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Recôncavo, literally "bay shore," a semitropical area of the state of Bahia in Brazil surrounding the Bay of All Saints and extending inland approximately 25 miles. Heavy, black, fertile soil called massapê covers the landscape of rolling fields and shallow valleys, and navigable estuaries of several rivers emptying into the bay penetrate the Recôncavo. These waterways facilitated rapid Portuguese development of the area in the mid-1500s, and the Recôncavo soon became Brazil's most densely populated region and an important producer of sugar, tobacco, and manioc.

Sugar production in the Recóncavo—particularly in the northeastern section—began in the 1530s. Under the Portuguese, the Recóncavo produced much of the world's sugar. Sugar and tobacco formed the basis of a slaveholding plantation society headed by a largely endogamous rural oligarchy. This planter aristocracy, by virtue of both its wealth and its proximity to Salvador, dominated the economic, social, and political life of the colony.

See alsoBahia; Plantations; Slavery: Brazil; Sugar Industry; Tobacco Industry.


Harry William Hutchinson, Village and Plantation Life in Northeastern Brazil (1957).

Paul V. A. Williams, Primitive Religion and Healing: A Study of Folk Medicine in North-East Brazil (1979).

Esterzilda Bernstein De Azevedo, Arquitectura do acúcar: Engenhos do Recôncavo Baiano no período colonial (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Alves, Aristedes. Areas de proteçao ambiental da Bahia. Salvador: Centro de Recursos Ambientais, 2000.

Barickman, B.J. A Bahian Counterpoint: Sugar, Tobacco, Cassava, and Slavery in the Reconcavo, 1780–1860. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.

Oliveira, Waldir Freitas. A crise da economia açucareira do Reconcavo na segunda metade do século XIX. Salvador: Universidade Federal da Bahia, Centro de Estudos Baianos: Fundação Casa de Jorge Amado, 1999.

                                               Cara Shelly

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