Salvador and the Bahia Coast: Places to Explore

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Lençóis

In 1822 a precious-stone frenzy began with the discovery of diamonds in riverbeds around the town of Mucugê. Hordes of people hoping to make their fortune flooded into the region. This golden age lasted until late in the 1800s, when gems ran out. What remained were towns such as Lençóis, Igatu, and Mucugê, where cobblestone streets are lined with 19th-century colonial houses. Because of the historic and architectural importance of the region, buildings are being restored to give travelers a taste of what life was like in those heady days.

The largest community in the Chapada Diamantina area, as well as the gateway to Chapada Diamantina National Park, Lençóis arose from the hundreds of makeshift tents of white cotton fabric built by garimpeiros (gold- and precious stone-seekers). (Lençóis means "bedsheet"). The settlement quickly became an important trade hub for precious stones, attracting merchants from as far away as England, France, and Germany. Many fortunes were made, but the golden age ended in 1889, when most of the stones had been hauled away, and the city was forgotten.

The small town enjoyed a renaissance after it was designated a national monument in 1973. Several sobrados (houses) have been restored to their original grandeur. The mercado municipal (municipal market), where most of the diamonds were sold, has been completely renovated.

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