Belo Horizonte is a major industrial center and the capital of Minas Gerais, the second most populous state in Brazil. Located on a plateau in the mountains of southeastern Brazil at an elevation of approximately 2,500 feet, greater Belo Horizonte has a population of more than 4 million. It is the third largest city and industrial center in Brazil.
State politicians and planners created the city in the 1890s to replace the small, isolated state capital at Ouro Prêto. They hoped to create a new and dynamic political and economic center for the state. After a contentious debate, the state government decided to build the new capital on the site of Curral del Rei, a small hamlet with some eight thousand inhabitants, located in the center of the state. Inspired by the examples of Washington, D.C., and Paris, planners designed the central area of the city using a geometric grid plan.
From its inauguration in 1897 until World War II, Belo Horizonte served mainly as a bureaucratic and administrative center, with a growing population but little heavy industry. By the early 1940s the city had a population approaching a quarter million.
Over the next four decades Belo Horizonte rapidly industrialized, becoming a major center for the production of iron and steel, automobiles, and cement. Located in the heart of a region rich in iron ore, bauxite, manganese, and gold, the city has also developed into a major center for mining and construction companies.
Belo Horizonte has become a more dominant economic and political capital for Minas Gerais than its planners ever envisioned. State planners and politicians now search for ways to decrease the concentration of nearly one-third of the state's industrial production in a single city.
Eakin, Marshall C. "Creating a Growth Pole: The Industrialization of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 1897–1987," Americas 47 (1991): 383-410.
Eakin, Marshall C. Tropical Capitalism: The Industrialization of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
Wirth, John D. Minas Gerais in the Brazilian Federation, 1889–1937. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1977.
Marshall C. Eakin