Ouro Preto

Last updated
Ouro Preto
-i---i- (6288971321).jpg
Overview of the Ouro Preto Historical Centre
Flag ouro preto.svg
Brasao ouro preto.png
Proetiosum aurum nigrum
(Precious black gold)
MinasGerais Municip OuroPreto.svg
Map brazil mg.svg
Red pog.svg
Ouro Preto
Localization of Ouro Preto in Brazil
Brazil location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto (Brazil)
Coordinates: 20°23′07″S43°30′13″W / 20.38528°S 43.50361°W / -20.38528; -43.50361 Coordinates: 20°23′07″S43°30′13″W / 20.38528°S 43.50361°W / -20.38528; -43.50361
Country Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil
Region Southeast
State Bandeira de Minas Gerais.svg  Minas Gerais
 (2020 [1] )
Official nameHistoric Town of Ouro Preto
Criteriai, iii
Designated1980 (4th session)
Reference no. 124
State PartyBrazil
Region South America

Ouro Preto (Portuguese pronunciation:  [ˈo(w)ɾu ˈpɾetu] , Black Gold), formerly Vila Rica (Portuguese pronunciation:  [ˈvilɐ ˈʁikɐ] , Rich Town), is a city in and former capital of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, a former colonial mining town located in the Serra do Espinhaço mountains and designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO because of its outstanding Baroque Portuguese colonial architecture.


Ouro Preto is located in one of the main areas of the Brazilian Gold Rush.

Officially, 800 tons of gold were sent to Portugal in the eighteenth century, not to mention what was circulated in an illegal manner, nor what remained in the colony, such as gold used in the ornamentation of the churches. [2] The municipality became the most populous city of Latin America, counting on about 40 thousand people in 1730 and, decades after, 80 thousand. At that time, the population of New York was less than half of that number of inhabitants and the population of São Paulo did not surpass 8 thousand. [3]

Ouro Preto was capital of Minas Gerais from 1720 until 1897.

Other historical cities in Minas Gerais are São João del-Rei, Diamantina, Mariana, Tiradentes, Congonhas and Sabará.


Important Data

Population: Data from the 2010 Census (IBGE)


The city is linked by unlit winding roads to highways for:

Bordering municipalities are:


Located at 1,179 m (3,868 ft) above sea level, Ouro Preto has a subtropical highland climate (Cwb, according to the Köppen climate classification), with warm and humid summers and mild, dry winters. Frost is occasional and occur in June and July. There is a report of snow in the city in the year of 1843. [4]

Climate data for Ouro Preto, Brazil
Average high °C (°F)26.0
Average low °C (°F)15.6
Average precipitation mm (inches)283
Source: Climatedata.org. [5]


Villa Rica de Ouro Preto (19th century). BRAZIL - Villa Rica de Ouro Preto.jpg
Villa Rica de Ouro Preto (19th century).

Founded at the end of the 17th century, Ouro Preto (meaning Black Gold) was originally called Vila Rica, or "Rich Town", the focal point of the gold rush and Brazil's golden age in the 18th century under Portuguese rule. Between 1695 and 1696, a gold-bearing stream was discovered in Itacolomi, which would be renamed Gualacho do Sul. In 1711, several small settlements were united as a municipality called Villa Rica, which later came to be called Ouro Preto.

The city centre contains well-preserved Portuguese colonial architecture, with few signs of modern urban development. New construction must keep with the city's historical aesthetic. 18th- and 19th-century churches decorated with gold and the sculptured works of Aleijadinho make Ouro Preto a tourist destination.

The tremendous wealth from gold mining in the 18th century created a city which attracted the intelligentsia of Europe. Philosophy and art flourished, and evidence of a baroque revival called the "Barroco Mineiro" is illustrated in architecture as well as by sculptors such as Aleijadinho, painters such as Mestre Athayde, composers such as Lobo de Mesquita, and poets such as Tomás António Gonzaga. At that time, Vila Rica was the largest city in Brazil, with 100,000 inhabitants. [6]

In 1789, Ouro Preto became the birthplace of the Inconfidência Mineira, a failed attempt to gain independence from Portugal. The leading figure, Tiradentes, was hanged as a threat to any future revolutionaries.

In 1876, the Escola de Minas (Mines School) was created. This school established the technological foundation for several of the mineral discoveries in Brazil.

Ouro Preto was capital of Minas Gerais from 1720 until 1897, when the needs of government outgrew this town in the valley. The state government was moved to the new, planned city of Belo Horizonte.


Imperial topaz from Ouro Preto region Topaze1.jpg
Imperial topaz from Ouro Preto region

Although Ouro Preto now relies heavily on the tourism industry for part of its economy, there are important metallurgic and mining industries located in town, such as Novelis, formerly Alcan, the most important aluminum factory in the country, the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, and others. Main economic activities are tourism, transformation industries, and mineral riches such as deposits of iron, bauxite, manganese, talc and marble.

