Brazilian boomtown Perched between the turquoise waters of a southern Atlantic bay and the inland Brazilian rain forest, Salvador da Bahia is Brazil’s third-largest city and its so-called “capital of happiness,” due to its raucous street-carnival culture. The city’s cuisine, music, and architecture embody its colonial and Afro-Brazilian roots. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Salvador made the transition from being the capital of the Portuguese colony to becoming a hotbed of the Brazilian independence movement.
The city’s dynamic food traders of this era — black and white, male and female, slave and free — are the subjects of a new book, Feeding the City: From Street Market to Liberal Reform in Salvador, Brazil, 17801860 by Santa Fe resident Richard Graham. Funded by a Fulbright fellowship, Graham, who used to head the history department of the University of Texas at Austin, spent months in Salvador’s many excellent archives and historical libraries to create a portrait of the city’s colonial-era social makeup, alive with the workings of street sellers, grocers, boatmen, cattle dealers, and importers. As Graham writes, “No city feeds itself. ... A city depends on a vast array of outsiders to grow or raise food, and most essentially, on people to transport it, and on middlemen and -women to buy and resell it to consumers.” The book uses the world of the food trade to show how, historically, Brazil’s blacks and whites, slaves and slaveholders occupied far more complex social roles than that of victims and oppressors.
Graham hosts a reception and book signing for Feeding the City at Allá (102 W. San Francisco St.) from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20. There is no charge to attend this public event, which features Bahian Brazilian food and refreshments. For more information, call 988-5416.