Belo Horizonte (Portuguese for "beautiful horizon", (bɛloɾiˈzõtʃi ) is the capital of Minas Gerais state, located in the southeastern region of Brazil. It is the third-largest metropolitan area in the country. Belo Horizonte or "Beagá" as it is more familiarly known from the sound of its initials BH in Portuguese; has a population of almost 3 million and over 5 million in the official Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte.
The first settlements in the region occurred in the early 1700s, but the city as it is known today was planned and constructed in the 1890s, in order to replace Ouro Preto as the capital of Minas Gerais. It is nowadays well known for the contrast between contemporary and classical buildings, being in fact the location of many modern Brazilian architectural icons, most notably the Pampulha Complex. In planning it, Brazilian engineers Aarão Reis and Francisco Bicalho found their inspiration in the town plan of Washington D.C.
In the area surrounding Belo Horizonte there are parks of great natural richness such as Mangabeiras, located six kilometres from the city in the Serra do Curral. This park provides an astonishing view of the capital with an area of 2.35 million m2, of which 900 000 m2 are native forest. There is also the Mata do Jambeiro nature reserve extending over 912 hectares, with vegetation typical of the Atlantic Forest. In it live more than one hundred species of birds and ten different species of mammals. The city is also a leading cultural center, with more than three universities, a historical museum, numerous libraries, and sports stadiums. Belo is built on several hills and completely surrounded by mountains. The constant rising and falling of the streets sometimes makes navigation a bit tricky, but the wide avenues lined with trees are always easy guidelines.
Belo Horizonte is the distribution and processing center of a rich agricultural and mining region and the nucleus of a burgeoning industrial complex. Its chief manufactures are steel, steel products, automobiles, and textiles. Gold, manganese, and gem stones of the surrounding region are processed in the city.
The city offers interesting leisure areas, theatres boasting an intense artistic-cultural production, good and varied cuisine, exquisite handcrafts available on the markets and specialised shops, and maintains a traditional characteristic: the typical regional hospitality. Economic development has been proceeding through the professionalisation of many different tourism segments, above all the areas of events and business.
Belo Horizonte's climate can be classified as Tropical of altitude, with yearly average temperature between 9°C (48.2°F) and 35°C (95°F). The Köppen climate classification of the region is Cwa (Tropical on high altitudes, humid/warm summer and a dry/cool winter). As a city located in the southern Hemisphere, Belo Horizonte's spring starts in September, its summer in December, its autumn in March, and its winter in June. Belo Horizonte is located about 300 km (186 mi) distant from the sea.
Even though inter-seasonal differences are not as pronounced as they are in temperate places, and many people believe that, as in much of Brazil, there are just two seasons (a hot and humid one from October to March, and a colder and drier one from April to September), there is a contrast between spring and summer, and between fall and winter.
The coldest month is generally July, with a lowest recorded temperature of 3.1°C (37.6°F). The hottest month is usually January, with a highest recorded temperature of 35.4°C (95.7°F).
There can be problems related with low air humidity during August. The 852 m (2795 ft) elevation of Belo Horizonte helps a little in cooling the city, suppressing high maximum air temperatures experienced in nearby cities at lower altitudes.
The metropolis was once a small village, founded by João Leite da Silva Ortiz, a bandeirante explorer from São Paulo. Having found a location with pleasant weather, a nice landscape and good soil for farming, the explorer settled in the region in 1701, leaving a gold hunting expedition. He then established a farm called "Curral d'el Rey", archaic Portuguese for the "King's Corral, which in modern Portuguese would be spelled Curral do Rei." The farm's wealth and success encouraged people from surrounding places to move into the region, and Curral del Rey became a village surrounded by farms.
Another important growth factor of the village were the migrants from the São Francisco river region, who had to pass through Curral d'el Rey in order to reach southern parts of Brazil. Travelers usually visited a small wooden chapel, where they prayed for a safe trip. Due to that, the chapel was named Capela da Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem, which means "Chapel of Our Lady of the Good Journey." After the construction of Belo Horizonte, the old baroque chapel was replaced by a neo-gothic church which became the city's cathedral.
The previous capital of Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto, was a symbol of both the monarchic Brazilian Empire and the period when most of Brazilian income was due to mining, and that never pleased the members of the Inconfidência Mineira, republican intellectuals who conspired against the Portuguese dominion of Brazil. In 1889, Brazil became a republic, and it was agreed that a new state capital, in tune with a modern and prosperous Minas Gerais, had to be set.
