- Many historians estimate that 12 million Africans were captured and shipped to Brazil between 1532 (the date when the slave trafficking began) and 1888 (the date when slavery was abolished in Brazil). Of these 12 million people, around 1 million died on the slave boats, never reaching Brazil. The African slaves came mainly from Angola, but also from more northern places, like Nigeria, Benim or Congo.
- Death rates were very high among the Brazilian slaves: the slave life expectancy didn't exceed 8 years in the hard conditions of the sugar plantations or the gold mines; from the owner's perspective, it was more advantageous to buy new slaves than maintaining the existing ones in good health for many years.
- The African culture survived better in Brazil than in North America due to the more liberal politics of the Portuguese. Owners didn't separate slave families (the law prohibited it) and slaves could buy their freedom; black religious brotherhoods, supported by the Catholic Church and Jesuit missionaries, backed the process and raised the money.
- In the 17th century, significant numbers of slaves escaped from the sugar plantations, and found independent quilombos in remote areas (the quilombo was a sort of Black Kingdom, following the lines of traditional African ones, with a king, a government council, a tribal army and a priest class). The most renowned was the Quilombo of Palmares, in the state of Alagoas. It lasted for more than fifty years, until 1697, and its leaders and followers committed mass suicide when defeated, refusing to return to the previous slavery conditions.
- The 19th century was the century of the slavery abolition and a century of great insurrections, such as the 1835 'Male Uprising'. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, the echoes of the Caribbean and North American black movements and the Brazilian Anti-Slavery Society founded in 1880 (with the backing of the king D. Pedro II), inspired the slavery abolition (1888) and, to a certain extent, the insurrections.
- Today, black people represent about 5% of Brazilian population, a rate far from the 15% in the 1940 official census. That's a direct consequence of the miscegenation of the Brazilian people, with Brazil becoming increasingly less of a white and black country. The rate of mixed-race has more than duplicated in the last mid-century, currently being 40% of the population.
- The African element in Brazil's ethnic composition is very visible, as it is the influence of the African culture, mainly in Bahia. Salvador da Bahia is, undoubtedly, the Afro-Brazilian state capital. Its music, cuisine, religion forms and way of life are largely of African origin.
Salvador da Bahia is a very singular city. The omnipresence of Bahian music, the pace and rhythm of life, the cuisine, the mysticism, the warmness of the people and their joy, all of these factors make a city that is worth visiting more than once.
Interestingly, the features that bring most attention are markedly African in their origin. African culture has a much larger expression than the white one in the music, the cuisine and people's behaviour. Salvador is, indeed, a major representation of afro-Brazilian culture.
See, for more details:
Entertainment, cuisine and nightlife in Bahia
The way the African religion has resisted the white culture and religion is very revealing. Iemanja, the sea goddess of ancient Angolan pantheist religion, became Our Lady; Oxumara, the rainbow messenger, became Saint Anthony. And so on. The Catholicism and the African pantheism (in its Candoble version) was blended in this rather ingenious way. Colonialist's efforts to catechise and integrate black religion were largelyineffective. The religion from the Yoruba African tribe (Candoble) has persisted and survived despite attempts to convert it. There are, today, at Salvador, around 1,000 Condomble temples, and its social importance is so great that even white people, self-confessed Catholics, venerate Iemanja.
Once in Salvador, you can easily arrange a visit to a Condomble temple and attend to ceremonies. Just ask how, locally, at your hotel. Also locally, you can arrange visits to otherpopular afro-brazilian experiences, like, for example, a session of capoeira, a peculiar mixture of dance and martial arts.