Guided Tours of Salvador, Bahia & Environs

Unless we are a part of it, or it is presented to us, history is invisible to us. Who would know that behind the small Catholic church across from a public square dedicated to poet Castro Alves (containing his statue, upon the dramatically outstretched hand of which a cup of beer is often irreverently inserted in images having to do with Carnival) existed the house of an African princess and priestess responsible for the foundation of the Afro-Brazilian religion candomblé in its Brazilian form?

And who’d know that beyond the small bar filled with locals drinking beer and infusões is an excellent and inexpensive restaurant area, also very local (the place is O Cravinho, on the Terreiro de Jesus)?

And who’d know that it was a company owned by General Electric which bribed Salvador’s archbishop and knocked down a great church in order to provide a place for its streetcars to turn around? And that within that church had been organized a lay society of slaves which had gone on to build their own church in the Largo do Pelourinho?

You get the idea… We are Americans who’ve lived for the past 30 years in Salvador (Ben Paris writes fiction; Randy “Pardal” Roberts writes this site and ran Cana Brava Records, a specialty record shop dedicated to real Brazilian music, located in Pelourinho for 15 years). One or the other of us will guide you through this introductory tour, which will also cover explanations of wider aspects of Salvador and the far side of the bay (the Recôncavo). And or we will happily take you into the Recôncavo, to the town of Cachoeira and the general region…should you be interested in doing that.

Or simply let us know what you would be interested in doing! Have a look through the pages of Salvador Bahia Brazil…

P.S. Among much else, we’ve taken the BBC/Lonely Planet through Carnival (for their jointly published magazine), and France Inter (French National Public Radio) to a Candomblé festival in Santo Amaro, Bahia. We took the BBC’s Radio 3 to São Braz, Bahia for roots samba (samba chula), and produced a show for David Dye and his World Café, which was broadcast coast-to-coast in the U.S. by NPR (National Public Radio).

Randy Roberts
Tel/Whatsapp: +55 71 9 9976-2049

Ben Paris
Tel/Whatsapp: +55 71 9 8812-4576

Tour Notes

Or, if you care to you can avail yourself of our “Salvador Tour Guide Notes”, which I compiled for myself to have dates and details at hand…

The first Europeans close by were Spaniards under the command of Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, who on January 26, 1500, landed to the north of what is now Bahia, close to the location of present-day Recife (capital of the state of Pernambuco).

Pinzón had also been the captain of the Niña (as in the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria) when Christopher Columbus made his maiden voyage to the New World.

Next to arrive was the fleet of Pedro Álvares Cabral, who was actually on his way to India via a wide southerly swing out into the Atlantic Ocean (to avoid unfavorable currents) before heading east around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Cabral’s fleet landed in the territory which would come to be called “Brazil” (in English anyway; in Portuguese it’s “Brasil”) on the 21st of April, 1500, anchoring at a site he named “Porto Seguro” (or “Safe Port”; Porto Seguro is now a town located in present-day Bahia).

Then on November 1st in 1501, a ship captained by Amerigo Vespucci put into an enormous bay (November 1st is All Saints Day, and for this reason Amerigo named the bay “Bahia de Todos os Santos” — “Bay of All Saints”). Amerigo also gave his own name to the entire continent via the use of a latinized form of it by mapmaker Martin Walseemüller in 1507. “America” at first applied only to the continent of South America.

Sometime between 1509 and 1511 a ship sank off the coast of Bahia, and one of the few survivors was a man named Diogo Álvares Correa. Diogo was well-treated by the Tupinambás (after supposedly coming very close to being eaten by them) and from them he received the Indian name “Caramuru” (caramuru was the Tupinambás’ name for a type of fish, and it is supposed that the new name had something to do with its soon-to-be owner having been found in the water).

