Minas Gerais is a landlocked state in the west of Brazil. It is the second most populous and the fourth largest state in terms of its geographical area. Its capital city is Belo Horizonte, which is nestled in the centre of the state. It shares borders with Bahia, Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo and the Federal District of Brazil.
Originally inhabited by the native “Indians”, as they were called by European colonisers, the area now known as Minas Gerais was renowned for its being rich in gold, gems and diamonds.
Ouro Preto,the colonial gem in Minas Gerais, Brazil
During the latter part of the 17th century, many Portuguese occupied this land in search of its rich supply of geological riches. These Portuguese settlers introduced African slaves in order to work in the mines and to start connecting the various ‘settlements’ (or towns) by building a network of roads through the area. The 1700’s saw the ownership of the mining exploration belonging mainly to the Portuguese, who imposed heavy taxes on everything that was extracted. The colonists tried to rebel several times, but the Crown was too powerful for them to succeed.
During the course of the 19th century, some of the gold mines had been exploited to capacity, while others still yielded ample riches. While the European influence was marked, the locals also had a fair share in the mining of this region, helping them to establish viable communities and to develop a unique art form, known as Barroco Mineiro, which was characterised by an opulent use of gold in design and architecture.
Because of the major economic contribution of Minas Gerais, it played an integral role in the commercial and economic history of Brazil. In the 1800’s, the Brazilian Empire was established. The following century saw this state share control of the national political scene with São Paulo.
Minas Gerais has approximately 20 million inhabitants, including Portuguese, Africans, Germans and Lebanese. It is home to some of the longest rivers and highest mountains in the country, as well as to several hydroelectric power plants. It also still boasts many impressive mines, which yield gold, emerald, topaz and aquamarine.
The central and eastern parts of Minas Gerais are characterised by rocky hills and sparse vegetation. The west is occupied by Cerrado, a type of savannah vegetation that is crossed by gallery forests and stream valleys. This type of vegetation is particularly ideal for growing coffee. The northern areas of the state are arid and drought-ridden. The southern parts, on the other hand, are also hilly, but are far more green and lush. This area is particularly dedicated to coffee and milk production and is significantly cooler than other parts of this state.
At present, the service sector makes up for almost half of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), while the industrial sector follows closely behind. The small remaining fraction is supported by agriculture and exports. This state is one of Brazil’s most important suppliers of milk, coffee, minerals and agricultural products.
Colonial farm house in Minas Gerais.
Tourist attractions in Minas Gerais include:
Here is the Minas Gerais government web site: http://www.mg.gov.br/
Here is the Minas Gerais tourism web site: http://www.turismo.mg.gov.br/