One of the great things about living in Miami is its unrivalled mix of Latin cultures, and Brazilians play a big part in that. One thing that especially stands out is that it seems that whenever I go out in South Beach, I come across a group of ridiculously fit young guys (sometimes sprinkled with girls) practicing capoeira, a hypnotically sinuous series of moves resembling a cross between modern dance and martial arts, accompanied by throbbing drums, strings, and haunting songs, sometimes in call and response:

Abalou, capoeira, abalou,

oi se abalou deixa abalar.
Abalou, capoeira, abalou,
Mas se abalou deixa abalar.

What Is Capoeira in Salvador?

Even better, though, is getting to travel to Brazil and seeing this amazing Afro-Brazilian art form performed in the country of its 16th-century roots, where it developed among slaves as a means of defense and offense, especially useful for those who were able to escape into the bush and form their own communities.  Because it was so effective against the slaveowners and the army, capoeira was even made illegal by the Portuguese colonial authorities. After independence, the post-colonial government followed suit, because some capoeiristas (capoeira practitioners ) – freed slaves with few other choices in making a living – started turning their abilities toward crime.

Those days are long past, fortunately, and capoeira is very much a source of pride and central to the culture of Brazil – not to mention a world cultural ambassador and magnet for tourism. Since Salvador and Bahia are the country’s premier centers of Afro-Brazilian culture, the form goes way back hereabouts, and visitors today find plenty of venues to see it in action. For the truly captivated, there are even programs here that’ll teach you the moves, from beginners up to advanced, for as few as five days.

That may be a little too ambitious for you, but take it from me, you don’t want to visit Salvador without witnessing this fascinating and key part of its culture. Abalou!

Longtime travel journalist and guidebook author David Paul Appell is CEO of and its parent EnLinea Media LLC, an online content provider and social media management company. 

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