agreste (backlands) (1) and somewhat of a sertão (dry, interior region of the state) (2).

On November 20th, Brazil’s Dia da Consciência Negra (Day of Black Consciousness), and every other day of the year, Mirian Jorge de Almeida, 29, has no shame in affirming herself as what she in fact is: “I am black , strong, independent and I work in order that blacks take knowledge of the value of their history.”

In the city in which Miriam was born, more than half of the residents already know the value of their history. To be precise, 50.65% of the 11,554 inhabitants of Antônio Cardoso declared themselves preto in the last census of the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), conducted in 2010. The percentage places the municipality as the only city in all of Brazil where most of the population is seen (and says) it is preto**.

“It was supposed to be much more. I got tired of interviewing blacks that are still ashamed and declared themselves pardos (browns). We cannot influence the research, we can only give the options,” reveals the writing teacher Elaine Aragão, who acted as agent of the Census survey.

In Antônio Cardoso, the sum of the percentage of people who declared themselves preta and parda reached 91.67 %, eighth in the country. “One lady said this: I’m not branca (white) nor indígena (Indian). Preto (black) is the dog. So she put parda (brown),” Elaine recalls, not without lamenting.

On November 20th, and every day of the year, the negra Mirian battle to break the logic of this equation. As a member of the Movimento de Jovens de Antônio Cardoso (Youth Movement of Antônio Cardoso or Mojac), she seeks references from the past to change the present. “Blacks who do not identify themselves are criticized, but I don’t remember any teacher telling me that I was negra. They said that I was morena.”

In the view of Miriam, in the schools, blacks are placed in a secondary role in society. For her, it’s no use to now want to “stick” in the minds of children and young people that blacks are good “and ready.” It is necessary, she says, to show the other side of history so that people can be proud of their own identity.


With her son, four brothers, mother, grandparents, nephews, uncles and cousins​​, Mirian still lives in Gavião, a community already certified as a remanescente de quilombo (remaining Quilombo) by the Fundação Palmares, do Ministério da Cultura (Palmares Foundation of the Ministry of Culture). In the little land they have, around 500 residents raise small animals and plant the essentials for survival. Every day of the year, they fight for space and opportunities.

“Slavery only changed in form. We continue with no land and have to work for the farmers. They let us plant something for ourselves, but it’s just a way of working for free to clear scrub and leave the grass for their cattle,” says Miriam.

Her position is shared by Ozéias de Almeida Santos, 29, a geographer who was elected alderman and will be the first member of the Câmara (House) of Antônio Cardoso born in a quilombo community.

A native of the Paus Altos community, he conducts research on slaves of the region and strives to make more quilombo grouping certified by the Union. His already was, but others, such as Santo Antônio, Pêri and Tócos are still waiting in the line of bureaucracy.

Ozéias’s studies show that the number of blacks in Antônio Cardoso is connected to the occupation of the region in the late nineteenth century. In 1888, the Lei Áurea (Golden Law) gave freedom to the slaves but it didn’t give work to free blacks. Thus, many remained on the farms of the old masters toiling in exchange for being able to grow something to eat, exactly how Miriam does today.


There they formed permanent quilombos (3), different from those of refuge, which harbored runaway slaves. “Here freed slaves came together from the tobacco farms of the region or farms of São Gonçalo (and) Cachoeira, nearby cities. They worked as ‘tenants’, which rendered them almost the same as being a slave,” notes Ozéias, who lives in Paus Altos with his mother and five siblings.

A teacher in the state’s school network, Ozéias reveals that some students are surprised when he refers to himself as preto. With a clenched fist and showing his arm to emphasize what it says, he shows: “Nossa cor é preta. Olha aqui. Temos que ter consciência e nos orgulhar disso. Ainda há muitas feridas abertas. As pessoas mais velhas preferem o silêncio, mas, às vezes, o silêncio esconde muito. Está na hora de se expressar (Our color is black. Look here. We have to be conscious and proud of it. There are still many open wounds. Older people prefer silence, but sometimes silence hides much. It’s time to express ourselves).”

On November 20th, and every day of the year, blacks of Antônio Cardoso express themselves through the redemption of memory, of the terreiros (4) of Candomblé (5), samba (6) and capoeira (7). For professor Telito Rodrigues, a researcher of local history, the rate of blacks will grow in the next Census.

“Many blacks were ashamed of their history. Some did not want to go to school because they thought that the school was not the space for them. But this has already changed. Negros (blacks) became conscious of what they are and what they can do in society. And that’s how it has to be.” So be it; on November 20th and every day of the year.

