Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Bahia (2.)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

BAHIA, or, in full, San Salvador da Bahia de todos os Santos, a large city, and, till 1763, the capital of Brazil, is situated on the S.E. coast on the Bay of All Saints, from which it takes its name, in 13 S. lat., and 38 20 "W. long. Built partly along the foot and partly on the top of a steep hill, it consists of an upper and lower town, communication between the two being effected by large flights of steps, and since 1873 by a powerful hydraulic elevator. The carrying of goods and passengers up and down these stairway-streets affords employment to a large number of negro porters and chairmen. The lower town, or Praya, consists mainly of one long and narrow street, with still narrower and more tortuous lanes. The houses are built of stone, and many of them are several stories high. This is the business part of the city, where are situated the quays, docks, warehouses, custom-houses, exchange, and arsenal ; and here the sailors, porters, and lower classes generally reside. The church of Nostra Senora da Praya is remarkable as having been built of stones that were hewn in Lisbon and shipped across the ocean. The upper city has wide and well-paved streets, open squares, and pleasant promenades, adorned with orange trees and bananas. The most important is the Passeio Pultlico, which was opened in 1814, and overlooks the beautiful bay. There is no city in Brazil that can vie with Bahia in the number and splendour of its ecclesiastical buildings, among which the Jesuits college, now used as a hospital, and the cathedral, which is built of marble, are preeminent. There are likewise numerous educational institutions, including a lyceum (in which Latin, Greek, French, and English, mathematics, philosophy, &c., are taught), a theological seminary, and a medical academy, which is supported by the imperial Government, and has about 400 students. The museum and public library also deserve mention. Among the buildings connected with the civic and commercial activity of the city are the government-house, the court-house, the mint, and the town-house; also the Alfandega, where all foreign importations have to be entered, and the Oonsolado, where all native productions are registered for exportation. There are likewise a number of banks and commercial associations of various kinds. Bahia has long been a place of great traffic. The streets of the upper city are very inconveniently paved, but the city and its suburbs are now connected by street railways, two running in the upper town and one in the lower. Bomsim is the name of the northern suburb, and Victoria that of the southern ; the foreign merchants for the most part reside in the latter. The commerce principally consists in the exportation of cotton, coffee, sugar, rum, tobacco, and rosewood, and the importation of miscellaneous foreign goods. The value of the imports in 1870 was 1,671,676, of which 885,206 belonged to Britain. The exports of the same year were valued at 1,790,928. The bay is one of the finest in America, and is well defended by forts. The entrance is protected by the large island of Itaparica, which has upwards of 16,000 inhabitants, of whom more than 7000 are collected in the town of San Gonzalo. A large number of these are employed in the whale-fishery, which has greatly fallen off, however, from its former prosperity.

Bahia was visited in 1503 by Amerigo Vespucci. The

first settlement was founded and called San Salvador by Diego Alvarez Correa, who had been shipwrecked on the coast ; but the Portuguese governor who gave formal existence to the city was Thomas de Souza, who landed in 1549. It owed its increase to the Jesuits, who defended it against the English in 1588. In 1623 it fell into the hands of the Dutch, who held it for two years. In 1823 it was surrendered by the Portuguese to the Brazilian nationality. A revolution, which broke out in the city in

1837, was suppressed by the imperial Government. The first printing-press was introduced in 1811, and the first sugar-mill in 1823. In 1858 railway communication was established to Joazeiro.