Pelourinho – Historic Center of Salvador, Brazil

South America - Editor - 10 February 2012

Pelourinho – Historic Center of Salvador, Brazil

Known locally as Pelourinho, or simply Pelô, the historic zone of Brazil's city of Salvador has been declared as a cultural and historic treasure by UNESCO, and offers visitors unique insight into the history, traditions and cultural customs of this vibrant city. An open-air market, art galleries, restaurants, theaters, churches, museums, monuments and more, are found in the vicinity of the main square, and cultural activities and events, including musical performances, concerts, dances and theater performances, take place throughout the year, attracting both locals and visitors to Pelourinho.

Pelourinho is the Brazilian Portuguese word for "pillory" – a reference to the whipping post in the central plaza where African slaves were publicly flogged for infringements on ever-changing rules by slave-owners. Slavery is no longer permitted in this day and age, but it was very much part of life in the early history of Salvador, and many Brazilians have ancestral links to African slaves who were brought to Brazil to work on the sugar plantations. The Afro-Brazilian activity of Capoeira – an intricate blend of martial arts and dance – originated with African slaves in Salvador, and has since spread throughout the world.

Salvador was the first colonial capital of Brazil, and having been founded in 1549 by Portuguese settlers, it is considered to be one of the oldest cities in the so-called New World. As the original center of the settlement, a number of buildings and monuments in Pelourinho date back to the 16th century. The pastel-painted facades of the buildings, with their white trim, are very picturesque, and since the 1990s reportedly up to 800 buildings in the area have been renovated while taking care to keep the original features intact to maintain the historic and cultural value.

During the Carnaval of Salvador de Bahia, which is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest party on the planet and continues for an entire week. Pelourinho forms part of the Osmar Circuit for one of the festival’s parades. But when the Carnaval is over, visitors to the Brazilian city of Salvador, can always find some entertainment, culture and history in the fascinating Pelourinho neighborhood.


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