Collection Description

Culture Name

Bahia Brazilians

Culture Description

Bahia Brazilians are inhabitants of the city of Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia in eastern Brazil, and the surrounding Recôncavo, a semicircle of land bordering the Baia de Todos os Santos, the Bay of All Saints. Bahia's population consists largely of people of mixed African and European origin and a minority of descendants of unmixed African or European origin. Recôncavo society is characterized by a strongly-developed class structure, with little vertical mobility, a legacy of the original plantation system of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Agriculture remains the primary economic activity of the Recôncavo, supplemented to some degree by fishing in the bay area. Tobacco and sugarcane are the main exports.


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South America --Eastern South America



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Number of Documents


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Bahia Brazilians file consists of ten documents, nine in English and one, Azevedo 1953, no. 5, a translation from the French. Fieldwork for these studies was conducted over a period of sixty years from approximately the mid 1930s (Pierson 1967, no. 4) to the mid 1990s (McCallum 1996, no. 10), while the range of ethnographic coverage in the file runs from the sixteenth century to the late twentieth century. The most comprehensive works in the file are those of Haskins (1956, no. 1), Hutchinson (1957, 1963, nos. 2 & 3), Pierson (1967, no. 4), and Schwartz (1985, no. 11). The Haskins study is an agricultural geography of the Recôncavo based on his fieldwork in 1952-1954. It contains detailed descriptions of land use, agricultural products, and foreign trade. It is the only source in the file to cover the whole Recôncavo area. Hutchinson (1957, no. 2) is a sociocultural analysis of the community of Vila Recôncavo in the sugarcane area. It contains much historical information on the development of the sugarcane monoculture in the area and on the relatively recent changes from family based plantations (ENGENHOS) to corporate owned sugar processing factories (USINAS). Hutchinson's other work in the file (Hutchinson 1963, no. 3), based on the same community of Vila Recôncavo, is a study of race relations, showing how African cultural influences and the particular set of patterns involving the large patriarchal family and the master-slave relations which took form on the sugar plantations were significant factors in producing the class and race relationships as they exist in the late twentieth century in the area. In conjunction with this last work, Pierson's study presents a classic sociological analysis of race relations and culture contact in Brazil, with a focus on the city of Salvador (Bahia), and is further supplemented by the information in Azevedo (1953, no. 5). Pierson's work contains a good historical analysis of slavery, assimilation, intermarriage, and status in the society. Although most of the documents in the file contain historical information to some extent, the definitive work on this topic is found in Schwartz (1985, no. 11). This study presents a detailed history of Bahian plantation society from 1550 to 1835, with abundant data on the evolving society of the period, slavery, the physical aspects of sugar mills and sugar plantations, and a description of what life and work was like on these ENGENHOS.

The remaining works in the file contain an assortment of ethnographic information from ethnosociology in McCallum (1996, no. 10), to religious ritual as a collective expression of experience in Sjorslev, (1987, no. 9), upper class family structure and sociocultural change in Borges (1992, no. 7), and the activist roles of two carnival groups in the city of Salvador (Dunn 1992, no. 8). In overall coverage this file contains a great deal of information on race and social status, agriculture and history, with great historical depth, and contrast between rural and urban life.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

The culture summary, indexing notes and synopsis were written by John Beierle in May, 1998.

abolitionist movement -- categories 668, 567

AFOXE -- Afro-Bahian carnival group that specialized in the playing of percussion instruments -- categories 533, 541, 575

African "carnival clubs" -- category 575

BANDEIRA -- artisan association -- category 467

BATUQUE -- dance of African origin -- category 535

BLOCO AFRO -- young militant group of carnival musicians -- categories 533, 541, and 575

BLOCO INDIO -- carnival group of Afro-Bahians -- category 575

boards of inspection -- boards designed to provide a measure of quality control in the shipment of Brazilian goods abroad -- categories 647, 439

bush captains (rural constables) -- category 693

CAMARA -- municipal councils -- in the city of Salvador, category 633; general, category 623

CANDOMBLE cults -- category 794

CANDOMBLE ACHOGUN -- category 794

CANDOMBLE JBONAM -- category 794

CANDOMBLE leaders (priests or priestesses) -- category 793

CANDOMBLE musicians -- categories 794, 533

CANDOMBLE OGAN (assistant) -- category 794

captaincy -- categories 631, 423

counties -- category 634

EMPREITERRE -- labor contractors -- category 464

EUGENHO -- a large, semi-tropical agricultural estate; a sugar plantation -- category 249

exploitation of oil wells (by Brazilians in Bahia territory) -- category 315

IRMANDADES -- a religious brotherhood -- category 794

MESAS DA INSPECAO -- see boards of inspection


ORIXAS -- Yoruba deities associated with forces of nature who manifest themselves during elaborate rituals in CANDOMBLE -- category 776

PANELINHA -- cliques -- category 573

QUILOMBOS -- a settlement of fugitive slaves banded together for mutual protection -- category 621

SANTIDADE -- a syncretic, messianic cult -- categories 794, 668

SEITA -- cult center -- categories 346, 794

SOBRADO -- urban townhouse -- category 342

spiritualism -- general concepts of-- category 771 (also 787, 755 depending on context)

USINA -- the modern sugar factory , category 249; its organization, category 473; physical description of machinery -- category 407

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