Minerals of note are: gold, hematite, dolomite, tourmaline, pyrite, muscovite, topaz and imperial topaz. The imperial topaz is a stone only found in Ouro Preto.

Soapstone handicraft items are a common souvenir among tourists, and can be found in many shops in the town centre and street fairs.[ citation needed ] Jewelry made of local precious and semi-precious gemstones (such as hematite) can also be found for sale.[ citation needed ]

The University and the Fraternities

Mining School - UFOP UFOP1.jpg
Mining School - UFOP

Ouro Preto is also a university town with an intense student life. The Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto (Federal University of Ouro Preto or UFOP) has approximately 10,000 students in the city. Many of them live in communal houses that are somewhat similar to fraternity houses as found in North American colleges. These communal or shared houses are called repúblicas, of which 66 belong to the university, called repúblicas federais, and 250 are privately owned (repúblicas particulares).

The repúblicas system of Ouro Preto is unique in Brazil. No other university city in the country has exactly the same characteristics of the student lodgings found there. It shares traits with the repúblicas of the Portuguese University of Coimbra, where the tradition originated. Before universities were founded in Brazil, Coimbra was where most of the rich students who could afford an overseas education went to. Each república has its own different history. There are repúblicas in which the freshmen, also known as "bixos" (misspelling of "bichos", Portuguese for "animals"), have to undergo a hazing period, called batalha (battle), before being accepted permanently as residents of the houses. The final choice of the freshmen, called escolha, has to be unanimous among the senior students of the house. [7]

The Museu Mineralógico Da Escola De Minas (Mineralogy Museum) can be of special interest to visitors. It belongs to the UFOP's School of Mining, which opened its doors on 12 October 1876. The museum is located at the Praça Tiradentes (No. 20), in the town's historical center, and contains a rich assortment of minerals on display, including precious and semi-precious gemstones and large crystals. Security is tight, however (for example, no cameras are allowed), due to the incalculable value of the gemstones and ores on display.

Tourist attractions

Panoramic view. Panoramica de Ouro Preto.jpg
Panoramic view.

Ouro Preto is a major tourist destination, for its well-preserved colonial appearance with old buildings and cobblestone streets.


Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis (Church of Saint Francis of Assisi). SFrancisOuroPreto-CCBY.jpg
Igreja de São Francisco de Assis (Church of Saint Francis of Assisi).

The city contains numerous churches, many known for their religious art and baroque architecture. Some of the best known are:



A number of former gold mines in the city offer tours to tourists. One of the most well known is the Mina do Chico Rei, near the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Conceição. Another infamous mine is the Mina da passagem. In the early 19th century, Portugal gave the United Kingdom exclusive use of this mine for 100 years to pay Portugal's sovereign debts. This is the world's largest mine open to the public. [8] The municipality contains about 10% of the 31,270 hectares (77,300 acres) Serra do Gandarela National Park, created in 2014. [9]


The street carnaval in Ouro Preto attracts thousands of people every year. Traditional band music is played across town, and many people dress up in costumes during the holiday. There are two main types of street parade in town: the one with samba schools and the one with blocos. Carnaval usually takes place in February or March, depending on the timing of Lent. It starts on the Saturday immediately before Lent and ends the day before Ash Wednesday.

The street party is also celebrated in neighboring towns such as Mariana.


Ouro Preto was a setting in the comedy movie Moon over Parador (1988), with actors Richard Dreyfuss and Sonia Braga. Brazil is the 6th largest mining industry.


Related Research Articles

Minas Gerais state in Southeastern Brazil

Minas Gerais is a state in Southeastern Brazil. It ranks as the second most populous, the third by gross domestic product (GDP), and the fourth largest by area in the country. The state's capital and largest city, Belo Horizonte, is a major urban and finance center in Latin America, and the sixth largest municipality in Brazil, after the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Brasília and Fortaleza, but its metropolitan area is the third largest in Brazil with just over 5,800,000 inhabitants, after those of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Nine Brazilian presidents were born in Minas Gerais, the most of any state. The state has 10.1% of the Brazilian population and is responsible for 8.7% of the Brazilian GDP.

Paraty Place in Southeast, Brazil

Paraty is a preserved Portuguese colonial (1500–1822) and Brazilian Imperial (1822–1889) municipality with a population of about 43,000. It is located on the Costa Verde, a lush green corridor that runs along the coastline of the state of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. Paraty has become a tourist destination, known for its historic town center and the coast and mountains in the region. The historic center of the city, as well as four areas of the Atlantic Forest, were inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List in 2019 under the title "Paraty and Ilha Grande".

Tiradentes 18th-century Brazilian revolutionary and national hero

Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as Tiradentes, was a leading member of the colonial Brazilian revolutionary movement known as Inconfidência Mineira, whose aim was full independence from Portuguese colonial power and creation of a Brazilian republic.