Caramuru came to be so highly regarded that he was given Paraguassu — daughter of the Tupinambá chief Taparicá — as a bride. Salvador’s first church — Nossa Senhora da Graça — was built by Caramuru and it is there that Paraguassu’s body was eventually laid to rest. The church still stands (much grander than it was originally) and it was from the church that the neighborhood which grew up around it took its name: Graça (“Grace”). Catharina Paraguassu’s mortal remains (she received the European name upon being baptized in France) are there to this day.

Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe’s protagonist was a planter in Bahia before setting off and shipwrecking off the coast of Venezuela (written in 1719). Charles Darwin Visited Bahia, entering the Baía de Todos os Santos in the Beagle in 1832.

A ship sank of Rio Vermelho on May 5th, 1668, and so the Forte de Santo Antônio was fitted with a lighthouse, The Farol da Barra — first in South America — beginning in 1696 and finishing in 1698. It went through several modifications and was electrified in 1937. The fort itself was first built sometime between 1583 and 1587. It was occupied by the Dutch in 1624 and was retaken by the Portuguese the following year.

Forts in Porto da Barra: To the right looking out to the water: Forte São Diogo; built between 1609 and 1613. Left: Santa Maria; built 1614.

Castro Alves: Antônio de Frederico de Castro Alves, 1847-1871 Wrote Navio Negro (“Black Ship”), an anti-paean to slavery. His play Gonzaga was produced at the Teatro São José (inaugurated in 1812, destroyed by fire in 1923). The statue is by Pasquale De Chirico, born in 1873 in Naples. De Chirico went to São Paulo, where he met Teodoro Sampaio, who recommended him as sculptor for statues around the amphitheater in the School of Medicine. He arrived in Bahia in 1903. More often than not, Castro Alvis is portrayed during Carnival with a beer cup in his outstretched hand.

Igreja da Barroquinha: Built between 1722 and 1726. Almost destroyed by a fire in 1984. Reopened in on September 26th, 2008 as a cultural performance space. Behind the church in 1807 the terreiro for Oxossi was established by freed African mãe-de-santo (head priestess) Iyá Adetá.

Barroquinha and Candomblé: Members of the royal family Arô were captured in the city of Iwoyê in 1789 by the army of the kingdom of Daomé (now Benin)…this was the native city of the mother of the king, Aláketu Akibiorru, and all indications are that Iyá Adetá was brought together with this group. After some nine years of captivity Iyá Adetá managed to get her alforria (buy her freedom) and went to live in Barroquinha, where she held ceremonies in her house. Unlike in Africa, people from various Yoruba ethnicities participated in the ceremonies at Barroquinha, which therefore united a wide variety of orixás, unlike in Africa where a village temple would be dedicated to only one deity. With the burgeoning population of Gêge-Nagôs, Tia (Aunt) Adetá wanted a larger house and grounds devoted solely to candomblé. The grounds behind the Igreja de Barroquinha were of trees and a swamp which also bordered on the gardens of the monastary of São Bento. This land belonged to a couple belonging to the irmandade (brotherhood) of Nossa Senhora da Barroquinha, a white brotherhood which divided the administration of the church with the black brotherhood of Senhor dos Martírios. Rental of this land began to be negotiated in 1804 and terminated in 1807. Unfortunately at this time, from 1805 to 1809, Bahia was governed by the tyranical Conde da Ponte, who prosecuted candomblés and sambas…but in 1810 the Portuguese royal family sent the Conde dos Arcos to modernize Bahia. This conde became an honorary member of the brotherhood of Martírios and promoted African cultural manifestations as a means of attempting to prevent different nations from uniting in opposition to the regime. It was around this time that ceremonies began to be celebrated. Eventually the terreiro was forced out and gave birth first to Casa Branca (Ilê Axé Iyá Nassô Oká) and then Gantois (Ilê Axé Iya Omin Iya Massê). It’s not exactly known when this occurred, but by 1855 Casa Branca was active in its present location in Engenho Velho de Federação. Upon the death of the mãe-de-santa of Casa Branca Iyá Marcelina, her two daughters Maria Júlia da Conceição and Maria Julia Figueiredo disputed the post. Maria Julia Figueiredo gained the upper hand, being next in line-of-succession anyway, and Maria Júlia da Conceição left to found Gantois in 1849 on land owned by a Fleming of that name.