Bule Bule: Pride in origins

Bule Bule: pride in origins. Text translated below
Bule Bule: pride in origins. Text translated below

(Translated from text in box above)

Singer, repentista (8) and songwriter Antônio Ribeiro Conceição, also known as Bule Bule, 65, is one of the most illustrious of Antônio Cardoso. He says that the city represents much in his life. “I went out into the world at the age of 17 and a half, but I never disconnected myself from there. The city is mine. The main praça (square) has my name and everybody knows my roots, of my connection with the city. I am proud of this.” Bule-Bule says that the city was always marked by the separation between blacks and whites. “The city is divided between whites, from the city and headquarters, and the people of the part above, that are from Gavião, Tócos, Oleiro, Osso, remaining quilombo communities,” he explains. “Today there is no more separation because it is black or it stopped being, but it is that the pieces of land were passed from father to son,” he explains.

Midwife lost count of the ‘children’ that she has

“Here we call a midwife mother,” teaches the professor Ozéias Santos, that was brought to life by the hands of one of these women. Today, in the community of Paus Altos, new lives are supported by Antônia de Almeida, known as Dona Diú, 79 years old. Of her own children, she has six. Those of other women, she has no idea. “I lost count, my son. There already have been many boys I’ve brought into the world,” says the woman who also says that she did her first childbirth at age 18. Midwifery, no one taught her. Dona Diú thinks was a gift passed to her by Nossa Senhora do Bom Parto (Our Lady of Good Delivery). She prides itself on never having lost a child and ensures that “no mother has gone bad.” With firm hands and spirit she apologizes for the cries of a child with mental disabilities that she takes care of. In taking care of the child she uses the same tips that she gives to all mothers at the time of giving birth: “Calm, patience and courage.” Courage is not lacking in Francisca Barbosa Almeida, 73 years old, 14 children, 18 grandchildren and much pain left by a stroke suffered eight years ago in her right leg. “If you come here at 4:30 in the morning and I don’t have coffee ready it’s because I’m sick.” In the community of Santo Antônio, Francisca has a reputation for never leaving a samba before the roda (circle) (9) ends. And it doesn’t stop there. “I still work in the fields. I have corn, beans and tobacco,” she says. With a vivid memory, Francisca remembers very well having responded to the 2010 Census. Did they ask your color? “Yes, they asked. I’m preta, young man. Is there anything more beautiful? Look at those boys there,” pointing to her grandchildren. “All of them beautiful, shining …”

Of the ten blackest cities, eight are located in Bahia

By Lorena Caliman

Of the ten cities of the country with the highest percentage of self-declared pretos in the 2010 census, eight are located in the state of Bahia. For the anthropologist Jeferson Bacelar, professor and coordinator of the Centro de Estudos Afro-Orientais (Ceao or Center for Afro-Oriental Studies) at the Universidade Federal da Bahia (Federal University of Bahia or Ufba), this is due to the fact that there were concentrations of black slaves in Bahia, and later the demographics of the state not having undergone transformations over the centuries. The professor compares the demographics of Bahia to that of states like Rio de Janeiro, which also received a large amount of African slaves, but also attracted European immigrants to the end of slavery. “Rio de Janeiro developed itself (and) attracted new populations of European immigrants,” he explains. Together with the fact of not having received diversified populations, it is also the continuity of populations who were here from the slavery period, that maintained itself, he said, in the same activities. “The demographic composition of Bahia, oddly enough has hardly changed since the nineteenth century,” he concludes. The other two cities in the top 10 ranking are in the states of Maranhão and Tocantins. See the map below.

Salvador is the 37th blackest. Constantly pointed out as the blackest city of Brazil, Salvador occupies the 37th position in the country in percentage of pretos (blacks). Although being the leader in absolute numbers, the 743,718 Soteropolitanos (people from Salvador) that declared themselves pretos in the census of 2010 represent only 27.8% of the population. Considering the sum of pretos and pardos, this number comes to 79.47%. Even so, the capital of Bahia isn’t even among the first 200 of the rankings. See below the first ten in the sum of pretos and pardos.
Salvador is the 37th blackest. Constantly pointed out as the blackest city of Brazil, Salvador occupies the 37th position in the country in percentage of pretos (blacks). Although being the leader in absolute numbers, the 743,718 Soteropolitanos (people from Salvador) that declared themselves pretos in the census of 2010 represent only 27.8% of the population. Considering the sum of pretos and pardos, this number comes to 79.47%. Even so, the capital of Bahia isn’t even among the first 200 of the rankings. See below the first ten in the sum of pretos and pardos.

Source: Correio 24 Horas


* – The usage of the term morena/moreno is very important to understand how race and color is seen, accepted or denied in Brazil. Several articles on the blog discuss the issue of the development or lack of an identidade negra (black identity) as much of the population including those who for all intents and purposes look branco (white) and persons of visible African ancestry use this term. For many persons of visible African ancestry, moreno/morena is way of distancing themselves from the negative stigma of being seen as negro/negra. Also, many white people who accept the negative meaning of the terms negro/negra will call persons of visible ancestry moreno/morena in order to not “insult” or “offend” the person. Moreno/morena is also used by persons who are sometimes difficult to define as black or white. For more see here, here or here.

