New site aimed at Afro-Ethnic Tourism launched in Bahia, “An African nation in Brazil”

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Note from BW of Brazil: Salvador, Bahia, located in Brazil’s northeast, is the capital of the state of Bahia and was the first capital city of Brazil until the year 1763. The city is one of great mysticism due to its history and image. In the 16th century, this coastal city became a principal port of entry for millions of African slaves brought to Brazil, the country that received the most Africans of all countries in the New World. By some estimates, Brazil received about 38% of all Africans shipped to the Americas, with  all Caribbean islands combined receiving 47% and the United States about 4.5%.

Aerial view of Salvador, Bahia, with an overview of Praia do Porto da Barra
Aerial view of Salvador, Bahia, with an overview of Praia do Porto da Barra

Today, the results of that intense traffic of Africans can be witnessed in countless ways in this city that has become a major destination of tourists over the years. And while it’s great to see the interest of millions of tourists every year, the racial history and reality of the experience of African descendants cannot be simply glossed over with an eye-catching website. While Brazil was the last country to end slavery in 1888, the effects of this brutal regime can still be noted in the day of day of black baianos (Bahians) today. A sharp contrast to the image that legendary South African president Nelson Mandela had in mind on his visit in 1991. To fully take advantage of the vast interest in Bahia, a new website was recently launched to promote the unique attractions of Bahia in the “ethnic tourism” market. To expose the “other side” of this fantastical journey, José Raimundo dos Santos Silva  exposes the realities of modern day racial politics in “An African Nation Called Bahia.”

Historic Pelourinho district in Salvador, Bahia
Historic Pelourinho district in Salvador, Bahia

With the objective of  “strengthening initiatives aimed at étnico-afro (Afro Ethnic) tourism and divulging the potential of the segment”, on Wednesday, December 18th, the Secretaria do Turismo do Estado da Bahia (Setur  or Secretariat of Tourism of the State of Bahia) launched the Turismo Étnico-Afro da Bahia (Afro-Ethnic tourism of Bahia) site (www.etnicoafro.bahia.com.br).

Pelourinho in Salvador, Bahia
Pelourinho in Salvador, Bahia

During the ceremony, held at Forte da Capoeira in the Santo Antônio Além do Carmo neighborhood, according to a spokesperson of Sethur, there was a memorandum of understanding to promote sustainable tourism in the Baixo Sul region was also signed, which benefits the quilombola (maroon society) communities of Jatimane and Boitaraca.

Dique do Tororó in Salvador, Bahia
Dique do Tororó in Salvador, Bahia

“We have taken an important step with the two initiatives that we launched today. We are the state pioneer in working the disclosure of the potential for afro-ethnic tourism, and the site will add to this divulgation. Already Baixo Sul, the tourist area of Pratigi promises the rise of structures and environmental safeguards, in order to later develop the lodging. This will also bring the strengthening of quilombolas in the region,” said Secretary of Tourism, Domingos Leonelli.

Dique do Tororó in Salvador, Bahia
Dique do Tororó in Salvador, Bahia

Website – Information about capoeira, food, religion, and the history of black people in Bahia are featured and represented on the web address. Internet surfers can also learn more about cultural groups, traditional festivals, markets and fairs, and special tours. Capoeira masters can register their groups to participate in the directory of the capoeira groups of Bahia.

Capoeira in the Terreiro de Jesus in Salvador, Bahia
Capoeira in the Terreiro de Jesus in Salvador, Bahia

An African nation called Bahia?

During the period of the Western slave trade, Brazil was the country that most received African labor to work on its lands. The state that the quota was most concentrated in was Bahia. Starting in 18th century, the contingent of African descent was so great that the black influence in various sectors of “social life”, was felt by all who frequented this place. Therefore, Bahia was deemed the “New Guinea” of the New World.

