Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mariana and Ouro Preto - Colonial Towns in Minas Gerais, Brazil

The colonial towns we visited yesterday (Congonhas, Sao Joao del Rei, and Tiradentes) and today (Mariana and Ouro Preto) developed after gold was discovered in the Minas Gerais area of Brazil; the boom towns share similar features (cobblestoned roads, colonial buildings and houses, and numerous baroque churches, sometimes just a stone's throw apart from each other.

Both Ouro Preto and Tiradentes are well preserved and very lovely.  Tiradentes, with a population of 7,000, feels more like a vacation place, while Ouro Preto and the other colonial towns we've seen are lived in by Brazilians.  Ouro Preto, a UNESCO World Heritage site, feels more vibrant than Tiradentes.  Today during lunch in Ouro Preto, some students marched up to our table and asked us where we came from. They proceeded to "interview" Lauren.  Our guide had warned us that some people had never actually met foreigners and would perhaps gawk and/or talk to us. The girls were very charming, as you can see, and all eyes on Lauren.

We also saw some students in the charming boat-shaped theater in Ouro Preto, built in the 1700s, near one of the many churches in town. The students used the stage for a performance; we could not stay but a couple of students got up on the stage and performed. As we were leaving the entire group began to sing.

In both Mariana and Ouro Preto there were shoppers and regular folk going about their business.  Lauren got into a spirited discussion with a local well-known artist, Layon, about what is going on in Syria.  Layon was most sympathetic toward the Syrian people. (This political situation is unfolding right now and even though we are in a kind of holiday bubble, we follow the news and pray for the Syrian people and for guidance to the American and other world leaders.)

Back to Minas Gerais - since we are seeing these colonial towns one after the other, the places seem to merge. I find myself struggling to individualize the towns, and to some extent I can now, but I know that in a year, I will refer to these towns in a collective way because they are really very similar.

We had a nice tour of Mariana and Ouro Preto today.  Mariana (population 47,000) is where the Catholic archbishop resides, and it is where the Franciscan and Carmelite churches sit side by side in front of the City Hall.  The plaza in front of the these structures still has a pelourinho or post where slaves were publicly whipped. Mariana boasts of having a literary group with it's own office downtown.

Ouro Preto (population 70,000) has steep hills, all cobblestoned, and no electric lines above ground, so the look is very mid-18th century.  There are many shops, bars, and restaurants.  Ouro Preto has many festivals year-round. Last weekend, there was some event here; and his weekend another event is scheduled -- I believe it has to do with their independence day.

I have countless pictures of churches but I will not bore you, dear Readers, because they do look alike. All you need to know is that there are many churches in these towns and while they are not large, they are all lavishly decorated -- except for the one in Mariana, in which the priest had been murdered by his gold partner; that church was abandoned until a few years ago -- ahh--- here is a story waiting to be written!!!

Here are some of today's pictures: Lauren with the students, me in a pulpit, the first set of pictures was taken in Mariana. Note the pelourinho (post) to the left of the two churches.

 These pictures were taken in Ouro Preto.  That's Lauren with a huge quartz for sale; Ouro Preto has a lot of gems and quartz for sale; there is a museum displaying gems and fossils and it also seems to be part of a mining engineering school. The local policeman has a picture of their national hero, Tiradentes on his arm; Tiradentes (Jose da Silva Xavier) was a martyr of the Inconfidencia Minera, the first movement in Brazil towards independence from Portugal. Beheaded, he was beloved by the poor.

We leave for Rio de Janeiro tomorrow, dear Readers, so watch out for more of our Brazil Adventure. If you want further information about the pictures or places, email me at cbrainard@aol.com.

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All for now,


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