The Igreja da Barroquinha was the first seat of the Irmandade da Boa Morte, which was moved to Cachoeira when the irmandade was barred from the church (when?) and some of its leaders, having received alforria, left Salvador for the Recôncavo.

Praça Municipal: Salvador’s first town square, where the town’s open air market was located and where the town pillory was first located, at the market center. Sometime between 1602 and 1607 — period of the Governorship of Dom Diogo Botelho — the pelourinho was moved by governor’s decree to the Terreio de Jesus. But the Terreiro de Jesus was the site of the Jesuits’ church and school, and the screams and groans interfered with church services and teaching. So it was removed again and repositioned at the bottom of the Ladeira de São Bento(where Praça Castro Alves is now located). Again it was removed, for the penultimate time, in 1807, and taken to the largo which would come to bear its name. It would stand there for another 28 years, being removed for the final time in 1835.

Elevador Lacerda: Begun in 1869 and inaugurated in 1873, with two hydraulic elevators. The elevator was named “Elevador Lacerda” in 1896 in honor of its builder. 72 meters high. Electrified in 1906. In 1930 two more cabins were added and the tower was redone in art deco.

Palácio Rio Branco: First seat of government in Brazil, built by Thomé de Souza, who arrived in 1549. Reformed in 1910 to present style, then renamed to present name in honor of a politician, the Barão do Rio Branco, a politician and diplomat. The palace was bombarded from the Forte São Marcelo in 1912, then rebuilt in 1919. Bombarded by the then president of Brazil because of a revolt of sailors protesting their treatment (whippings, etc.).

Cámara Municipal: Built in 1549, housed the city jail at the time of the 1835 Malé Uprising.

Ladeira da Rampa: Where old Mercado Modelo (built in 1912) stood. The statue by Mário Cravo, Rampa do Mercado (popularly called “A Bunda” by soteropolitanos), is there now. The old Mercado Modelo burned down in 1969, the fire starting mysteriously and most people believing that it was started at the mayor’s behest.

Alfândega and current Mercado Modelo: The new and current Mercado Modelo was created out of the old customs house (built 1861) in 1971.

Ladeira da Misericórdia: Was first called Rua Padre Nóbrega, and it was here that Salvador’s houses of ill-repute grew up, these eventually coming to be called after a shortened version of the Padré’s name: bregas.

Santa Casa da Misericórdia (Holy House of Mercy): Founded as a hospital in 1549 in its present location, was at that time a simple construction covered with straw. In 1696 a building of stone was built on the same spot, and the hospital was renamed São Cristóvão. In 1808 the first medical school in Brazil was founded — a Escola da Cirurgia — with classes held in the hospital. In 1832 the now-called Academia Médico-Cirúrgica da Bahia was transferred to the old Colégio dos Jesuitas on the Terreiro de Jesus. The street out front is named for the institution.

The Colégio dos Jesuitos was built by Manuel da Nóbrega in the early years of the 1550s.

Praça da Sé: Result of the destruction of the Catedral da Sé in 1933, and the surrounding buildings, for the tramway. Nobody knows when the cathedral was first built, but by 1570 it had been rebuilt in alvenaria (sandstone). Between 1652 and 1672 it was built in its last form.

Cruz Caída: Built in 1999 by Mário Cravo.

Bishop Sardinha: Brazil’s first bishop. Arrived in 1552. In 1556 he renounced his post, and that year was eaten by Indians after being shipwrecked off the coast of what is now Alagoas but was then Bahia.

