Friday, June 12, 2009

Barra Bahia--Nearly All Sins

A few blocks from the guest house here in the sector of Salvador called Barra, an old Portuguese fort is pounded by spray from breaking sea waves on one side, while on the other, the sound of gently lapping water rises from All Saints Bay, one of the biggest in the world. As daughter Maria Angelica likes to say [], before there was Brazil, there was Bahia.

The Portuguese (1549) landed with everything they needed to set up a New World colony: 400 soldiers, 400 settlers, priests, prostitutes, and city plans for Salvador, which would be the new country’s capital for the next 300 years. They even brought paving stones in the holds of the ships, and in one case dismantled an entire Portuguese church, numbered its stones, and reconstructed it in the middle of the fortified town they built here on a hill. ( Today that church is the plainest-looking.)

The worship houses didn’t keep Salvador from getting a raunchy rep, and the Bay getting another name: “The Bay of All Saints and of Nearly All Sins.”