Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, is often referred to as "Brazil's Black Rome" because of its culturally complex, vibrant and historically rich African-descended population, one of the largest in Latin America. Yet even though the state has a majority black population, African-Bahians remain a marginalised racial group within the state as a whole.
In African-Brazilian Culture and Regional Identity in Bahia, Brazil, Scott Ickes examines how in the middle of the twentieth century, Bahian elites began to recognise African-Bahian cultural practices as essential components of Bahian regional identity. Previously, public performances of traditionally African-Bahian practices such as capoeira, samba, and Candomble during carnival and other popular religious festivals had been repressed in favour of more European traditions.
The newfound acceptance of these customs by the elite was a democratic move forward, but it came with limitations. The cultural appropriation of these celebrated markers of African-Bahian identity also perpetuated the political and economic marginalisation of the black majority. Nevertheless, Ickes argues that this cultural-political dynamic between African-Bahian cultural practitioners and their dominant class allies helped to create a meaningful framework through which African-Bahian inclusion could be negotiated - a framework that is also important in the larger discussions of race and regional and national identity throughout Brazil. 9 figures, 3 tables, 1 map