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Bahia Republic
República da Bahia
Location of Bahia
Government TypeFederal republic
LanguagesPortuguese (official)
Nagô Ioruba

Bahia, officially the Bahia Republic (Portuguese: República da Bahia), is a Lusophone country in eastern South America bordered by Pernambuco, Equador, and Brazil. It is considered the birthplace of colonial Brazil, as the first Portuguese ship landed in the Bahian city of Porto Seguro. It is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries in the world and is a bastion of Afro-Portuguese culture.


The word Bahia is the archaic spelling of the Portuguese word for bay, specifically the Bay of All Saints. Bahian is the English demonym for the country, while baiano and baiana are the Portuguese variants.


Premodern history

Prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500, the territory that today comprises the Bahia Republic was inhabited by a variety of native groups, mainly the Tupinamba and the Jê.

Organized under the colonial Captaincy of Bahia, it was responsible for the large-scale production of sugar and cotton. Much of the labour force consisted of enslaved Africans brought from West African and Central African empires, leading to Bahia having the largest and most culturally significant black population in South America. The city of Salvador was, until the late 17th century, the capital of colonial Brazil and the biggest city on the colony. This title was lost after Rio de Janeiro was established as capital in 1763.

The birth of modern Bahia (1800-1845)

War of Independence

During the 1830s, both Europe and the Americas saw a series of republican and liberal revolutions. Of the various colonial revolts in both the Spanish and Portuguese empires, Bahia was one of those that managed to succeed. Slave rebellions, becoming increasingly more common since 1800, began to threaten the slaver class in a tangible way. In the middle of 1835, a clique of freed slaves and intellectuals began an insurrection and demanded the abolition of slavery and economic reform. Merchants and soldiers soon joined the rebellion too.

The rebellion quickly spread through the Reconcavo and soon spread to rural areas. The Bahia Republic was proclaimed by a coalition of slaves, freed slaves, merchants, and soldiers by the end of the year. In 1836, in response to the failure of local forces to control the rebellion, reinforcements were sent directly from Portugal to deal with the situation. The insurgents were not able to resist and as a last resort, they fled to rural quilombos and adopted guerrilla tactics. The war became stationary by 1843. In that year, the southernmost captaincy of Brazil also rebelled, forcing imperial forces to focus on a new front, moreover, at that time there was a feeling that victory had already been secured in the north, which made the monarchist forces reduce concern for the region, giving the republicans an advantage. Now with two wars to deal with and the Bahians receiving support from the newly independent Colombia, the war became very costly for Portugal. In 1845 a peace treaty was signed in Salvador confirming the newly sovereign Bahia Republic.

Oligarquia (1851-1884)

The first Bahian president was João Ribeiro da Costa, a General of the Bahian army during the independence war. He was installed as president by the Bahian aristocracy, though he maintained his power by appealing to the public. For 33 years, popular elections in Bahia influenced by the landed gentry, aristocracy, foreign companies, and financial institutions such as Genoese banks.

Estratocracia (1884-1927)

Reconcavo Conspiracy

Since the 1850s, the Bahian army had already felt neglected by the government. Salaries were low and military equipment was in poor condition. The military were persuaded to participate in faciliating Pernambucan independence with the promise of increased salaries, military funding, and imported technologies. The war in Pernambuco ended in 1882, and yet, the military was still in poor condition. General Antônio Peçanha da Fonseca, along with a hundred soldiers, stormed the State Palace on March 31, 1884. Arthur Moreira, president at the time, was exiled to the Riograndense Republic.

Fonseca's rule

The military takeover was initially popular due to the failures of the Moreira administration. However, it soon became apparent that the military had no intention of restoring civilian rule, agitating the population. In 1885, General Fonseca used his influence to be officially installed to the office of President with the support of his allies in the aristocracy. The parliament was dissolved, and to ensure his position, the army was on a tight leash.

During Fonseca's rule, the Bahian army received their promised reforms. This period also marked the first steps on Bahian industrialization, as the new military regime shed connections with the restrictive agrarian elite. A textile processing industry began booming around Salvador. Loans taken from foreign banks plunged the nation into debt, creating economic distress and delaying industrialisation.

Dores dos Década de Vinte (1922-1927)

In 1900, only 10-20% of the Bahian population was eligible to vote under the 1846 Constitution. Since 1884, the military class appropriated democratic propaganda to maintain their dominance. This status quo was shattered during the 1920s, a time of major economic and sociopolitical change.

1922 economic crisis

In 1922, Europe was hit by a heavy economic crisis. Britain and Portugal, Bahia's biggest economic partners, faced major economic decline, heavily affecting Bahia as well. Sugar and cotton plantation products were devalued. Imports were drastically reduced. To control the prices, many plantation owners ordered the burning kilograms upon kilograms of sugar and cotton. Unemployment skyrocketed, and the few working class industrial workers were subjected to dire conditions due to the absence of employment and worker rights laws.

Communardism, popular among the lower and intellectual classes, exploded in popularity. The three main demands were a new constitution, universal suffrage for men and women over 18, and land redistribution. The Bahian aristocracy began to crack down on dissent, leading to a polarized situation.

