In Salvador de Bahia, capoeira occurs daily.
On the strike of the clock at 11am, Bahian youths dressed only in white trousers climb onto a podium in the restaurant area of the Mercado Modelo and start to dance/fight.
Percussion instruments create a ryhthm for their leaping and kicking. This "semi-balletic" art form is an expression of Bahian culture. Two sinewy black lads spin and whirl around each other in "mock combat" (see photo). People gather to watch a dance created in years gone by for people to settle their differences without resorting to violence. It's very popular. I've seen teenagers on the promenade at Barra mimic capoeira. A form expression for the poor in some ways it exemplifies this city - energetic, macho, violent, and very exotic.
Capoeira is found each day at the Victorian market (Mercado Modelo) situated in the Cidade Baixa (lower city). This is the section of the town which lies below the great towering granite buff of Pelhurinho and contains the market, marina, and ferries to the outlying islands. It is workaday Salvador, containing office blocks and bus routes, but I found it more relaxing than the hawker-infested upper city. It looks fairy neglected, and most 18th-century buildings have not been given the lick of pastel paint that their countenances on the bluff above have had. It's also hotter, and Pelhurinho benefits from breezes not caught by the lower city and the docks.
To get there, head for Praca Municipal in Pelhurinho. The whole of the northern side of the Praca is a balustrade viewpoint looking out to sea. From here, you can see the bright blue of the Baiae do Todos os Santos, and directly below is the marina, modern art statue, and the Mercado Modelo. Perched on the edge of the Cidade Alta is the Lacerda elevator - the best way down to the Cidade Baixa (low city). The elevator (see photo) is a strange contraption. A marble tunnel leans out over the edge, and at the end is the elevator which travels up and down an enormous leg. It costs five centavos, and you have to queue to use the three lifts. I thought it would be a barn-like structure that packed in many people. Instead I got an office-type lift that only took about fifteen at a time. It was perfectly safe, as a female attendant was in there all day. And I must tell you - hang on to your stomach. The elevator plummets like a stone!
It opens opposite the marina and the mercado. This is workaday Salvador, with buses disgorging passengers and people scurrying off to the scruffy office blocks that dot the lower city. Across the road is the market but better still is the marina, where jagandasfishing boats tie up and the water here is bright sapphire. Beyond this, across a busy road, is the Touristicus Terminus. It is here where boats and ferries to the islands in the Baiae dos Todos os Santos leave. The most popular of these is the boat to the Morro do Sao Paolo, a tropical paradise not yet discovered by the crowds. Trips of the bay can be arranged here and cost about 50 reals for an entire day.
But the big draw of the lower city is the Mercado Modelo. The old Victorian half-dome market is very popular with tourists. The big minus is the number of hawkers you have to endure to reach the market. The stalls are quite good - selling corn-on-the-cob, moqueta stew, teak souvenirs, T-shirts, and towels. But the worst are the irritating grabbing women trying to sell you beads as you enter - they will literally try to grab your arm. A firm "nao!" doesn't always deter them, and you may find yourself shrugging them off. Inside is like a South American Aladdin's cave - there are goods and provisions from everywhere. On show were laquerware, jewellry, paintings, fridge magnets, clothing, stuffed piranhas - all designed for the tourist. The upper level has just as many stalls and a couple of restaurants with balconies overlooking the Cidade Baixa.
But the main draw for me was the capoeira. To me, the spirit of Salvador occurs in this dance/fight ritual, and I wanted to get it on film. However, the market had a charge-for-photos policy. I was determined to get around this, so I lurked near the entrance. When the capoeira started, I clicked off a few shots. Of course, I was spotted, and the Brazilian equivalent of "Oi you!" was thrown at me.
But I had my running shoes on and was speeding away before then...