Some places really grab you by the heart and romance your soul, and I can hardly express how deeply that happened for me in Salvador da Bahia. One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Salvador was the first colonial capital of Brazil, and to this day is regarded as the country’s ‘capital of happiness’. Its pastel-washed city center is a living museum to 17th- and 18th-century architecture; its cobblestone streets are bursting with gilded cathedrals and the regular passing of impassioned parades. Music plays everywhere, all day and all night. Every block is a new tune.
Nestled along Brazil’s northeastern-most strip of coastline, this sweet little spot was a crucial port of the Portuguese empire during the colonial era, serving as a gateway to Africa and Asia. Like so many ancient port cities (such as my other great love, Hoi An, Vietnam), it has retained its old world charm and represents a totally unique amalgamation of Afro-Brazilian influences. No other place in the world exists where descendants of African slaves have preserved their heritage as well as in Salvador ~ from music to dance to religion to fashion to food.We stayed at Pestana Conventa do Carmo, a luxurious oasis tucked inside the hallowed white stone walls of a 16th-century Carmelite Convent. Catholicism’s roots are strong in this city (it’s said that there is a Catholic church for every day of the year), although it’s the competing religion, Candomblé, that truly makes Salvador so special.
Candomblé was brought over as a byproduct of the African slave trade, and the way it is practiced here today is completely unique to the city. Its practitioners believe in one all-powerful god, who is served by lesser deities called orishas. Every person has their own individual orisha, who protects and controls their destiny ~ similar to the way that the saints are praised in Catholicism. By attributing the names and characteristics of their Candomblé deities to Catholic saints with similar qualities, the African people were able to reclaim and maintain the cultural identity that slavery stripped from them. Today, Candomblé and Catholicism coexist in a city pulsating with colorful religious fervor and a constant sense of celebration. |ABOVE| the courtyard pool at the Pestana Conventa do Carmo |BELOW| wearing Marc by Marc Jacobs sunnies, a Bahian linen top, Balinese sarong and sandals from Zara |ABOVE| Norma Kamali sunnies, vintage dress, 10 Crosby sandals |ABOVE + BELOW| Candomblé tradition calls for its practitioners to wear white on Fridays, in honor of Oxala, the god of creation. Lace is a local specialization, and the women liberally incorporate it into their heavily petticoated ensembles. The colors of their beads represent an assembly of guiding orishas. |ABOVE + BELOW| Wherever I roam in this world, my favorite thing to do is explore the local markets, learning how the locals really live. |ABOVE + BELOW| prayers come in the form of colorful ribbons or wax body parts: both abound in a city filled with the faithful
|PHOTOGRAPHY| by Zachary Lynd and Kelly Framel