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Gay Life in Salvador, Brazil

by Vincent van der Kraan in Travel and weekendtrips , 21 juni 2003

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

For Dutch gays who’ve had it with once again Gran Canaria or Ibiza, a visit to the exciting Brazilian town Salvador might offer new and stimulating vistas. Salvador, capital of Bahia, in Northeast Brazil at the Atlantic coast. With its tropical sea climate, the mercury on the coldest day of the last 300 years indicated 21 C. In summer, December - February, temperatures can rise to some 35 C. But the seawinds bring in an ever welcome cooling breeze. For centuries Salvador was the transfer harbour of the Brazilian slave trade. These days the city calls itself proudly the black city of Brazil.

A lack of women in the former Portuguese colony made for a mix of black, white and indian races, creating a particularly beautiful people. Wandering the Salvador streets, your eyes are continuously drawn to beautiful men and women. Stunning combinations of deep dark skin with light blue or bright green eyes. Beautiful heads, lots of half-naked, muscular bodies, moving with more supple grace than the average European.

With over three million inhabitants, Salvador ranks as Brazil’s third major city and has grown in the last fifty years at lightning speed. This recent development has met with innovative city planning synchronous with the sign of the times. At this moment a metro is being built traversing the city. Major motorways are being designed on the drawing table and the hilltops are graced with skyscrapers to catch as much of the seabreeze as possible. The old Portuguese area of the city, the Pelourinho, was saved from ruin some ten years ago by Unesco and is now on its list of cultural momuments. Salvador is a mix of 1st, 2nd and 3rd world cultures, mirrored in its posh, middle class and slum areas.

The big shopping malls offer everything you’ll also find elsewhere on the globe and the Bom Preco, still owned by Albert Heijn, has huge supermarkets all over the city, open 24 hrs a day, each the size of a football field. Salvador also prides itself on its traffic lights with huge numbers indicating how many more seconds to go before the light will turn from orange to red. Buses and taxi drive around by the thousands and cost virtually nothing. There are few traffic jams and at night you can simply drive through a red ligt unpunished.

By day you can pass through the city way beyond the speed limit, while the police will be driving next to you at the same neck breaking speed without blinking an eye, passing you both left and right. Despite all this anarchy there’s a low number of accidents. Poverty is no cause of death here, since there’s no food shortage and food can so to speak be found hanging from the trees or swimming in front of your door.

Sex Life

People are friendly, easy going, open and not, as prejudice has it, gay unfriendly. Quite the opposite. Since some two months, Brazil law allows people of the same sex to draw up a living together contract. For gays living in the slums life sure ain’t easy, but in general gay sex isn’t frowned upon. On many civilized parties we saw straight women grope each other’s crothes or tits or were openly tonguing each other. Women in the street will often pinch your ass and men embrace each other warmly. Next to music and football, sex is for Brazilians of major importance.

Gay Life

Gay hotspots are for instance the Rua Carlos Gomes, a mile long street. In the middle the bars Charley Chaplin and Mangolo du Jungo, the gay terrace of Carlos and the disco Stylos. In the side streets the saunas Olympus and Augustus.

In the Barra area you’ll find the trendy discos Off-Club and Gloss, the Bar de la Place and the sauna Campus. The Barris area houses the saunas Persoa and Rio and the only nightclub with a darkroom, The Queens, open on Fridays and Saturdays only. Elsewhere in the city there’s the disco Yess.
Gay beaches are at Porto da Barra, at the Todos os Santos bay and at the Praia dos Artistos, busstop Boca do Rio at the Avenida Oceanica, where you’ll find gay beach club Aruba. Cruising is done out in the open, on beaches, cruising areas and on terraces.


For 23 years, the Gruppo Gay da Bahia has been active and organizes weekly gatherings in the old quarter Pelourinho. Last month they organized a demonstration, when the newspaper published an article about Bahia having the highest number of gay bashing victims in all of Brazil. This immediately made 500 gays and dikes march the streets in a slow motion demonstration, effectively jamming Salvador traffic.

