Samba Saturday: Slavery History in Brazil


My family in Pelourinho, the historic center of Salvador, Bahia in Brazil.

Last night, my family and I explored Pelourinho, the historic center of Salvador, Bahia in Brazil. This part of the town is named for the whipping post where slaves were punished during colonial times. The post is visible on the far right of the above photo. I was an exchange student in Brazil in the 1980s and have observed how much parallel history my native and adopted countries share. Both the USA and Brazil were discovered around the same time, colonized by European powerhouses and used slavery to capitalize the rich American crops and natural resources.

The Africans enslaved in Brazil left an indelible mark on the country from the music and dancing of samba to feijoada stew. While the USA also has similar soul food, derived from slaves like beans and rice and gumbo, and a mardi gras in New Orleans similar to Brazil´s African- influenced Carnaval, our celebration of this culture is mostly regional. Brazil´s is national.

When we took this picture, I thought that it might seem weird that we were smiling at a place where slaves were whipped and punished. But Pelourinho  is now a very joyous place full of music, dancing, laughter and remembrance of Brazil´s full history.  That´s something to smile about.

Samba and feijoada say, “Brazil” to me.  What says, “America” to you?

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6 thoughts on “Samba Saturday: Slavery History in Brazil

  1. love your fb postings about this trip too..interesting that you continue your heritage exploration abroad as well…brava on work well done!

  2. Thank you for sharing these insights – I too although consider Salvador da Bahia like a favored home in my heart and love Samba, I too am ever so mindful of the deep colonial history suffered by my Ancestral kinship who struggled, survived and are still enduring the historical vestiges now serving as a major tourist site — the Pelorinho…obrigada

  3. That is a wonderful place. I was there for almost two weeks summer of 2012 and didn’t want to leave. It felt comfortable and right in a strange and odd way. What I noticed first and foremost is that slavery has left its imprint there just as it has in other parts of the world but the Africans were allowed to keep their culture in tact, so much so that “Africa” still exists in every way from food to religion. There’s something special about that. Can’t wait to go back. I was just as emotionally moved being there as I was by standing in the barn at the Wakefield Plantation.

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