View from Salvador, Bahia
View from Salvador, Bahia

by José Raimundo dos Santos Silva

This strong African presence made ​​Bahia become the cradle of black culture in Brazil, and one of the principal regions of the world of the preservation and promotion of African culture. The cultural influence of black Bahia is so strong that almost all Afro-cultural manifestations of Brazil are sub-originated from there. For example, we have the samba, capoeira, Candomblé, etc. Bahia, in various aspects of its history and culture, had black people as its primary co-adjuvant.

Women of Candomblé
Women of Candomblé

Even in the multiple uprisings that occurred there. Even today, Bahia is considered the “terra da negritude (land of blackness).” The place where music, art, dance, food, clothes, ornaments, speech, conception of time, and all that connects the way of being of its people, is influenced by the strong and striking black presence. The charm of the “terra da negritude” is so great that many Africans and African-diasporics go to Bahia to learn about black culture that doesn’t exist in Africa. Or, given the circumstances, hasn’t even been preserved in other parts of the African Diaspora.

Young women from the Colégio Estadual Nossa Senhora de Fátima in Salvador, Bahia
Young women and girls from the Colégio Estadual Nossa Senhora de Fátima in Salvador, Bahia

Bahia, without a doubt, is one of the principal focuses of resistance and preservation of original worship and/or African tradition. Deserving, as such, from the bloco afro Ilê Aiyê in a past Carnival the name “nação africana (African nation)”. Thus, the clothes of Ilê Aiyê brought the following sentence: Uma Nação Africana Chamada Bahia (An African Nation Called Bahia). And it was reflecting upon this statement that emerged my desire to write this article. Well, it is indisputable the striking presence of black-African culture in Bahia of current times. Even today, Salvador, the capital of this state, is a city of absolute black majority. Having the highest populational concentration of black men and women outside of Africa estimated at 82% of afrodescendentes.

People in the Piedade region of Salvador, Bahia
People in the Piedade region of Salvador, Bahia

Also Salvador, for its strong religious influence, was, and still is, considered the “Roma Negra (Black Rome)” or “Meca Negra Black Mecca” of the African Diaspora. It is considered the city of all rhythms and charms. However, all of this charm for the “land of blackness” is over when we replace the historical-cultural with a political-economic view. Looking from this critical approach, the political and economic conditions of blacks, we see that Bahia cannot be considered a “nação” (africana) (African nation)) in its broadest sense.

Performers from the Balé Folclórico da Bahia
Performers from the Balé Folclórico da Bahia

The historical political-economic exclusion of blacks in Bahia, and its consequent and continuous social degradation, makes the “land of blackness” becomes a nightmare for black people themselves. A land that, due to the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of whites, is more like an “African nation” experienced by racist terror of apartheid. Where the conditions of housing, education and health access, urban violence, unemployment, illiteracy, infant mortality rate, and many other indicators relating to social conditions, are so unequal between whites and blacks, the expectation life of black people, in a region where they are the majority, are similar to the countries of the African continent.

Women dressed in the attire of the Ilê Aiyê bloco afro
Women dressed in the attire of the Ilê Aiyê bloco afro

Still, as a consequence of the exclusion of black spheres of political and economic power, there is in Bahia an intellectually oppressed black race, because the mental oppression by whites stifles the emergence of any mind or making of revolutionary consciousness of blackness. The theft of culture, as an example, for those who are mostly in power, only allows the local black community to have access to the crumbs given by the executioners of black people. So the status quo remains the same between whites and blacks, with the latter remaining in the support base of society.

Overview of Baía de Todos os Santos from the Elevador Lacerda
Overview of the Mercado Modelo and Baía de Todos os Santos from the Elevador Lacerda

As such, for Bahia to become a true “African nation” where the black presence is marked in all its aspects, it is a must to have a greater black participation in the spheres of political and economic power of this state, in proportion to their numbers in the population. Ie, in order that Bahia become a “nação Africana”, a true “terra da negritude”, it is necessary that 82% of spheres of government (executive, legislative and judicial) are occupied by representatives of black people.

