Ouro Preto is the former capital of the state of Minas Gerais, close to the current capital of Belo Horizonte and about 400 km from Rio de Janeiro. This small town was the center of gold and precious metals mining in Brazil during the so-called “golden cycle” of the Brazilian economy (late 17th – early 19th century). Ouro Preto is a must-see for anyone interested in Brazil and its history. We went there this year and loved it. By the way, a month ago, Ouro Preto was included in the list (after 10 years of waiting) of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as my favorite city Paraty in the south of Rio de Janeiro (about Paraty, read HERE).
Why should you visit Ouro Preto?
When you come to the city, it is as if you are in the 18th century. Everything is preserved and maintained in the same form: streets, churches, houses, squares, etc. Ouro Preto has such a relief that all the streets are very steep, and all the time you go up and down the hill. Below is a photo gallery of my trip to Ouro Preto.
The name Ouro Preto means “black gold” and comes from the fact that the first gold prospectors who arrived here found gold blackened with iron oxide here. In general, the fact that Brazil today is a huge country, the Brazilians owe to the Bandeirante troops – the conquerors and colonizers of the interior regions of the country in the late 16th and 18th centuries. Some in modern Brazil criticize the Bandeirantes for enslaving the Indians and driving them out of their territories, but they forget that if it were not for these troops, then today the territory of Brazil would be the tiny size that was defined by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. Therefore, the bandeirante deserve to be considered national heroes today: they fought against the elements, diseases (malaria, etc.) and Indians in search of wealth and new territories to which they brought progress (it is worth remembering that in 1960 the capital of Brazil was moved from Rio de Janeiro to the Central Plateau, once conquered by the Bandeirante troops).
As you can see from the photo gallery, there are a lot of churches in Ouro Preto. The Baroque churches are the main attractions of the city, which were common during the era of the gold rush in Brazil. Gold prospectors and Bandeirantes grew rich and built luxurious churches in the city as a token of gratitude for their wealth. Gold from Ouro Preto was exported along the so-called Old Way to Rio de Janeiro, and from there to Portugal (Brazil was still a Portuguese colony at that time).