African Americans find their roots in Brazil

BAHIA ... With its varied and exotic attractions, Brazil has long been a travel mecca, drawing more than 700,000 U.S. citizens annually. But the big attraction for many black Americans is Brazil's flourishing African heritage, most evident here in Bahia state, where vast slave plantations once serviced Europe's craving for sugar and tobacco.

"The different African traditions have certainly been better preserved here," said Paulette Bradley, a marketing manager who was visiting with a group from Atlanta. "It seems that African heritage was more diluted in the States."

Black Americans' increasing advance into the middle class has created disposable income, leisure time and a multibillion-dollar tourism boom. Brazil may not yet rival Africa as a "roots" destination, but those keen for a cultural encounter are converging on Bahia.

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