Sao Felix Baiano - Reconcavo

Cities

Recôncavo’s towns and villages can be roughly divided into three different settlement structures.

The first settlement type is the historically evolved town. Towns like Santo Amaro, Cachoeira or São Félix, were once the trading centers. The large numbers of colonial palaces and houses are reminders of the Recôncavo’s former wealth.

One of these historic places is the inconspicuous Belem da Cachoeira, home of the first Jesuit seminar in Brazil. Although it is the site of one of the Recôncavo’s first important churches (building began in 1686, using porcelain bricks imported from Macau), today it can hardly be described even as a village. Yet it was here that the first flight attempts on Brazilian soil took place. It was a Catholic priest who took this daring step – a major technical achievement in the former colony.

The second type of settlement, small villages with two or three thousand inhabitants, are often situated on the bay or on the Rio Paraguaçu. Many of these places, such as Saubara, São Francisco do Paraguaçu or Bom Jesus dos Pobres, can be reached only via dirt tracks, and frequently date back to settlements from the time of the Tupinamba. The inhabitants make their living with farming, fishing and some trade. In these villages, there is generally a pronounced and diverse folkloric culture that is often religiously oriented. This is the reason for the Recôncavo’s reputation throughout Brazil as a treasure trove of Afro-Brazilian culture.

The chessboard pattern of the straight roads already makes it clear that the Recôncavo’s third form of settlement is a more recent development. The best example of this is Cruz das Almas, located directly on the BR 101 to Rio de Janeiro. “Cross of Souls” is the motor of the Recôncavo, the region’s commercial and shopping city.

The two-kilometer, dead-straight road into the center leads to a large square with a church, town hall, tall trees, sparsely planted flower beds and brightly colored Chinese lanterns.

Cruz das Almas seems like a cowboy town – and not only because of the many hats, riders and machetes at their belts. There is a sense of "go-west" mentality, a spirit of optimism and professionalism. The inhabitants proudly point out that it can be really cold – 18 degrees Celsius – in July and August.

The new or historic towns and the small villages are the centers of the lives of the people in the Recôncavo, which is densely populated by Brazilian standards. Densely populated means: leave the main roads, and you will drive through a manicured agrarian landscape divided into small plots and with many small houses, which are brightly painted, often with a mango tree outside the front door. Home-grown crops and hedges of flowering shrubs are the recurring motifs of this tranquil, tropical world. Salvador is only a two-hour car journey – but a very long way away!