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Did You Know that Bahia is Brazil’s Most African State?

With more than three quarters of its 15 million inhabitants tracing their roots back to the opposite side of the Atlantic. They were brought from the western coast of Africa to toil in the vast fields of sugarcane that once helped make Portugal one of the wealthiest empires in the world. But really Bahia is Brazil’s most Brazilian state, since so many of the country’s contributions to the world, from its Carnival to its capoeira, were first created in Bahia by Africans and their descendants and continue to grow and flourish there today. Owing to its West African influence, Bahia’s spicy cuisine has always stood out from the relatively mild fare found in other parts of Brazil. Pelourinho, the historic neighborhood, is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with steep cobbled streets twisting in every direction and stone plazas flanked by Portuguese cathedrals lined with gold. Throughout the day and into the evening, the sounds of elaborate drumming ricochet off the façades of the grand old houses, which are painted in the colors of the tropics—the orange of papaya, the yellow of mango, the blue of the sea. Brazil has been hard-hit by COVID-19, with Bahia being the fifth-most infected state as of July; lockdown means these sounds have likely been muted for now.