Didem Doğan

Ouro Preto: gold is found in Brazil

The State of Minas Gerais (the Mines state) has some of the best preserved colonial towns of the country: Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, São João del Rei, naming some of them. Ouro Preto, the most visited one is located couple of hours from the capital city of the state Belo Horizonte. Cobble stone streets, colourful houses, the hills make it a postcard town. It mainly lives on tourism and as it is nested in a valley between mountains, in Ouro Preto one takes a step somewhat outside the scorching tropic climate zone of Brazil. It also has a historical significance. When Portuguese folks first stepped further north in Porto Seguro, in the early 16th century the main motive for their expedition was of course the gold they were aiming to find. The gold that had been the dream of the ‘conquistadors’ in the new continent they invaded was founded here at this state of Minas. In the late 17th cc., Ouro Preto, ‘dark gold’ in Portuguese, was built as a mining city in the area 500 kms. north of Rio and quickly developed into a major settlement bigger and richer than either New York or Rio of the time. The wealth of the city consequently brought about a refinement of arts and architecture. All the baroque churches and houses in the Portuguese architectural style in the old city under the Unesco world heritage protection are the unique examples of Portuguese architecture dating back to the period. Moreover, other works worth seeing are the legacy of baroque sculptor Aleijidinho found around the city. The city has another significance in the history of independence of Brazil. Tiradentes the independence fighter, is a very important figure in the history of Ouro Preto. The key insurgence in the Brazilian independence struggle took place in Ouro Petro. Baptized as the ‘Miners Disobedience/Disloyalty” by historians, the uprising in 1789 was inspired by the separation of the 13 British colonies in North America from the colonial empire, the most prominent international independence struggle of the time. Although the insurrection mainly mobilised middle-high class wealthy and white groups failed, it raised a hero: Tiradentes. One of the insurgents defeated after being betrayed, Tiradentes took full responsibility for the insurgency; he was sent to Rio, tried and condemned to death by hanging. His body, torn into pieces, was sent back to Ouro Preto and displayed in various locations of the city. Now the day Tiradentes was executed, April the 21st, is a national holiday in Brazil. One of the three most visited cities of the state of Minas Girais (Ouro Preto, São João del Rei and Tiradantes) was named after him.