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Ouro Prêto

Ouro Prêto (ō´rŏŏ prā´tŏŏ) [Port.,=black gold], city (1996 pop. 61,606), Minas Gerais state, E Brazil. Founded as Vila Rica in the gold rush near the end of the 17th cent., it became a prosperous 18th-century mining town, a cultural center, and the chief seat of the abortive move for independence led by Tiradentes. The city declined as the mines lost importance but remained the capital of Minas Gerais until 1897, when it was superseded by Belo Horizonte. Since 1933 the city has been a national historic site, preserving the 18th-century atmosphere of narrow, twisting, cobbled streets, the colonial mint and treasury, the old houses, the theater (oldest in South America), the governor's mansion, and the old churches, most notably the Church of São Francisco, decorated with the magnificent carvings of Aleijadinho. A mining school (est. 1875) is in Ouro Prêto, and mining (now for aluminum) remains important to the city's economy.

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