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Minas Gerais Travel Guide

Belo Horizonte

The Cidade de Minas (city of Minas), now Belo Horizonte, was established in 1897, when Ouro Preto, because of its mountainous geography, could no longer afford a population expansion. Since the planned uprising of the Inconfidentes in 1789, however, the residents of Minas Gerais had dreamed of a state capital, free of Portuguese influence, that would open a new historical chapter. The first

planned modern city in Brazil (its design was overseen by the engineer Aarão Reis) modeled its streets on the wide avenues of Paris and Washington, and on their circular city centers.

In 1906 the city assumed its current name of Belo Horizonte. It earned its nickname, "the Garden City," during the 1940s and 1950s, when the main avenue, Afonso Pena, was lined with huge trees. (As head of state in the 1890s, Pena proclaimed this the site of Minas Gerais's new capital.) These days the city can look both like a metropolis—with traffic jams, tall buildings, and urban noise—and, in its tranquil downtown neighborhoods, like a simple country town. Because it's in a valley surrounded by mountains, traffic and industrial pollution is concentrated in the city center and sometimes the surrounding mountains get smogged in.

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