Vila Rica do Ouro Preto (from Portuguese, Rich Village of the Black Gold) is a city in 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 architecture.
The city is linked by good roads to:
Bordering municipalities are:
Founded at the end of the 17th century, Ouro Preto (meaning Black Gold) was the focal point of the gold rush and Brazil's golden age in the 18th century.
The city contains well preserved colonial architecture, with few signs of modern urban life. Churches decorated with gold and the works of Aleijadinho make Ouro Preto a tourist destination. In colonial times art was fairly advanced and developed into the "Barroco Mineiro", with many sculptors (Aleijadinho), painters (Mestre Athayde), composers (Lobo de Mesquita family), poets (Thomas Gonzaga).
In 1789, Ouro Preto was the starting point of the Inconfidência Mineira, a failed attempt to break from Portugal and form a Brazilian republic. In 1876 the Escola de Minas (mining engineering school) was created and set the technical basis for several mineral discoveries in Brazil. Ouro Preto was capital of Minas Gerais from 1822 until 1897, when the government moved to the new and planned city of Belo Horizonte.
Minerals of note are: gold, hematite, dolomite, turmaline, pirite, moscovite, topaz and imperial topaz. The imperial topaz is a stone only found in Ouro Preto.
The "republics" of Ouro Preto are unique in Brazil. No other university city has the characteristics of the student lodging found here. In many ways they are similar to lodgings in Portuguese universities such as Coimbra and the tradition may have come from there. Each one has its different history. There are republics in which the freshmen, known as "bixos" (misspelling of "bichos", Portuguese for "animals"), have to undergo a hazing period, called "batalha" (battle), to be accepted definitely as residents of the houses. The choice called "escolha", has to be unanimous.
Of special interest to visitors is the Museu Mineralógico Da Escola De Minas (Mineralogy Museum), belonging to the Mining School of the prestigious Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto. The School opened its doors on 12 October, 1876. The Museum is located at the Praça Tiradentes (No. 20), in the city historical center. Probably no other place on earth has such a rich assortment of raw minerals on display, including precious and semi-precious gemstones and crystals of astounding dimensions. Security is tight, however, and for good reasons (for example, no cameras are allowed), due to the incalculable value of the gemstones and ores on display.
The beautiful town of Ouro Preto was the most remarkable of the settings chosen for the humorous movie "Moon Over Parador" (1988), with Richard Dreyfuss and Sonia Braga as the main characters in the story.
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