Brief history of Vila Rica
Since the discovery of Brazil, in 1500, the colonization efforts of the immense territory-continent took place along the coastline until mid-seventeenth century. Then, in search of riches and a new Eldorado - as happened a century before in Spanish America with the gold of the Aztecs and Incas - begins the great adventure toward the inland.
Towards the interior
The Paulistas engage in this enterprise and, after numerous expeditions - such as the great Fernao Dias´ and Borba Gato´s - the bandeira expedition of Antonio Dias departs from the Village of Taubaté in Sao Paulo, circa 1696, with a dream destination: rediscover the region of a black gold, whose reference was a picturesque rock that dominates the top of a mountain - the Itacolomi (stone-mother and her son-boy, in the language of the Tupi indians). Fabulous tales told by pioneers who had ventured before in the region mentioned curious blackened stones which proved to be gold of extraordinary quality.
Ouro Preto is born
At the dawning of June 24, 1698, St. John´s day, the intrepid Antonio Dias and his companion, Padre priest Faria finally spot what they were looking for: emerging from the mist of dawn, the great stone Itacolomi. Ouro Preto, then, was born.
Crowds soon flocked to the metal fever and in the years of the eighteenth century that followed, more than 40,000 souls lived on the slopes and caves of the place. By the same period, the island of Manhattan - New York, in North America - had no more than 3,000 people counting indians and pilgrims.
Tons of the finest and purest gold were extracted from creeks and mines, the largest world production at that time, and Dom João V, King of Portugal, was welcomed across Europe: the richest sovereign due to the gold and diamonds of his colony. Ouro Preto becomes the center of the new Eldorado of the Americas.
In 1711, all of the several mining settlements are administratively united by the portuguese authorities, and elevated to the status of village, bearing the name of VILA RICA (Rich Village), which becomes, in 1720, the capital of the newly created captaincy of Minas Gerais.
The empire era
A century goes by and, in 1823, one year after the independence of Brazil, now in the period of the empire, Vila Rica is chartered, by emperor Dom Pedro I, as the IMPERIAL TOWN OF OURO PRETO.
100 years more and, in 1933, is declared as a NATIONAL MONUMENT by Getulio Vargas´s presidential decree and registered as a historic site in 1938 with the creation of the National Registrar of Historic and Artistic Heritage - SPHAN.
For nearly 200 years, until 1897, Ouro Preto was the capital of Minas Gerais.
Finally, in 1980, Ouro Preto became the first brazilian cultural asset to be considered by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site.
The primitive mining settlement finally reaches with its art, its monuments, its history and its people, the glory of the world.
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