Ouro Preto is a strange place. It was once the wealthy hub of the mining areas around and gained huge wealth from the gold and other minerals.
Much of this was spent constructing a town in the image of Portugal, an illusion helped by the steep valley slopes and roads. Although much of the tile-work found in Portugal is absent, the styles area clearly imported from Europe and adapted to the local resources.
This architecture has resulted in Ouro Preto being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cementing the town’s current renaissance and future destination as a tourist haven.
But of course, there is another layer behind the facade of tourist shops selling polished gemstones and, as is common in Brazil, as you move away from the centre you encounter very different architecture and less privileged constructions.
The result is that the heritage areas feel very forced and artificial – a virtual currency mine, harvesting gold from the tourists in return for sanitised glimpses of past colonial glory. As with the mining museums in Belo Horizonte, there is a unsettling lack of historical context to offset the saccharine scenes of well groomed Brazilians taking selfies of themselves in front of the churches.
Below is a small gallery of architectural images from the town – I will follow up with the corresponding people photographs shortly.