The conversion of Brazil was effected mainly by the Jesuits, who founded the city of São Paulo in 1554. The influx of slaves from Africa, who were forcibly converted to Christianity, produced a synthesis of African religions and Catholicism as a way of preserving the language and culture of the African tribes (Afro-Brazilian rites). Brazil became independent of Portugal in 1822. With the establishment of the Republic in 1889, the Church was disestablished and freedom of worship guaranteed to all bodies. In recent years Protestantism (especially Baptists, Pentecostals, and Seventh-day Adventists), Spiritualism, and Afro-Brazilian rites have increased their adherents. RC Brazilian bishops have been active in implementing the ‘option for the poor’; many of the pioneers of Liberation Theology worked within the base ecclesial communities in Brazil.