Ouro Preto

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Ouro Preto
Municipality of Ouro Preto
Flag of Ouro Preto
Official seal of Ouro Preto
Proetiosum aurum nigrum
(Precious black gold)
Location of Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto is located in Minas Gerais
Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto
Localization of Ouro Preto in Brazil
Ouro Preto is located in Brazil
Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto (Brazil)
Coordinates: 20°23′07″S 43°30′13″W / 20.38528°S 43.50361°W / -20.38528; -43.50361Coordinates: 20°23′07″S 43°30′13″W / 20.38528°S 43.50361°W / -20.38528; -43.50361
Country Brazil
State Minas Gerais
 (2020 [1])
 • Total74,558
Time zoneUTC−3 (BRT)
HDI (2010)0.741 – high[2]
Official nameHistoric Town of Ouro Preto
Criteriai, iii
Designated1980 (4th session)
Reference no.124
State PartyBrazil
RegionSouth 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.[3] 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.[4]

Ouro Preto was the 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[edit]

Population: Data from the 2010 Census (IBGE)

  • Resident population: 70,227 (2010 Census)
  • Urban area: 56,293
  • Rural area: 9,985
  • Area of the municipality: 1,245 km2
  • Temperature: between 6 and 28 degrees Celsius. In June and July the temperature can reach -2 degrees Celsius.
  • Average elevation: 1,116 m. The highest point is Pico de Itacolomi with 1,722 meters.
  • The city has twelve districts: Amarantina, Antônio Pereira, Cachoeira do Campo, Engenheiro Correia, Glaura, Lavras Novas, Miguel Burnier, Santa Rita, Santo Antônio do Leite, Santo Antônio do Salto, São Bartolomeu and Rodrigo Silva.
  • Rivers: sources for the Velhas, Piracicaba, Gualaxo do Norte, Gualaxo do Sul, Mainart e Ribeirão Funil.
  • Per Capita Income: R$23,622 (US$6,270.16)
  • HDI: 0.788 (High)


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

  • Belo Horizonte 100 km
  • Rio de Janeiro 475 km
  • São Paulo 675 km
  • Brasília 840 km

Bordering municipalities are:

  • North: Itabirito and Santa Bárbara
  • South: Ouro Branco, Catas Altas da Noruega, Piranga and Itaverava
  • East: Mariana
  • West: Belo Vale and Congonhas


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.[5]

Climate data for Ouro Preto, Brazil
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 26.0
Average low °C (°F) 15.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 283
Source: Climatedata.org.[6]


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. This name was adopted on May 20, 1823, when the former Vila Rica was elevated from village to city. "Black Gold" comes from the gold covered with a layer of iron oxide that is found in the city.[7]

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.[8]

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 the 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

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[edit]

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.[9]

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[edit]

Panoramic view.

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


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:

  • Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) - just off Tiradentes Plaza, next to the Inconfidência Museum.
  • São Francisco de Assis (St. Francis of Assisi)
  • Nossa Senhora da Conceiçao (Immaculate Conception)
  • Capela do Padre Faria ole ola(Father Faria's Chapel)
  • Nossa Senhora das Mercês (Our Lady of Mercy)
  • Nossa Senhora do Pilar (Our Lady of Pilar)
  • Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Our Lady of the Rosary)


  • Museu da Inconfidência - In the former municipal palace on Tiradentes Plaza, traces the Inconfidencia independence movement.
  • Museu do Oratório (Oratory Museum) - next to the church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, displays religious art.
  • Museu de Ciência e Técnica (Museum of Science and Technology) - in the Ouro Preto School of Mines building on Tiradentes Plaza. The museum is noted for its collection of mineral specimens.
  • Casa Dos Contos - Historical museum.
  • Capela Padre Fabio de Mello
  • Museu do Aleijadinho - In the Antônio Dias plaza, historical museum known for the collection of pieces of Alegadinho


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.[10] The municipality contains about 10% of the 31,270 hectares (77,300 acres) Serra do Gandarela National Park, created in 2014.[11]


The street carnival in Ouro Preto attracts thousands of people every year. Carnival blocks are the most traditional type of parade, where bands play across the town, followed by herds of paraders dressed up in costumes. The block Zé Pereira dos Lacaios, founded in 1867, is the oldest block that is still active in Brazil. [12] [13] Parades with samba schools also happen.

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


Ouro Preto was a setting in the comedy movie Moon over Parador (1988), with actors Richard Dreyfuss and Sonia Braga.

Mining is Brazil's sixth largest industry.



  1. ^ IBGE 2020
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 8, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Ouro Preto". Archived from the original on 2016-03-10. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  4. ^ "Ouro Preto". Archived from the original on 2016-03-10. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  5. ^ http://www.jusbrasil.com.br/diarios/1649657/dou-secao-1-11-06-1893-pg-6
  6. ^ Clima — Ouro Preto
  7. ^ "ouropreto.com.br :: Dados Gerais". www.ouropreto.com.br. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  8. ^ Gomes, Laurentino (2007). "A Colônia". 1808 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). São Paulo: Editora Planeta. p. 131. ISBN 9788576653202.
  9. ^ Portal Ouro Preto
  10. ^ "Minas da Passagem – Mariana – Minas Gerais – Mina de ouro da Passagem, em Mariana, Minas Gerais" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  11. ^ PARNA de Serra do Gandarela (in Portuguese), ISA: Instituto Socioambiental, retrieved 2016-06-12
  12. ^ Dolores Orosco (2008-02-04). "Centenário Zé Pereira dos Lacaios atrai multidão com marchinhas" (in Portuguese). G1. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  13. ^ "Bloco mais antigo do país, Zé Pereira desfila no Carnaval de BH" (in Portuguese). O Tempo. 2017-02-01. Retrieved 2021-08-14.

External links[edit]