Sex and violence

Sex you’ll easily find in the saunas, where very attractive (especially in sauna Persoa) so called masseurs will rub your back for 15 reais, soon aiming for your erogenous zones, while inquiring if you’d like to engage in some sex for money, adding a negotiable 20 to 50 reais for full sex. 50 to 80 reais, or 13 to 20 dollars, soon has you ready and on your feet again. There’s virtually no sex between visitors, which is frowned upon by the masseurs as unfair competition. The only exception being sauna Rio.

Sex and money are one and the same in Brazil and no Salvador native will have sex with you without wanting more. So if you feel like a walking cash machine, you’re right. Minimum wage here is 300 reais, some 78 dollar. Average pay some 1200 reais, 312 dollar a month. Luxury goods are as expensive as in Europe. So everyone is in constant need of cash.

Hot sex is night sex in cruising area Jardim de Allah. An oasis at the beach under gently swaying palm trees. Down a small slope on the beach you’ll find the prettiest boys. Though AYOR, during my Salvador stays I’ve only once been held up with a knife. Two cruising areas are very much AYOR: Farrol de Barra behind the lighttower and at the Crucifix near the Avenida Oceanica. I’ve met one boy too many who’ve had a gun held to his head here and had to give up his money, juwelry and clothes in exchange for some worn out tramp gear and forced sex. Also the police appears to be roaming the area, forcing sex under threat of a gun. It might be the ultimate masochist’s dream, it certainly doesn’t fit my bill of SM fun.

Sex in general

Salvador sex is long, steamy and hot. Quick sex is practised, but not favoured. Age difference isn’t really an issue. Gay male and female couples often differ significantly in age, more often than not for economic reasons. Many youngsters have very little money. Scientific research shows 85% of the men and 75% of the women in Brazil are promiscuous. Leather hasn’t hit Brazil yet, maybe also because of its tropical climate. And they’ve never heard of poppers.

AIDS prevention figures high on the list of priorities and the use of condoms is practised widely. But condoms cost money, which might be put to better use for food. So in many places condoms are handed out for free. Brazil also is the first country in the world to break the world patent rights and has begun copying and producing expensive AIDS medication, so it can now be distributed free of charge.

Dikes and more...

Salvador is dikes’ heaven. Gorgeous women with a completely different outlook on life than we’re used to. Lots of young 15 and 16 year old dikes. Supple, gracious, easy going women making out intimately in public. No strict separation either between men and women in the gay scene. Gays and dikes regularly hang out together and there are often more dikes than gays crowding the bars and the beaches.
Sao Paolo, not Salvador is the place to be if you’re into fashion. In Salvador anything goes, as long as it ain’t too chic. T shirt or torso naked, short wide pants and slippers is what rich and poor in Salvador wear alike.

For Europeans life in Salvador is cheap. Soda and beer (3/4 litre) cost between 31 and 39 eurocent in all the bars and 65 to 78 eurocent in more expensive discos. A mixed drink costs six reais, 1.56 euro. The only expensive thing about Brazil is the trip to it. A return ticket will cost you about 800 and 900 euro and takes between 13 to 20 hours of flying. You can rent an appartment for 35 to 50 euro a day, with or without airconditioning. The sauna costs 15 reais or 3,90 euro, the disco from 5 to 12 Reais, 1.30 to 3.12 Euro. Food between 7 and 25 reais, 1.82 to 6.50 euro for a complete meal. The one for 7 Reais is as good as the one for 25. It depends whether you’re supping in a kilo or in a serving restaurant. Kilo restaurants are everywhere and you help yourself at long counters. Your plate gets weighed and you pay for the weight. You will often find delicious Japanese sushi for a song.

Back in Holland a growing desire is nagging me to take the next plane back to Salvador. What a wonderful town. Culture, sex, climate, food; altogether make it a veritable paradise on earth.



In the New Issue of Gay News, 326, October 2018

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