Zumbi: Present-day Alagoas — old Bahia — was also the location of the quilombo of Palmares. Zumbi was born there in 1655, but when he was 6 years old he was captured and given to a missionary to raise, from whom he learned Portuguese and Latin. He escaped in 1670 and returned to Palmares. In 1678 the governor of the capitánia de Pernambuco approached the quilombo’s king, Ganga Zumba, with an offer to free all runaway slaves if the quilombo would be disbanded and all within would submit to the authority of the crown. Ganga Zumba accepted. But Zumbi rejected the proposal and challenged Ganga Zumba for his position as king. Ganga Zumba was killed, and Zumbi became king. In 1695 federal troops finally destroyed Palmares, although Zumbi escaped. He was captured a year later and killed. His head was salted and presented to the governor (Melo e Castro).

Terreiro de Jesus: Named for the church built by the Jesuits in the 1550s. The first was of taipa (clay and sticks). Catedral Basílica Mem de Sá (third governor-general of Brazil) had it built in its present form in 1572 (he’s buried under the principal altar).

Faculdade de Medicina: Was built in 1808. Destroyed by fire in 1905 and rebuilt in the present fashion.

Igreja de São Pedro dos Clérigos: Licence for construction given in 1709.

Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Domingos: Begun in 1731 and concluded 6 years later. Cosme de Farias died in 1972.

Hotel Pelourinho Is the site of the boarding house where Jorge Amado lived in 1927, working as a police reporter for the Diário da Bahia. His first work “Lenita” was written here in 1929, under a pseudonym, together with two co-authors. He moved to Rio in 1930.

Largo do Pelourinho: As Portas do Carmo. Demolished sometime between 1784 and 1788.

Igreja do Rosário dos Homens Pretos Nossa Senhora do Rosário was the name given to the Virgin Mary by São Domingos de Gusmão, or Saint Dominic in English, the founder of the Dominicans, who “received” a rosary from Mary in a church in southern France around the year 1200. The first brotherhood of the Rosary was founded by the Dominicans in Cologne, Germany, in 1408. The brotherhood arrived in Brazil in 1685, and eventually became a society of black men. They met in one of the side alters of the Igreja da Sé, before a statue of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, which was eventually transferred to their new church and remains there to this day. By 1704 they’d raised money to begin the church and received permission from the archbishop to build a church at the city gates. The towers and facade were begun in 1780. There’s a cemetery for enslaved in back.

Taboão: Foundation of the Filhos de Gandhy.

Baixa dos Sapateiros: Rio das Tripas; Ary Barroso

Solar do Ferrão Built toward the end of the 1600s by a Portuguese merchant. It was passed to the Maciel family, who lived there until 1756. They gave their name to that part of the Old City.

Sociedade Protetora dos Desvalidos: From its first location in the Igreja dos Quinze Mistérios (Church of the Fifteen Mysteries) in 1832, to its present location in Pelourinho (acquired in 1883), this society of black men and women has for 172 years endeavored to help others in need by everything from purchasing freedom from slavery then to buying medicine and paying funeral expenses now. In 1827 a group of free black men joined together to form an organization dedicated to the freeing of slaves and support each other and others financially. In that black people were not allowed to form civic organizations, these men formed a religious brotherhood in the Capela de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Quinze Mistérios 1832, which they called the Irmandade de Nossa Senhora da Soledade Amparo dos Desvalidos. In 1851 legislation was passed allowing the formation of civic societies by black men, and the organization was renamed the Sociedade Protetora dos Desvalidos. They bought the building they presently occupy on the Largo do Cruzeiro de São Francisco, 82, in 1883.

Igreja de São Francisco: The keystone was laid in 1708, the church was finished in 1723 and the convent in 1752, with everything completed in 1782.

Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco: Was begun in 1702 or 1703, facade is carved sandstone.

Randy Roberts
Tel/Whatsapp: +55 71 9 9976-2049

Ben Paris
Tel/Whatsapp: +55 71 9 8812-4576