Ouro Preto - History and Facts | History Hit

Ouro Preto

Kyle Hoekstra

13 Sep 2021
Image Credit: Imagebroker / Alamy Stock Photo

About Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto is a city in Minas Gerais, Brazil and an important former colonial mining town that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

History of Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto was founded in the late 17th century and was originally known as Vila Rica (“Rich Town”), for its role in the Brazilian Gold Rush which started in the 1690s. Ouro Preto was the capital of the state of Minas Gerais between 1720 and 1897.

The municipality became known as Ouro Preto (“Black Gold”, for the local gold that is covered with iron oxide) on 23 May 1823 when the village was distinguished as a city. Ouro Preto features well-preserved Portuguese colonial architecture in its city centre, which is relatively unmarked by modern urban development.

The sculpture work of Aleijadinho, traditionally associated with the real name Antônio Francisco Lisboa, ornament the 18th and 19th century churches in Ouro Preto, where he is supposed to have been born in the 1730s. These include the Church of the Third Order of St Francis.

Ouro Preto was one of the main areas of the Brazilian Gold Rush, the world’s longest gold rush period which resulted in the largest gold mines in South America. Over 400,000 Portuguese and 500,000 enslaved Africans arrived in the region of Minas Gerais after gold deposits were found in the mountains by bands of fortune-seekers.

Ouro Preto today

Ouro Preto retains outstanding Baroque Portuguese colonial architecture, which makes it a major tourist attraction. There are numerous museums and churches in the city, as well as former gold mines which offer tours to tourists. The most famous are the Mina do Chico Rei and the Mina de passagem.

Getting to Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto can be reached by regular buses from São Paulo (11 hours), Rio (7 hours), and Belo Horizonte (2 hours). A nightly bus runs from Rio to Ouro Preto, costing between R$70-115. A R$10 taxi journey separates the bus station in Ouro Preto from its historic centre. Many attractions are closed on Mondays.

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