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Minas Gerais
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Minas Gerais

Minas Gerais

CapitalBelo Horizonte
Area587,172 km²
Population15,831,800
Pop. density27/km²
TimezoneGMT -3
ISO 3166-2BR-MS
GovernorAécio Neves (since 2003)

Minas Gerais is one of the states of Brazil, the second most populous in the federation. The capital is the city of Belo Horizonte, in the center of the state.

Table of contents
1 Location
2 History
3 Culture
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Cities
7 External Link

Location

This Brazilian state is in the west of the southeastern subdivision of Brazil, which also contains the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro andEspírito Santo. It has as its limits: Bahia and Goiás (N), the state of Mato Grosso do Sul (W), the state of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (S) and the state of Espírito Santo (E).

History

Minas Gerais was formed mainly by colonists who searched for veins of gold and gems, and later diamonds (the name literally means general mines, a shortening from Minas dos Matos Gerais, or mines of the general woods, this being originally the hinterland to the incipient colonies of São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga and São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro). These helped to boost occupation of the inner lands, and led to the foundation of several new villages. The first capital and seat of the local see was the city of Mariana; it was later moved to Vila Rica. In the late 18th century, Vila Rica was the biggest city in Brazil, and one of the biggest of the Americas in population. As the gold mines were exhausted over the 19th century, the city lost its importance; it was lately renamed to Ouro Preto and remained as capital until the construction of the all-new, planned city of Belo Horizonte, at the turn of the 20th century.

The gold cycle left its mark in cities as Mariana, Ouro Preto, Sabará, Tiradentes and São João Del Rey. The relative isolation from european influence, added to the huge influx of gold and other valuable minerals helped the local people to develop their own art school, that became known as Barroco Mineiro. Prime examples of this period are the richly decorated churches at the colonial cities, some of them preserved today as museums. The most important artist of this period was Antônio Lisboa, that became known as Aleijadinho. His statues and paintings are now highly valued by experts as one of the most refinate artistic expressions out of Europe at that time.

During the 18th century, mining exploration was strongly controlled by the Portuguese Crown, which imposed heavy taxes on everything extracted (one fifth of all gold would go to the Crown). Several rebellions were attempted by the colonists, always facing strong reaction by the imperial crown. The most notable one was Inconfidência, started by group of middle-class colonists, mostly intellectuals and young officers. They were inspired by the American and French Revolutions and Illuminist ideals. The conspiracy failed and the rebels were arrested and exiled. The most famous of them, Tiradentes (nickname for Joaquim José da Silva Xavier), was hanged by order of Queen Maria I of Portugal, becoming a local hero and a national martyr of Brazil. Minas Gerais flag - a red triangle on white background - is based on the design for the national flag proposed by the "Inconfidentes", as the rebels became known.

Due to the economic importance of the state and the particular traits of the local population - famed for its reserved and balanced character - Minas Gerais has played an important role on national politics. During the 19th century, politicians such as José Bonifácio Andrada were instrumental at the stablisment of the Brazilian Empire, under the rule of Dom Pedro I and later his son, Dom Pedro II. After the installation of the Brazilian Republic, over the early 20th century, Minas Gerais shared the control of the national political scene with São Paulo in what became known as "Coffee and Milk" political cycle (coffee being the major product of São Paulo, and milk from Minas Gerais).

Minas Gerais was also home to two of the most influential brazilian politicians from the second half of the 20th century. Juscelino Kubitschek was president from 1956 to 1961, and he was responsible for the construction of Brasília as the new capital of Brazil. Tancredo Neves had an extensive political career that culminated with his election in 1984 to be the first civil president after the 1964 military coup. However, he died after a series of health complications just as he was about to assume the position.

Culture

Minas Gerais is the Profound Brazil by analogy with the France profonde. It has a distinctly more native flavour than cosmopolitan São Paulo, a more traditional slant than flashy Rio de Janeiro, and is more Portuguese than the South and São Paulo with their great influx of Italians and other Central Europeans, the North with their native Indians or Northeast with Africans and Indians.

The people is considered reserved, prudent, relatively silent to the point of melancholy, but welcoming and family focused. Legend has them divided between misers and benemerits, mostly misers. It is one of the most religious states, with a big proportion of staunch Romanists and a burgeoning Evangelical and neo-Pentecostal population, with pockets of African magic religions. Kardecist Spiritism is also professed by a significant portion of the population, partly due to the influence of Chico Xavier, the main spiritist icon of Brazil, that lived in Minas Gerais all his life.

Minas Gerais is also know nationally for the particular character of its cuisine. The cultural basis of local cuisine are the small farmhouses, and many of the dishes are prepared using locally produced vegetables and meats, specially chicken and pork. Traditional cooking is done using coal or wood based owens, and cast iron pans, making for a particularly tasty flavor; some restaurant chains have adopted these techniques, and made this type of food popular in other parts of the country.

Many of the appetizers from the local cuisine use corn or cassava (know there as "mandioca") flour instead of wheat, as the later didn't adapt well to the local weather. Corn flour is the basis for a wide variety of cakes and appetizers. But the best known dish from Minas Gerais is "pão de queijo", recently introduced internationally as the "brazilian cheese rolls"; it's a small baked roll made with cheese and cassava flour, that can be served hot as an appetizer or for breakfast.

Geography

Minas Gerais is the source of some of the biggest rivers in Brazil, most markedly the São Francisco , Paraná and to a lesser extent, the Rio Doce. The state also holds a big number of hydroelectric power plants, including Furnas. Some of the highest peaks in Brazil are located at the mountain ranges that mark the borders between Minas Gerais and it's neighboors, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The most notable one is the Pico da Bandeira, the third highest mountain in Brazil at 2890m. The state also has huge reserves of iron, and sizeable reserves of gold and gemstones, including emerald, topaz and aquamarine mines.

Each region of the state has a distinct character, geographically and to a certain extent, culturally.

Economy

Minas Gerais (or simply Minas, as it is commonly called) is a major producer of milk, coffee and other rural commodities, as well as minerals. Electronics are also produced in Minas. Automakers Fiat and Mercedes have factories there.

The state has marked divisions in economic terms. The southern part of the state (close to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro state borders) has several mid-sized cities with solid industrial basis, such as Juiz de Fora, Varginha, Pouso Alegre, and Poços de Caldas. The northeastern region is marked by poverty, but Governador Valadares and Teófilo Otoni attract foreign traders for its semi-precious gems such as topaz and saphyr. The central region of the state (where the capital is located) has big reserves of iron (and to a lower extend, gold) still being actively mined. The western part, known as "Triângulo Mineiro" (which means "Minas's triangle"), is less densely populated than the rest of the state, and it is now a focus of biotechnology investment, particularly on the cities of Uberlândia and Uberaba, that includes leading research on cattle, soy and corn cultures.

Cities

See List of cities in Minas Gerais.

External Link


States of Brazil
Acre | Alagoas | Amapá | Amazonas | Bahia | Ceará | Federal District | Espírito Santo | Goiás | Maranhão | Mato Grosso | Mato Grosso do Sul | Minas Gerais | Pará | Paraíba | Paraná | Pernambuco | Piauí | Rio de Janeiro | Rio Grande do Norte | Rio Grande do Sul | Rondônia | Roraima | Santa Catarina | São Paulo | Sergipe | Tocantins