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Drawing on rare customs records, ship manifests, travelers’ accounts, periodicals, and other primary documents, this chapter places Salvador as an Atlantic hub for the consumption and distribution of African products—especially palm oil. Along with colorful textiles, peppers, kola nuts, and other African imports, African palm oil helped materialize the various Afro-Brazilian cultural expressions developing among Bahia’s growing Afro-descendant majority. That urban market for palm oil imported from Africa contrasted in some ways with the rural networks of domestically produced oil, yet as this chapter lays out, those markets developed in complement, rather than competition. This chapter demonstrates how “legitimate” palm oil trades served to reinforce, rather than replace, the transatlantic slave economy through its “clandestine” period in the mid-nineteenth century. Analyzing these various trades collectively and as they intersected in Bahia, this chapter details how exchanges of goods and ideas energized Afro-Brazilian cultures and economies, led to the expansion of palm oil landscapes in both western Africa and Bahia, and helped to assemble and invigorate an Atlantic World.
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