** – While the city of Salvador, Bahia is often referred to as the African center of Brazil and the blackest city in Brazil, this is only true when using the criteria adapted by black activists and the Statute of Racial Equality that defined negros as the combination of all Brazilians defining themselves as pretos or pardos in the census (this is also true of Brazil as a whole). Because pardos often experience discrimination and exclusion similar to pretos and their socioeconomic statistics are nearly identical to that of those identifying themselves as pretos, the two groups are usually combined in studies measuring inequality. The vast majority of pardos in Brazil are of African descent and can range the gamut of phenotypes. For more see here, here and here.

1.Agreste designates an area in the northeast region of Brazil in transition between a forest and a sertão, meaning a dry, near desert-like area.

2. Sertão: A very dry, desert-like region in Brazil’s northeast region inhabited by very few people.

3. A quilombo is a Brazilian hinterland settlement founded by people of African origin including the Quilombolas, or Maroons. Most of the inhabitants of quilombos (called quilombolas) were escaped slaves and, in some cases, later these escaped African slaves would help provide shelter and homes to other minorities of marginalized Portuguese, Brazilian aboriginals, Jews and Arabs, and/or other non-black, non-slave Brazilians who experienced oppression during colonization. However, the documentation on runaway slave communities typically uses the term mocambo to describe the settlements. Source

4. Terreiro is a temple where Afro-Brazilian religions such as candomblé is practiced. Source

5. Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practiced mainly in Brazil by the “povo do santo” (people of the saint). It originated in the cities of Salvador, the capital of Bahia, and Cachoeira, at the time one of the main commercial crossroads for the distribution of products and slave trade to other parts of Bahia state in Brazil. Although Candomblé is practiced primarily in Brazil, it is also practiced in other countries in the Americas, including Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama; and in Europe in Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain.The religion is based in the anima (soul) of the natural environment, and is therefore a kind of Animism. It was developed in Brazil with the knowledge of African Priests who were enslaved and brought to Brazil, together with their mythology, their culture and language, between 1549 and 1888. Source

6. Samba is a Brazilian dance and musical genre originating in Bahia, Brazil, and with its roots in Rio de Janeiro and Africa via the West African slave trade and African religious traditions. It is recognized around the world as a symbol of Brazil and the Brazilian Carnival. Considered one of the most popular Brazilian cultural expressions, samba has become an icon of Brazilian national identity. The Bahian Samba de Roda (dance circle), which became a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity in 2005, is the main root of the samba carioca, the samba that is played and danced in Rio de Janeiro.

Samba rhythm

The modern samba that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century is predominately in a 2/4 tempo varied with the conscious use of a sung chorus to a batucada rhythm, with various stanzas of declaratory verses. Traditionally, the samba is played by strings (cavaquinho and various types of guitar) and various percussion instruments such as tamborim. Influenced by American orchestras in vogue since the Second World War and the cultural impact of US music post-war, samba began to use trombones, trumpets, choros, flutes, and clarinets. Source

7. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music, and is sometimes referred to as a game. It was developed in Brazil mainly by African descendants with native Brazilian influences, probably beginning in the 16th century. It is known by quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage for leg sweeps. Source

8. Repentista refers generally to a popular poet in Portugal or Brazil, an improviser that, on any topic, spontaneously delivers a poem on the spot or de repente (meaning suddenly), which accounts for the name. Repentista poets fall into the tradition of oral literature and pamphlet literature of a particular region or country. Source: Wiki

9. Samba de roda is the most traditional musical variant of the samba, originating in the state of Bahia, probably in the 19th century. The traditional Afro-Brazilian musical style is associated with a dance, that itself is associated with capoeira. It’s played by a group of composed of a tambourine, atabaque drum, berimbau (string instrument used to accompany capoeira performances) and guitar, with the accompaniment of voices and handclaps. It is always performed in a roda, meaning circle. Source and more (in Portuguese)

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Errata: Pardo is not brown, Pardo is someone from mixed and uncertaind heritage. It can be mulato ( black and white), could be mameluco (white with indigenous) could be cafuso ( black and indigenous) and any mix from mixed people.

    Why we are not happy they don’t feel themselves white….they feel Pardo. What probably technically most are any way.

      • Here we see a clear lack of understand the complexity of race in Brazil. This is a lost in translation point. The anglophonicasation of lusophonic experience. A anglophonic person can not understand this. But all Brazilians know this differences by heart.

        Lets not be underrepresented in the international academia.

        Do you agree? Pardo is brown dot? Pardo is mulato dot?

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