The state of Bahia lies to the northeast of Minas Gerais, and it is similar to Minas Gerais in terms of land area. It encompasses a huge range of biomes, ranging from the mangrove swamps and Atlantic rainforest along Brazil’s eastern coast, to the high mountains of the Chapada Diamantina in the centre of the state, to the semi-arid flat lands in the west known as the sertão (‘hinterland’).
Bahia is named after the Bahia de Todos os Santos (Bay of All Saints), the largest on Brazil’s Atlantic coast. Portuguese colonists arrived in the state at the beginning of the sixteenth century, establishing the Portuguese colony’s first capital, Salvador de Bahia, in 1549.
The historic centre of Salvador, the first capital of the Portuguese colony in Brazil and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Up until the nineteenth century, Bahia was a major centre for sugarcane cultivation in Brazil. The Portuguese shipped more than 1.3 million enslaved African workers into the state during this period (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2021). These workers contributed strong African influences to the local culture and customs. Today, Bahia’s economy is dominated by industry, and the state is also an important agricultural centre, being a major producer of cotton, cocoa, soya, and tropical fruits.
Coffee has been important to Bahia’s economy since at least the nineteenth century (Encyclopedia Britannica 1875), but it did not become a major producer on a national scale until the 1970s (de Almeida and Spers 2019), and a number of microregions specialised in producing coffee have emerged in the decades since (Volsi et al 2019).