Belo Horizonte History Facts and Timeline

(Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil)

Belo Horizonte has developed over the years to rank amongst the largest and most important of all Brazil's cities, and so it is hard to imagine that it was just a small village only a couple of hundred years ago in history. The region was originally settled by explorer Joao Leite da Silva Ortiz in the year of 1701.

He set up a small farm and named it Curral del Rey (King's Corral). The farm was a successful business and drew people from the surrounding areas towards the Belo Horizonte region. Over time, Curral del Rey began to develop into something of a village, encircled by further farms. The village was conveniently sited on the main migrant route between the Sao Francisco River and the southern section of Brazil, meaning that many people regularly passed through, some of whom chose to settle here.

Capital of Minas Gerais

The city of Ouro Preto served as the original capital of the state of Minas Gerais, but it was seen as a symbol of the ruling Brazilian Empire. This never sat well with the Inconfidencia Mineira, a group of republicans who were strongly opposed to the country's Portuguese sovereignty.

When Brazil gained its independence in 1889, it was decided that a new capital of Minas Gerais was necessary. In the year of 1893, largely due to its appealing topography and climatic conditions, Curral del Rey was chosen as the capital city and renamed as Cidade de Minas. This was a significant moment in Belo Horizonte's history, since its foundations had well and truly begun, allowing it to develop into the vibrant city that it has become today.

The plan for Cidade de Minas was to develop the city as the state's new cultural and economic centre. Experienced Brazilian city planner Aarao Reis was entrusted with designing Brazil's second-planned city. Cidade de Minas was eventually inaugurated in 1897. However, many of the new buildings were yet to be completed, since the government of Brazil had set an unrealistic and rather ambitious deadline. At this time, many of the streets in the new downtown area of Belo Horizonte were named after the country's states and most noteworthy indigenous tribes.

History of Expansion and Industry

In 1906, the city was renamed Belo Horizonte, meaning 'beautiful view / horizon'. This was a key period in the history of Belo Horizonte, as the city was going through significant industrial expansion, which ultimately increased its commercial gains and overall prosperity.

The original plan for the city reserved the urban area (inside the Avenida do Contorno, which circles the central area) for public sector functionaries only, prohibiting workers from ever living within this part of the city. However, the rapid population growth during the 20th century had not been anticipated, meaning that this plan had to be scrapped in the late 20th century.

Pampulha Neighbourhood

In 1940, renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer of modernist fame, met with Belo Horizonte's mayor and future president of Brazil, Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira. The mayor granted permission for Niemeyer to design a new district called the neighbourhood of Pampulha, which he did and received great acclaim for.

The Pampulha neighbourhood is the location of the earliest noteworthy modern monument in Belo Horizonte history - the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, which was the first such listed heritage site in the whole of Brazil. The neighbourhood also included a casino and a yacht club, as well as a landscaped golf course created around a scenic man-made lake. The project was completed in 1943, and both Niemeyer and Kubitschek are generally considered to be responsible for much of the modern-day appearance of Belo Horizonte.