Brazil's third city
European recorded history in what was to become BH started sometime in the begning of the XVIII century, when a bandeirante, João Leite Ortiz, founded the Cercado farm. He brought with him a great number of slaves in hope to find riches, but noting materialised like in neighbouring Sabara or Ouro Preto. But it was a good agricultural land with a lovely landscape that attracted farmers. Slowly more and more farms were built until this little place became a hamlet, Corral del'Rei. By imperial decree in 1750 Corral del'Rei received its first church.
"The birth of the Captial of Minas Gerais"
Belo Horizonte was born out of the positivists ideals of the Brazilian Republic - "order and progress". Already at the time of the Inconfidência in the 18th century, the republicans dreamt about a new capital outside the narrow and steep streets of the imperial city of Ouro-Preto, also known as the rich city (Vila Rica). It was a dream of a break from an imperial past into a new, enlightened, republican future.
After many debates in the Mineiro congress it was decided on the 17th of December, 1893, that a more suitable captial city should be constructed for the state in the reigion of what was then called Curral Del'Rei. Four years later, in the 12th of December, 1897, the "City of Mines" was inaugurated.
It was the first planned city of Brazil informed by the idealistic urban plans of the Paraense town planner Aarão Reis. He wanted to emphasise the modernity of this future city and devided it into sectors urban and suburban, commerical and residential. Great avenues, wide streets, symmetrical blocks, a central park, all designed to remind one of Paris, or Washington, or so that was the idea...
Until 1945 it could scracesly count 100,000 people, and the original farm actually stood on a hill overlooking the city and a small river, sorrounded by farm land. By 1950 it was sorrounded by buildings, mid century saw a rapid urbanisation. It was caused by a remarkable economic growth from factories and mines around it, and the population exploded. Older people still remember well the rivers that ran around the city before they were canalised and built over. By the 60s the city was begining to be built upwards and streets like Rua Bahia were almost completely razed and big multi story apartmenet complexes sprang up. I think Belo lost alot of charm in its mad urbanisation that basically destroyed almost completely the lovely early twentieth century architecture. Especially in the 70s and 80s when economically BH was at its peak, many buildings were turn down to make place for huge complexes. By the time of the 90s, when Brazil went into economic decline, some buildings were left unfinished, giving the town a somewhat strange feel. In return it gained some remarkable modern architecture (and alot of unremarkable...), and a very dynamic energy.
"Belo Horizonte Today"