Women dressed in the attire of the Ilê Aiyê bloco afro
Women dressed in the attire of the Ilê Aiyê bloco afro

That 82% of the political-economic power of the region is concentrated and partitioned among that 82% of the black population. That the means of information and communication are legitimately in the custody of that portion of the population. And that social institutions (schools, churches, universities, etc) be blackened, proportionally, for the good of the local population. That, finally, all areas of human life are represented, when not appropriated, proportionally among black men and women.

Figurines sold in the Mercado Modelo
Figurines sold in the Mercado Modelo

It is treading these paths, in my view, that we legitimize Bahia as “land of blackness.” Is weaving and realizing these goals that, finally, we may in the future, treat Bahia as a true “African nation”. Only when all aspects of social life, including political and economic, are filled with blackness or Africanness, can we say that there is “An African Nation Called Bahia”. So, any political project that will enable the improvement of black people of Bahia should aim to materialize these objectives. Because true democracy is constituted with the embodiment of representative democracy. Ie, the different social segments proportionally represented in spheres of power. In this case, black men and women occupying 82% of the spaces of spheres of political and economic power of Bahia.

"Baianas"
“Baianas”

Still, it is necessary that we, black men and women, understand that the whites of Bahia don’t want that. After all, Salvador is the most unequal capital city socio-economically in the country; where the socio-economic indicators and indices show that there is a blatant and brutal racism. Being that the true beneficiaries are white elites of this region. Therefore, a new political project for black people must consider the short-term viability of the political-economic empowerment of our community so that we can have the freedom to realize our ideals of a fair, equal and fraternal society, starting from our life experiences. It’s necessary to end this illusory notion of black society. It’s necessary that we black men and women start thinking about assuming political power of our state, so we can manage the economic-financial resources and provide for the needs of black people.

Source: Portal Áfricas, Afropress

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About Marques Travae 3611 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

7 Comments

  1. And what of those of us in the diaspora who may be planning a trip to Bahia, is there somewhere we can go to find a list of Black owned hotels, restaurants, tour companies..etc, that we may patronize?

  2. Most of the pictures in the gallery on this site are of white Brazilians with costume blacks here and there. I would like to visit this area, but it is apparent that Brazil is just as color conscious as other white supremacist countries, where white and light skin means power and beauty.

    • Hi LaQuay! Thanks for your comment but I would have to respectfully disagree. While there are photos of white Brazilians on the site here and there, these photos are to simply show the media’s obsession with whiteness. The vast majority of photos on the blog present Afro-Brazilians. I would challenge you to start at the last post and slowly work your way back and do an actual count. There is actually no comparison numerically between the two groups.

  3. My favorite places to visit……there was one problem..NO one i mean NO one spoke english (more people spoke english in paris france) other than our tour guide who was lighter with melanin but talked about the noses of the darker bahians like he was different and our alternative lifestyle hotel manager or owner. some waiters at restaurants spoke english, usually only one or two….Was very hard to converse with locals….We also only found one or two people who spoke spanish so my wife would ask them anything that came to mind. But other than that No spanish was spoken either, similar my tail! Not only were the people more beautiful than rio, we could have sworn we saw at least 30, yes 30 or more people that we knew! I felt so at home and will like to go back with my kids! better learn Portuguese (2008 spring) White tourist from cruise boats, i believe would stare at my wife (dark skin, natural hair) like very annoying, like they never seen a black woman before, WTF!
    Capoiera was the REAL DEAL here not like what we saw in rio or here in states.

  4. Whoa, think twice before visting Bahia. It does have a strong African heritage. On the surface, it seems happy with music, food and dance. Yet, most of its people possess a backward moral code – the way to get ahead – who can I cheat? You will see our smiles, our beautiful skin, the delight in our seemingly relaxed way of being. Meanwhile, we study you for weakness. We value trickiness, malicia. Our culture of hustling, malandragem, results in high levels of criminality and violence. If you appeal to our morals or education, we will agree just long enough to hustle you. In this game known as Jogo de Cintura, we get close to our marks like a pickpocket, distract you with drama and take what we want. Then, we are gone kkkkkkk!

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