Ouro Preto is the former capital of the state of Minas Gerais, and still the historical center of this part of Brazil. The original strenght of the city resides in the mining activity. One of the legends of the local mines relates the story of the Chico Rey (the rich king). This man was a deposed king of Africa who was brought, along with his tribe, in slavery in Brazil. He lost all his family - wife, children - but one son during the trip. He worked for years in an unprofitable mine. Finaly, his master died, and as a reward for his fair work, he was given the mine. But then, he found gold in it, so much that he was able to buy his liberty, that of his son, and even the rest of the tribe ! The name of Ouro Preto means "black gold", which refers to the color of the local ore that contains gold. The city hosts a replica of the french Ecole des Mines, a replica that remained close to the original mining activity, due to the rich industrial history of Ouro Preto in this area.
Ouro Preto is also well-known for its numerous churches - a dozen in all - whose sobriety in the exterior part contrasts with the luxury of the internal decorations. One artist, the Aleijadinho (the little handicaped) gave birth to many of the major sculptures in the city. Although the man never went out of Ouro Preto, his fame eventualy spread to the entire Brazil. As he was still young, he contracted a kind of leprosy that paralyzed his legs and ate his fingers. But he kept on working, still making lots of magestuous Chefs d'Oeuvre, which gave him his name.
The city is also often mentioned for its contribution to the independence of Brazil. One of the earliest leaders of the independentist movement is probably Tiradentes, who founded a circle of contest against the portuguese colons, called the inconfidencia (the unfaithfulness). At the time of the French Revolution, this man organized clandestine meetings and debates that became more and more popular. One of the main motivations of the movement was the high level of taxation imposed by the portuguese government and local delegates. In the picture, we can see the former city hall, a building that appeared disproportionate for the small town of Ouro Preto (at that time called Villa Rica, the Rich Town), while the city suffered from lots of poverty. The building is now converted into a museum (the museum of inconfidencia) that hosts religious arts, along with testimonies of life during the three past centuries. The central monument, along with the place, is dedicated to Tiradentes.
One of the most fascinating points of my visit was certainly the natural site of the Iguacu Falls. The name of the falls means "great water" in Guarani indian. The Iguacu rivers makes the limit between Argentina and Brazil. Paraguay is a few miles westward. The falls are located in an area still quite wild, and an important aspect of such a trip consists in discovering local animals.