All the things one associates with the joy, color, and spectacle of Brazil can be traced to Salvador Brazil, where African culture made its entrance into the South American continent with the forced immigration of Africans. These new arrivals to a strange land would be forced into a life of slavery, subjected to the inhumane treatment that only one who has all freedoms taken away can know. Despite or perhaps because of the hardships these people had to endure, their customs and culture found fertile ground in Brazil and grew into fascinating new manifestations of the human spirit while also maintaining their essential African-ness, becoming a major contributor to the complex and sophisticated culture of Brazil.
Here, African rhythms and soul blended with Portuguese and indigenous influences to produce a way of being that retains elements of all three peoples while at the same time forming something much greater than the sum of its parts. You can hear it in the music such as samba, which was born of the rhythms brought by the slaves and their suffering, melded with European harmonies and scale patterns. The word for the feeling in Portuguese is saudade, a kind of indescribable yearning- sad but not just sad, lamenting the suffering which is universal to the human condition yet not bitter. It is the Brazilian blues, and it is a sound which uplifts.
Certainly music must be the highest art of Brazil, for nowhere else is there a sound which so perfectly encapsulates the history, emotions, and soul of its people. In Brazil's music, you hear the story of the pain endured by those separated from families, you hear how these same people were able to keep their dignity and humanity through it all. The feeling of joy is always there under the melancholy, there is always the current of movement. There is an understanding of life, of gratitude even when there may seem nothing to be grateful for.
Salvador Brazil is a place where the human spirit can be seen for what it is- seemingly fragile, yet powerful and able to overcome the greatest of challenges. It is a model for what we can be and shows that as people, we are able to put a dark past full of suffering behind us and move on, creating something beautiful out of crushing hardship.