1924 Porto Seguro election fraud

In November 1924, Bahia held the presidential and state governor elections. The presidency was won by the general Emílio Castelo, who started his second term. In the dispute for the southern state of Porto Seguro, the candidate João Augusto Albuquerque, an important figure in the Bahian Democratic Party (Partido Democrático Baiano), which sold itself as a less radical solution, was the most popular. Due to his eloquent speeches, he easily gained support from the people.

In December, the results were disclosed. Former sergeant Fernando de Andrade ended up victorious with more than 60% of the votes. Albuquerque didn’t accept the results, and asked for a recounting. After the recounting, the same result was reached.

Public demonstrations soon started to happen in the city of Porto Seguro, demanding fair elections. The branch of the national guard in the state also declared support for Albuquerque. The main reason was the unequal treatment of the force when compared to the military. In the matter of days, the situation got more and more violent, obligating governor Andrade to flee the city.

Bahian Civil-War (1924-1927)

After taking control of the state, Albuquerque declared Porto Seguro as the capital of the Second Bahia Republic, popularly called “South Bahia”. In the matter of a few weeks, most of the southern states joined along Porto Seguro.

In February, Brasil started to directly support the southern government. Brasil also prioritized imports from the south rather than from the north. To choke the northern economy, Albuquerque sent various messages to other south american countries, as well European and north american countries, asking for support by cutting economic ties with the military rule in the north. In exchange, southern production would be exported with the lowest reasonable taxation during the conflict. By 1925, several American nations declared support for the Second Bahian Republic by ending economic ties with the north.

By 1926, the southern army started to gain advantage, as the north suffered from an economic downfall and many minor revolts. Slowly, towns started to be either conquered or joined the Second Bahian Republic willingly. In march 1927, Salvador government asked for peace, since it became too harsh to deal with the war.

Emílio wasn’t exiled or arrested, but he along with many members of the former government and many former military were banned from any future elections.

Bahian Democratic Party reign

In 1928, new elections were held. Albuquerque was elected president for the next four years with more than 65% of the votes. Also, the Bahian Democratic Party won with ease the most number of parliamentary seats.

The main accomplishments of the first four years were:

  • Improvement of the former constitution, which was labeled as the 1929 constitution;
  • Creation of a public agency with the duty of guarantee fair elections in the future, the Bahian Transparency Agency;
  • Approximation with North American nations such as Mexico and New Netherland;
  • Creation of a program for increase literacy levels to at least 50% on the next 20 years;
  • A program of public investments over industrial buisiness;

The agrarian reform didn't pass through the parliament, as it was seen as too radical and would affect the relationship with the Bahian landowners. This decision disappointed the Communard parties and associations, which declared the end of support to the Bahian Democratic Party.

Government and Politics






Roman Catholicism

The oldest organized faith in Bahia, the first Mass was celebrated in Bahia in 1500. It was the established religion of colonial Brazil and permeated every facet of society, becoming heavily associated with the Portuguese. In 1846, with the constitutional de jure separation of church and state, the Catholic Church gradually began to loose power to the state and other public institutions. However, half of Bahians still identified as purely Catholic a century later, and many are still deeply religious.


A minor Calvinist presence was established in Bahia in the late 16th century by Huguenots. It reached its premodern peak with New Holland in the 17th century. In the early 1800s, the economic influence of New Netherland and the Dutch Gold Coast was accompanied by an influx of missionaries. With freedom of religion becoming normalised in the 1850s, many nominal Catholics began converting to Calvinism and to a much lesser extent, Lutheranism and Baptism. Today, most Bahian Protestants belong to the Dutch Reformed Church.

Syncretism and African religion


This Afro-American syncretic faith, joining Roman Catholicism and Isese, is practiced in some capacity by 1 in 5 Bahians. Oppressed during colonial and martial rule, it has become one of the most easily recognizable traits of Bahian society. Most practitioners identify as Nagôs - the Ioruba diaspora in Bahia. Its liturgical language is a dialect of Ioruba.


In the 1860s, first Zoekerist missionaries arrived in Salvador. The religion was adopted by a few hundred Afro-Bahians but slowly grew into the thousands in the 1910s as the religion became more socially accepted. Most Zoekerists live in the capital of Salvador.


Malê Islam

Malês (French: Mallais), also known simply as Bahian Muslims, form around ten percent of the population. Muslim slaves, usually of Hausa and Ioruba origin, led and participated in most slave revolts of the colonial era. After independence, they became a distinct black community with their own subculture and traditions. Often discriminated against by the majority Catholic population, they form the largest Muslim population in South America next to Guiana's.

Mestico communities

Small numbers of Ottoman Syrian and Rumelian immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries led to the formation of a Muslim community among the mesticoes. The Želal Paša Mezquita in Salvador is the epicenter of mestico Muslim culture.


A small number of Jews live in Bahia, descendants of refugees fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. With the independence of Bahia in 1846, several conversos began to publicly display their Judaism. A handful of Jewish immigrants from Salonica settled in the nation in the 1920s.

Orthodox Christians, specifically Antiochians from Syria, began settling and opening businesses in Salvador from 1871. While most Syrians converted to Catholicism, a few still adhere to the Greek Orthodox tradition and keep their mother tongue, Arabic, alive.

See also