Sao Luis, Brazil
Sao Luis: Vacations and travel info
Sao Luis is the capital of the beautiful state of Maranhao, situated in northeastern Brazil. The island of Sao Luis is a cultural city overflowing with alleyways, cobblestone streets and a colorful atmosphere, shown through the unique architecture. Brightly colored tiles overlay the facades of many old buildings, a characteristic that earned this city the title of World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. To visit Sao Luis is to discover a different Brazil, to know its history, to blend into an atmosphere filled with a variety of ethnic influences, and to explore everything this culture has to offer its inhabitants and visitors.
You could say that Sao Luis is divided into two parts: the old area with the stunning historic downtown, and the new section with large modern buildings, housing many of the city's richer neighborhoods. Situated very near the equator, the island of Sao Luis mainly experiences hot weather. There is little rain and more intense heat from June through December, while the cooler rainy season is from January through May.
The economy in Sao Luis thrives mainly on commerce, the metal industry, fishing, agriculture and tourism, while also dedicating itself to sugar refining and cocoa processing. Sao Luis' agricultural industry stands out due to its extensive and varied use of the babasu palm tree, a predominant species in the region, which has many medicinal uses, along with being used in food, beverages, cosmetics, artisanry and even construction.
Sao Luis is an amazing tourist destination, having been blessed with rich natural beauty. Situated in a transitional area between the arid northeastern Brazil and the Amazonian jungle, the island has diverse vegetation, characterized by an abundance of babasu palm trees. The jungle is predominant in Sao Luis, but the surrounding areas and adjacent cities offer incredible landscapes ranging from prairies, savannahs and plateaus to surprising dunes like the famous "Lencois Maranhenses".
This historic city, located between the bays of Sao Marcos and Sao Jose de Ribamar, was founded in 1612 by French explorers in an expedition commanded by Daniel de La Touche, a French sea captain. His objective was to settle the so-called "Equinoctial France" under orders from the French king, Henry IV. De La Touche landed on an island that he named Sao Luis in honor of the new king of France, Louis XIII, since Henry IV had passed away. Upon arrival, the explorers set up a mission at Forte de Sao Luis, which today is the government seat of Sao Luis, called Palacio dos Leoes (Palace of the Lions).
The Sao Luis region was originally inhabited by the Tupinambas people, and the French joined forces with them in the resistance against Portuguese invasions. However, in 1615, the Portuguese were able to take control of the territory, and the French explorers asked permission to occupy the island of Sao Luis. The Portuguese didn't accept the offer, and the French decided to stand down in order to avoid a revolt. In 1641, Sao Luis was invaded once again, this time by the Dutch, who planned to take the native inhabitants as slaves to work on the sugarcane plantations in Pernambuco, a Brazilian state that was under Dutch control. In 1644, when the Dutch invasion was over, the Portuguese rule over Sao Luis stabilized.
Celebrations and Traditions
Sao Luis is filled with a vivid culture brought about by the influence of different races that have inhabited this island over the centuries. The Tupinambas, Portuguese, French, Dutch and African people contributed to the creation of a rich culture that's reflected in the language, cuisine, customs, dances, celebrations and traditions experienced today. Such is the case with the famous Bumba-meu-boi, a folkloric festival that tells the story of the death and resurrection of an ox through theatrics using allegorical characters. It mixes dance and music with instruments such as the tambourine, the maracas and different types of drums. This carnival, native to the state of Maranhao, doesn't just take place in Sao Luis, but also throughout the entire state. Bumba-meu-boi is held in the month of June; however, if your trip isn't programmed for June, you can enjoy a show of this traditional festivity, held on weekends in downtown Sao Luis.
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