I went to Salvador, Bahia, the home of Afro-Brazilian culture, in the summer, which lasts from mid-December to March. I never got bored "“ and I mean never. From the early morning until the late night the streets and beaches are filled with Bainos, the term used to describe people who are native to Bahia, a state in Brazil. Some were on their way to an open air market selling everything from bananas to live goats, spices, or kitchen appliances. Aromas of cayenne, fish, garlic, incense mingle in the air, and for the foreigner not accustomed to the unprocessed smells of organic spices, fruits and meat, my nose became overwhelmed with the tingling sensations of life.
Others go to Barra, the local beach, usually speckled with kids playing in the water, men jogging on the sand in neon-colored Speedos, and all sizes of women wearing bikinis dipping themselves in the sea. Vendors walk from beachgoer to the next selling fried cheese, fish, jewelry, and beer.
The summer I was there, I witnessed men playing Capoeira on the beach, an Afro-Brazilian martial art. While one player spins, kicks or flips, their opponent responds with their own variation of defense all the while dusting the crowd with sand. The crowd slowly joins the impromptu play by finding sticks and recently finished beer cans to make music for the competitors.
After the sun's heat massaged itself into every muscle in my body, I would head to the city center, Pelourhino. In the evening different bands play on every corner of Pelourhino and tourists as well as Brazilians gather to engage in the festivities. I found street vendors selling homemade Acaraje, a traditional Baiano food made from fried black bean falafel and served with an assortment of sauces to put in the middle once cooked, beer, and sweets while artesanatos (artisans) sold their handmade jewelry.
The city in the summer does not sleep. The air swells with the buzz of a culture exercising its freedom to celebrate. From one barrio to the next, the fiesta spills in all directions. I danced to samba in the humid night on cobblestone streets, went to an afro-jazz concert, and then squeezed myself between the sweaty bodies of dancers to get a view of the musicians playing at the bottom of an old stairway next to a church converted into an amphitheater.
It is impossible to get lonely in Salvador. If I was not held by the warmth of the sun, the humid air blanketed me with traces of sea salt. From one drum to one stereo, to feet stomping into the earth, to me, the music of Salvador connects all. It became the resilience of a culture that has found a way to sustain itself through song and dance, drum and play.
Written and photographed by Robin Garcia
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