Partial view of Ouro Preto — Photo: Ronald Peret

The Rich Brazilian Cultural Heritage

Text and images by Ronald Peret

Is almost impossible to walk through the narrow cobblestone streets of Ouro Preto without feeling the emotion of travelling in time. This town has managed to preserve across the years its 18th century architecture and appearance, which offers visitors a first-hand look of its historical heritages. The city is considered today by UNESCO as a Historical and Cultural Patrimony of Mankind and also a National Landmark for Brazilian Independence.

Reinado of Ouro Preto — Photo: Ronald Peret

The Golden Era

Ouro Preto means Black Gold, so called because of the black coloring of gold in the area caused by iron oxide in the soil. Was found in 17 I 1 and soon became the center of the gold diamond and semi-precious stone trading in the colonial-era, when the gold fields of this region attracted Portuguese adventurers and Catholic priests, a combination that gave birth to the area’s famed baroque churches, rich in gold leaf. The town was the capital of the state in the early 19th century under its former name Vila Rica (Rich Village). At that time the mines around the city overflowed with gold and gems and so the area was named Minas Gerais or ”General Mines”. The city became the place in those days where the rich built palaces and donated gold to construct churches. The l4 churches of Ouro Preto were built in Baroque Style, adorned with gold and gems from local mines.

The Beauty inside the beast

To coordinate all this richness with fine art came out one of the best known artists from that period.

A crippled mulatto sculptor nicknamed ”Aleijadinho” (little crippled man) is responsible for all the beauty that makes that place so famous. Arthritic turned him so deformed that he used to wear a sack over his head so that no one could be frightened by his ugliness.

Be- cause of the disease, his hands and fingers became so contorted that his assistants used to tit his hammer and chisel to his wrists so he could work. But the beauty inside him is still what touches with his breathtaking masterpiece of genial style. Aside from all the churches, he did the figures with all details and expressive faces, reflecting his beauty within.

Partial view of Ouro Preto — Photo: Ronald Peret

The Birthplace of the rebellion.

It was here that the first rebellion against the Portuguese was started. The people was not satisfied with alI that golden sending to Portugal and its commercial monopoly. A rebel, nicknamed ”Tiradentes” (“tooth puller”, because he was a dentist) did not share the same ideas, so he was captured, taken to Rio and hanged. He became Brazil’s martyr for liberty.

A Tourist Attraction.

Today. Ouro Preto is a happy city of bars and guitar players, where on the weekends, students from the local university and tourists from everywhere, can share history, beauty and cultural life. Between the alleys. slopes, roofs, windows, street lamps still remains a romantic atmosphere, that will inspire you to art and freedom.

The delicious typical food, that includes “feijão tropeiro”, “bamba de couve” and “galinha ao molho pardo” are still the tradition left from those years.

Carnival in Ouro Preto — Photo: Ronald Peret

The best time for visiting is during the celebration of the Holly Week, when the city streets are covered with natural flower rugs made by the people of the city, artists and volunteers. The festivity never ends before the Easter Sunday morning. Also at the Carnival time, when the streets are closed, the big party starts again, for at least one week. The live music creates an atmosphere for dancing outside with people wearing colorful costumes. The sports choices include hiking and trekking. There are many water falls, mountains and the Itacolomi peak, which is the highest place where you can have a beautiful view of Ouro Preto and the mountains of Minas Gerais.

Partial view of Ouro Preto — Photo: Ronald Peret

How to get there.

The city is located 60 miles from the state capital, Belo Horizonte, which is served by Brazil’s major airlines. If you prefer, you may rent a car, go by bus, taxi, or on a tour, from Belo Horizonte. Once in Ouro Preto you will find friendly and warm people. Everyone will help you enjoy your visit.

Partial view of Ouro Preto — Photo: Ronald Peret

Places to go

The lnconfidência Museum.

The Mineralogy Museum on Escola de Minas.

The Churches of Pilar, São Francisco, Rosario.

Restaurants: there are many in the city, Casa do Ouvidor on Rua Direita, which has the best local food; for desserts or a light fare Chocolates Ouro Preto, on the same street; for fast food, Cafê & Cia in the business center.

Arts and Craft Fair, where you can find imperial topaz, soapstone handicrafts, wood paintings and also leather artifacts.

Andorinhas Underground Water fall, located 2 miles out of town, is suggested as a beautiful adventure for bikers.

all images have the color version and high-resolution stock photos for personal and commercial projects. All pictures were captured by Ronald Peret — please contact ronaldperet@me.com