Antônio Francisco Lisboa, more commonly known as Aleijadinho, was a sculptor and architect of Colonial Brazil, noted for his works on and in various churches of Brazil. His works are considered some of the best examples of Portuguese colonial architecture in Brazil.

Mariana, Minas Gerais Place in Southeast, Brazil

Mariana is the oldest city in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. It is a tourist city, founded on July 16, 1696, and retains the characteristics of a baroque city, with its churches, buildings and museums. It was the first capital of Minas Gerais.

São João del-Rei Municipality in Southeast, Brazil

São João del Rei, also spelled São João del Rey or São João del-Rei, is a Brazilian municipality in the state of Minas Gerais. Founded in 1713 in homage to King John V of Portugal, the city is famed for its historic Portuguese colonial architecture. The current population is estimated at 90,497 inhabitants.


Congonhas is a historical Brazilian city located in the state of Minas Gerais. It is situated 90 kilometres (56 mi) south from Belo Horizonte, the capital of state of Minas Gerais, by the highway BR-040. As of 2020, the city had a population of 55,309.

Aljustrel Municipality in Alentejo, Portugal

Aljustrel is a town and a municipality in the Portuguese district of Beja. The population in 2011 was 9,257, in an area of 458.47 km². The present mayor is Nelson Domingos Brito, elected by the Socialist Party. The municipal holiday is June 13.

Inconfidência Mineira 18th century separatist movement in Colonial Brazil

Inconfidência Mineira was an unsuccessful separatist movement in Brazil in 1789. It was the result of a confluence of external and internal causes in what was then a Portuguese colony. The external inspiration was the independence of thirteen of the British colonies in North America following the American Revolutionary War, a development that impressed the intellectual elite of particularly the captaincy of Minas Gerais. The main internal cause of the conspiracy was the decline of gold mining in that captaincy. As gold became less plentiful, the region's gold miners faced increasing difficulties in fulfilling tax obligations to the crown. When the captaincy could not satisfy the royal demand for gold, it was burdened with an additional tax on gold, called derrama.

Tiradentes, Minas Gerais Municipality in Southeast, Brazil

Tiradentes is a municipality in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. It is located at 21°06′37″S44°12′41″W, has an area of 83.5 km², and a maximum elevation above sea level of 927 m. Tiradentes had an estimated population of 10,960, as of 2020. The original village was established in 1702 and became a city on 19 January 1718. In 1889 the city was renamed from Vila de São José do Rio das Mortes in honour of the national hero who was born nearby.

Alphonsus de Guimaraens

Afonso Henrique da Costa Guimarães, known as Alphonsus de Guimaraens; was a Brazilian poet.

Cláudio Manuel da Costa

Cláudio Manuel da Costa was a Brazilian poet and musician, considered to be the introducer of Neoclassicism in Brazil. He wrote under the pen name Glauceste Satúrnio, and his most famous work is the epic poem Vila Rica, that tells the history of the homonymous city, nowadays called Ouro Preto.

Sabará Place in Southeast, Brazil

Sabará is a Brazilian municipality located in the state of Minas Gerais. The city belongs to the Belo Horizonte metropolitan region and to the associated microregion.

Oliveira, Minas Gerais Municipality in Southeast, Brazil

Oliveira is a Brazilian municipality in the state of Minas Gerais. It is located at latitude 20º41'47" south and longitude 44º49'38" west, at an altitude of 982 metres. It is located 165 kilometres at southwest from Belo Horizonte. Its estimated population was 41,181 according to the latest IBGE census.

Manoel da Costa Ataíde Brazilian painter and sculptor

Manoel da Costa Ataíde, better known as Mestre Ataíde, was a Brazilian painter, sculptor, gilder and teacher.

Piau Municipality in Southeast, Brazil

Piau is a municipality in the state of Minas Gerais in the Southeast region of Brazil.

Museu da Inconfidência

Museu da Inconfidência or Museum of the Inconfidência is a history museum dedicated to those who died in a failed rebellion movement Inconfidência Mineira for Brazilian independence from Portugal. It was established in 1938. It is located in Tiradentes Square in Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais in a former Jail. It was declared as a National Museum of Brazil in 1990.

Sylvio Carvalho de Vasconcellos was a Brazilian architect and architectural historian, also recognized as one of the pioneers of Brazilian modernist architecture in the state of Minas Gerais.


  1. IBGE 2020
  2. "Ouro Preto". Archived from the original on 2016-03-10. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  3. "Ouro Preto". Archived from the original on 2016-03-10. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  4. Clima — Ouro Preto
  5. Gomes, Laurentino (2007). "A Colônia". 1808 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). São Paulo: Editora Planeta. p. 131. ISBN   9788576653202.
  6. Portal Ouro Preto
  7. "Minas da Passagem – Mariana – Minas Gerais – Mina de ouro da Passagem, em Mariana, Minas Gerais" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  8. PARNA de Serra do Gandarela (in Portuguese), ISA: Instituto Socioambiental, retrieved 2016-06-12