In 1893, due to good climatic and topographic conditions, Curral Del Rey was elected by Minas Gerais governor Afonso Pena from other cities as the spot for the new economical and cultural center of the state, under the new name of "Cidade de Minas," or Minas City.
Aarão Reis, an urbanist from Pará, was then set to design the first planned city of Brazil, and then Cidade de Minas was inaugurated finally in 1897, with many unfinished constructions as the Brazilian Government set a deadline for its completion. Inhabitation of the city was subsidized by the local government, through the concession of free empty lots and funding for building houses. An interesting feature of Belo Horizonte Reis designed was the downtown street plan, featuring a regular array of perpendicular and diagonal streets, named after Brazilian states and Brazilian indigenous tribes.
In 1906, the name was then changed to Belo Horizonte, and at that time the city was experiencing a considerable industrial expansion that increased its commercial and service sectors. From its very beginning, the city's original plan prohibited workers to live inside the urban area which was defined by Avenida do Contorno (a long avenue which goes around the city's central areas), reserved for the public sector functionaries (hence the name of the still trendy neighborhood "Funcionários"), and causing an accelerated occupation outside the city's area well provided with infrastructure since its very beginning. Obviously, the city's original planners didn't count on its population growth afterwards, which proved especially intense in the last twenty years of the 20th century.
In the 1940s, a young Oscar Niemeyer designed the Pampulha Neighborhood to great acclaim, a commission he got thanks to then-mayor, soon-to-be-president Juscelino Kubitschek. These two men are largely responsible for the wide avenues, large lakes, parks and jutting skylines that characterize the city today.
Belo Horizonte is fast becoming a regional center of commerce, Google have their Latin American headquarters here. It continues to be a trendsetter in the arts, particularly where music, literature, architecture and the avant-garde are concerned. There are plans underway to move a complex of government ministries north of the center, onto the road to Confins International Airport, liberating space around beautiful palm-fringed Praça da Liberdade to house the city's symphony orchestra and other arts organizations.
According to the IBGE of 2007, there were 4,982,000 people residing in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte. The population density was . The last PNAD (National Research for Sample of Domiciles) census revealed the following numbers: 2,321,612 Pardo (Brown) people (46.6%), 2,117,350 White people (42.5%), 513,000 Black people (10.3%), 29,000 Asian or Amerindian people (0.6%).
Belo Horizonte has a notable Italian influence, around 30% of the city's population have some Italian origin. The Italian culture is present in the cuisine, dance, and language. People of German, Spanish, and Syrian-Lebanese ancestries make up sizeable groups.
Despite its lack of beaches, Belo Horizonte annually receives large numbers of visitors, as it is in the Brazilian main economic axis, exerting influence even on other states. Both multinational and Brazilian companies, like Google and Oi, maintain their headquarters in the city. The service sector plays a very important role in the economy of Belo Horizonte, being responsible for 85% of the city's GDP, with the industry making up for most of the remaining 15%. Belo Horizonte has a developed industrial sector, being traditionally a pole of the Brazilian siderurgical and metallurgical industries, as the state of Minas Gerais has always been very rich in minerals, specifically iron ore.
The main industrial district of the city was set during the 1940s in Contagem, a part of greater Belo Horizonte. Multinational companies like FIAT (which opened its plant in Betim in 1974), Arcelor, and Toshiba have subsidiaries in the region, along with other textile, cosmetic, food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, furnishing and refractory companies. Between the companies headquartered in the city we can list siderurgicals Açominas (held by Gerdau, one of the largest multinationals originated in Brazil); Usiminas; Belgo-Mineira (held by Arcelor); Acesita (partially held by Arcelor); mobile communication Telemig Celular; and Telecom Italia Mobile, as well as the NYSE-listed electrical company CEMIG, which is said to have the best transmission quality of Brazil. Leading steel product makers Sumitomo Metals of Japan and Vallourec of France have also recently announced plans to construct an integrated steel works on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte. There are also a large number of small enterprises in the technological sector with regional to nationwide success, particularly in the fields of computing and biotechonology. Due to both governmental and private funding in the diversification of its economy, the city has become an international reference in Information Technology and Biotechnology, and is also cited because of the advanced corporate and university research in Biodiesel fuel.
