Northeastern Culture

Origin, influence and richness of northeastern culture
Origin, influence and richness of northeastern culture

Northeastern culture is quite diverse, as it was influenced by indigenous peoples, Africans and Europeans.

Customs and traditions often vary from state to state.

Having been the first region effectively colonized by the Portuguese, back in the XVI century, who found the native populations there and were accompanied by Africans brought in as slaves, the northeastern culture is quite particular and typical, although extremely varied.

Its base is Luso-Brazilian, with great African influences, especially on the coast of Pernambuco à Bahia and Maranhão, and Amerindians, especially in the semi-arid hinterland.

The cultural wealth of the northeast region is visible beyond its folkloric and popular manifestations.

Northeastern culture has peculiar characteristics that are represented in different ways: crafts, cuisine, music, dance, rhythm, literature, theater, among others.

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See also other features Evolution and History of Plastic Arts in the Northeast


A northeastern literature has made a great contribution to the Brazilian literary scene, highlighting names such as João Cabral de Melo Neto, José de Alencar, Jorge Amado, Nelson Rodrigues, Rachel de Queiroz, Gregório de Matos, Clarice Lispector, Graciliano Ramos, Ferreira Gullar and Manuel Bandeira, among many others.

Na literature in the Northeastern culture one can cite the string folk literature which dates back to the colonial period (cordel literature came with the Portuguese and has its origins in the European Middle Ages) and numerous artistic manifestations of a popular nature that are manifested orally, such as the singers of squalls and embolada.

northeastern literature
northeastern literature

In classical music, Alberto Nepomuceno and Paurillo Barroso stood out as composers, as well as Liduíno Pitombeira from Ceará today, and Eleazar de Carvalho as conductor.

Northeastern rhythms and melodies also inspired composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos (whose Brazilian Bachiana nº 5, for example, in its second part – Dança do Martelo – alludes to the hinterland of Cariri).


Na popular music in northeastern culture, rhythms such as coco, xaxed, hammer, samba de roda, baião, xote, forró, axé and frevo, among other rhythms.

northeastern popular music
northeastern popular music

The armorial movement of Recife, inspired by Ariano Suassuna, did an erudite work of valuing this popular Northeastern rhythmic heritage (one of its best-known exponents is the singer Antônio Nóbrega).


A dance in the northeastern culture, maracatu, practiced in several parts of the Northeast, the frevo (characteristic of Pernambuco) the bumba-meu-boi, the xaxado, several variants of forró, the tambourine (characteristic of Maranhão) stand out , samba de roda etc. Folk music is almost always accompanied by dancing.

In addition to the dances, costumes such as the baianas costume.


O handicraft in the northeastern culture it is also a relevant part of the cultural production of the Northeast, being even the livelihood of thousands of people throughout the region.

Due to the regional variety of handicraft traditions, it is difficult to characterize them all, but the hammocks woven and sometimes embroidered in great detail stand out; products made from clay, wood (for example, from carnauba, a tree typical of the sertão) and leather, with very particular traits; in addition to lace, which gained prominence in Ceará handicrafts.

northeastern handicraft
northeastern handicraft

Another highlight are the bottles with images made by hand in colored sand, an item produced for sale to tourists.

In Maranhão, handicrafts made from buriti fiber (palm tree) stand out, as well as handicrafts and products from babassu (palm tree native to Maranhão).


A northeastern cuisine is varied, reflecting, almost always, the economic and productive conditions of the diverse geo-economic landscapes of this region.

Northeastern cuisine is strongly influenced by its geographic and economic conditions throughout history, as well as by the ancient mixture of Portuguese, indigenous and African cultures, which began in the XNUMXth century.

Foods almost always have as ingredients vegetable products – often cultivated by the Indians since long before the Portuguese colonization –, beef and goat meat, fish and seafood, which vary widely from region to region, according to their peculiar characteristics.

Northeastern cuisine
Northeastern cuisine

Dishes characteristic of the Northeast Region include tapioca, vatapá, moqueca (both with seafood and palm oil), baião de dois (made of rice and beans, with several varieties, usually also including dried meat, coalho cheese, ground butter or cream), the acarajé (a dumpling of white beans and onions fried in palm oil stuffed with shrimp, red pepper, listed by the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional as intangible heritage in 2004, the mugunzá (made of beans and corn, being sweet in some areas and salty in others, with sausage), caruru (okra and cashew nuts, shrimp, pepper and garlic), a delicacy of indigenous origin adapted by slaves on the mills and served to the orixás and the sarapatel.

Other traditional foods are farofa, paçoca, hominy, pamonha, carne-de-sol, rapadura, goat buchada, curd cheese, siquillo, alfinim, panada, maria-isabel, cooked lamb and the chicken with the giblet.

A cake from Pernambuco, but which later spread throughout the country is the roll cake, made with wheat flour and stuffed.

In Maranhão, the cuxá was developed based on an African herb, the vinegar, it also receives the caruru and the cow tongue, another herb.

The African influence extends mainly along the coast from Pernambuco to Bahia.

In the rest of the coast and inland, there is less influence of African cuisine. On the coast, seafood is common, and tropical fruits throughout the region.

The best known are mangoes, papayas, guavas, oranges, passion fruit, pineapples, custard apple, and cashews (fruit and chestnut), but more exotic fruits are also widely consumed, such as caja, seriguela, and cajarana, pitomba and buriti.

Pequi is also common in parts of the Northeast, such as southern Ceará, and is used in regional foods.

Several varieties of candy are commonly made from these tropical fruits, as are mousses and cakes.

Seafood and fish are widely used in coastal cuisine, while in the sertão, recipes using meat and derivatives from cattle, goats and sheep predominate.

Even so, there are several regional differences, both in the variety of dishes and in the way they are prepared (for example, in Ceará, mucunzá – also called macunzá or mucunzá – salty predominates, while in Pernambuco, sweet predominates).

In Bahia the main highlights are foods made with palm oil and shrimp, such as moquecas, vatapá, acarajé and bobós; however, foods accompanied by mush such as mocotó and oxtail and sweets such as coconut are no less appreciated.

In Maranhão, the cuxá, the cuxá rice, the bobó, the stone fish and the shrimp pie stand out, all in the style of Maranhão.

Also in Maranhão, the soda Jesus or Guaraná Jesus stands out, which is part of Maranhão's heritage.

The bolo-de-rollo is an intangible heritage of Pernambuco.

Some typical food from northeastern cuisine they are: baião-de-dois, carne-de-sol, coalho cheese, vatapá, acarajé, panelada and buchada, hominy, coconut beans and rice, green beans and sururu, as well as various sweets made from papaya, pumpkin, orange, etc.

Some regional fruits – not necessarily native to the region – are ciriguela, cajá, buriti, cajarana, umbu, macaúba, maranhenses juçara, bacuri, cupuaçu, buriti, murici and pitomba, in addition to others that are also common in other regions.

See more in the menu under “Composers and Biographies" or "Culture, History and Religion in Salvador and Bahia"

Origin, influence and richness of northeastern culture

Northeast Tourism and Travel Guide

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