The capital of Bahia state was once Brazil's capital and is celebrating its birthday today (Mar. 29). Ponta do Padrão (where today is Bay of All Saints) received vessels from Tomé de Souza 467 years ago, to found the City of São Salvador, at the behest of Portugal's King João III. It was unknown that past social and structural problems would interfere in local society nearly 500 years later.
According to historian Rodrigo Lopes, professor at Bahia State University, the strategic location of Salvador was crucial to define it as the first capital, because there was a promising environment for planting sugarcane for example.
For Lopes, Salvador "was designed by the Portuguese to be the capital of the overseas empire. Therefore, it occupies a prominent place in American history and in America's relationship with other continents. The vessels that came from Portugal to buy spices in other continents had to stop in Salvador to restore supplies and carry out maintenance. Furthermore, it was the main entrance to Brazil and to the possibilities that Brazil offered to European nations. "
The 2015 census conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) shows that Salvador has almost 3 million inhabitants. According to a recent study from several Brazilian universities, Bahia capital has the largest African ancestry population, based on genetic studies: 50.8%, and is considered the city with the blackest population out of Africa.
"Racism observed in Salvador horrifies us especially due to the large black population. But it is not different from other parts of Brazil, where there is also racism. The issue is that, after the slavery period, this free population was not captured by labor market, nor by civil society. So they became a marginalized population, to whom education and access had been denied. All this contributed to endorsing a prejudiced view, expressed today by several ways," mentioned the professor.
According to Rodrigo Lopes' explanations, the current infrastructure problems in Bahia's capital are also secular. But he argues that this does not justify the lack of public policies and investments in the city.
"We have many petitions in official old documents, sent to Emperor Dom Pedro II, in which they complain about the slopes of Salvador, because 'the city collapses with a simple rain', about the sanitation of streets, with open sewers, about the large amount of dirt on the pier port. So, we examine these facts and realize that today we still have remnants of all this," he compared.
The researcher goes further and says that an endemic corruption and a patrimonialism that makes administrators believe they own the public property have continued. This explains the lack of investment, and some secular and yet so urgent issues, like public sanitation.
In the professor's analysis, Salvador deserves a more civilian population, taking extra care for the city and considering the importance of preserving the structure and cultural heritage that the capital of Bahia has.
Translated by Amarílis Anchieta
Fonte: Agência Brasil.