Projects in these fields are likely to expand due to integration between universities, the oil company Petrobras and the Brazilian Government. Over 16% of the Brazilian biotechnological industries are located in Belo Horizonte, with annual revenues of more than US$ 550 million. During the past few years, the city has made investments in "Business-Tourism", by promoting more than 3,000 national or international events yearly. One of the largest events that ever took place in the city, the IDB meeting, occurred in 2005 and attracted people from everywhere in the world.
The two most important industrial clusters of the State of Minas Gerais are around the cities of Juiz de Fora and Belo Horizonte. In southern Minas Gerais, near Juiz de Fora, there is a concentration of textile industries, which started to be established in the 19th century. Belo Horizonte and vicinities (Contagem, Betim, Nova Lima, Pedro Leopoldo, Raposo, Rio Acima, Sabará, Santa Luzia e Vespasiano) have a diversified industrial complex; even though minerals processing still have a large importance, there are impportant industries of vehicles, food products, textile, chemicals and others. Several steel producers are established all around the State: Mannesmann, Belgo-Mineira, Acesita, Usiminas; there is an oil refinery in Betim, directly connected by pipes to the producing areas off shore the Rio de Janeiro coast; vehicle makers, like Fiat (in Betim) and Mercedes-Benz (in Juiz de Fora) have plants in Minas Gerais.
For a long time it was marked by the predominance of its industrial sector, but from the 1990s there has been a constant expansion of the service sector economy, particularly in computer science, biotechnology, business tourism, fashion and the making of jewelry. The city is considered to be a strategic leader in the Brazilian economy.
The GDP for the city was R$ 28,386,694,000 (2005).
The per capita income for the city was R$ 11,951 (2005).
There are many notable Brazilian artistic groups which have its origins in Belo Horizonte. Grupo Corpo, which is perhaps the most famous contemporary dance group in the country, was created in the city in 1975, travel internationally and are acclaimed throughout the world. Giramundo is an important group, specialized in performing puppet shows. They maintain the museum of the puppets they created since their foundation in 1970, first launched a complete album in 1981, and has released 11 works since that year. Another innovative artistic group is Uakti. They create their own musical instruments using materials like PVC, wood, metals and glass. The origin of their name is based in a myth by the Tukano Indians, and reflects the indigenous feeling present in their works. Many important rock groups were founded in Belo Horizonte, being among them Jota Quest, Pato Fu, Skank, 14 Bis, Sepultura and Tianastácia.
Clube da Esquina is a musical movement that originated in the mid 1960s, and since that time their members have been considered influent in Minas Gerais culture and have important artists such as Tavinho Moura, Wagner Tiso, Milton Nascimento, Lô Borges, Beto Guedes, Flávio Venturini, Toninho Horta, Márcio Borges, Fernando Brant and 14 Bis, among others. Every two years, the city realizes the FIT BH, The International Theater Festival of Belo Horizonte, which attracts artists from all over Brazil and many parts of the world. In 2006, there was an extreme sports event in Belo Horizonte with a slogan that became very popular in Belo Horizonte: "Eu amo BH radicalmente", or "I love Belo Horizonte radically."
The first step was undertaken with careful concern for the environment, including monitoring by specialized consultants, since the region has a rich archeological heritage. Among the hundreds of caverns in the region, the one at Lapa Vermelha stands out. Located 2.7 km (1.6 mi) from the airport, the oldest female cranium in the Americans was discovered there, dated at roughly 12 thousand years old. Confins is certified by the ISO 9001 standard, covering ten processes in the administrative, operational, safety/security and maintenance areas. The Tancredo Neves International Airport has both domestic and international flights (to some locations in South America and Europe).
The city is also served by other minor roads such as state highways MG-020, MG-050, MG-030, and MG-433. There is also an East-West Express Way, which goes from the city to the nearby industrial centers of Contagem and Betim (together having a population of ca. 900,000), and Anel Rodoviário, a kind of "beltway" - indeed it is not circumferential, but connects many highways, such as the federal (BR-ones) so it is not necessary for a large number of cars and trucks to pass through the city center. Many of these roads are in poor condition, but in the last years many revitalization and rebuilding projects have been started.
Belo Horizonte has plenty of significant cultural landmarks, many of them situated in the Pampulha district, where there are very wonderful examples of Brazilian contemporary architecture. These include one of the largest soccer stadiums in the world, the Mineirão stadium, and the São Francisco de Assis Church, widely known as Igreja da Pampulha, designed by famous Brazilian Modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer. In Pampulha there is also the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais campus, whose buildings themselves are important contributions to the city's architecture. Other remarkable Pampulha buildings include the Mesbla and Niemeyer buildings, in addition to the headquarters of corporations such as Usiminas, Seculus, and Telemig Celular.
In downtown Belo Horizonte, are located the neo-Gothic Boa Viagem Cathedral, the church of São José, the Praça da Estação (Station Square), which is an old train station that now is also the Museum of Arts and Workmanship, the Municipal Park, the famous Sete de Setembro Square, where an Obelisk built in 1922 marks the one hundred years of Brazilian independence from Portugal.
Near downtown, in Lourdes neighborhood, locates the Lourdes Basilica, a beautiful building in the Gothic style and the Nossa Senhora de Fátima Church, in Santo Agostinho neighborhood, situated in Carlos Chagas Square, both referred to as the Assembléia Church and the Assembléia Square due to their proximity to the state's legislative assembly.
Next to downtown is the famous Savassi region, known for fine restaurants and as a center of cultural events as well as the best of the city's nightlife. Many landmarks are located there, such as the Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Plaza), and its surrounding buildings, including the Executive Offices of the governor called the Palace of Liberty (Palácio da Liberdade), the first building to be finished during the city's planned development in the late 1890s. Last but not least is the "Rua do Amendoim" (Peanut Street), an example of a gravity hill, where parked automobiles appear to roll uphill, defying gravity. Whether this is an illusion or a magnetic phenomenon is left to the visitor to decide. Though most of the effect seems to have disappeared due to housing development in the area, many people still believe that the street is magic.
Another important landmark is Praça do Papa (Plaza of the Pope), located at a high point just south of the downtown area, with its spectacular view of the entire city. It is named for the July 1, 1980 visit by John Paul II, who held a youth mass there. Afterwards, he stood and remarked over the sea of youthful faces, "Que Belo Horizonte!" or "What a beautiful horizon!" The nearby Parque das Mangabeiras (Mangabeiras Park) boasts extensive wildlife, with an area so huge it has its own internal bus service. It is not uncommon for tourists to see monkeys and other animals, and a few people have even managed to get lost inside its woods.
As in the rest of Brazil, football is the most popular sport among locals. Belo Horizonte has two of the most successful teams in the country, and the city also has one of the biggest football stadiums in the world, the Mineirão, opened in 1965. The older Independência Stadium hosted a legendary victory of the United States World Cup Team 1950 in a 1-0 triumph over England. See England v United States (1950) and Atlético Mineiro, which is also called by its nickname and mascot "Galo" (rooster) . Yet, one of the oldest football clubs in the city and was founded in 1908. Atlético Mineiro was the first Brazilian champion, in 1971, and has also won two CONMEBOL Cups (nowadays called Copa Sudamericana) and 39 State Championships. In spite of so much tradition, the team has suffered through very difficult times recently and was relegated to the Brazilian Série B. However, the club won the championship in 2006 and is back to Série A in 2007.
Cruzeiro was founded in 1921 by the members of the local Italian community. Cruzeiro has been one of Brazil´s most victorius clubs in the 1990s and early 2000s, winning 4 National Cups, 1 National League, 2 Copa Libertadores, and 2 Supercopa Libertadores, and is also the winner of Taça Brasil in 1966 and 34 State Championships including Supercampeonato Mineiro in 2002. The city is also home to América Mineiro, which has its own playing field, the Independência Stadium. It was a major team in Brazil decades ago, but passed three years striving to leave Brazilian League Série C. Things came worse at the beginning of 2007. The team was relegated to the Módulo II of Campeonato Mineiro and didn't even qualify for playing the Série C, being completely out of Campeonato Brasileiro.
Besides football, Belo Horizonte has one of the largest attendances at volleyball matches in the whole country. Crowds usually go to Mineirinho in order to watch either the Brazil national volleyball team or Minas Tênis Clube matches. Minas Tênis Clube is a sport association with various modalities. Besides Mineirinho, the clubs also plays on its own ground, the modern Telemig Celular Arena. Both its male and female volleyball teams have already won the Brazilian Superleague of Volleyball titles. Belo Horizonte is one of the proposed cities to host games in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Brazil.