I-CAL: Ouro Preto, Mina Jeje Mine

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Yet again what a wonderful day in Brazil!

After our traditional hotel breakfast of fruit, cheese, bread and of course coffee, we left our wonderful, slightly under construction hotel in Ponte Nova for the beautiful historical city of Ouro Preto. Upon arrival we enjoyed, yet again, more coffee and some decedent hot chocolate at Cafeteria E Livraria which opened up to the bustling cobble stone streets. We were joined by a tour guide to help show us around the charming city founded in the 1600s which used to be the nation’s capital. The city is known for its mining, especially gold, as the state of Minas Gerais itself translates to “general mines”.

After our delicious cups of hot chocolate and coffee, we headed to the historic military church of Ouro Preto.  In the city there are many churches, which served the different social and racial classes of the past.  For example, there was a rich Portuguese church and a poor Portuguese church.  The church we visited, known as São Francisco de Assis was built from 1765-1810.  The intricately designed artwork was finished by 1825.  In the church, there are countless paintings, statues, and engravings some completed miraculously by a famous crippled artist, Aleijadinho.  Along with the beautiful relief artwork, which gave the impression that the sculpted material was raised above the background, there was gold galore!  Next we headed to a mine of Ouro Preto.

Our tour guide took us through the winding, steep cobblestone roads to the Mina Jeje Mine, Mina De Euro Sec XVlll, one of the first mines in the city. There we learned that a whole family, even down to the 5 year-old, could be paid labor in the mines.  We also learned about different minerals used for paint, which were very vibrant copper toned colors.  We ventured further into the mine with our little miner caps to see the first site where they struck gold!  It was also interesting to learn that there were many jewels found before the miners actually struck gold.  The jewels and gold found their way to places like the Philippines and China where they were likely used in porcelain and jewelry.

After our adventures to the church and mine, we enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch in the downtown area. The bumpy streets and photo 2sudden inclines weren’t ideal for our poor adopted Grandpa, Alfredo and his crutches, but to no surprise he prevailed.  It was another pay by the kilo restaurant, with traditional Brazilian dishes and tropical fruits decorating the room. Our massive tour bus didn’t seem to stick out at all in this area where vehicles of choice were motorcycles and old VW beetles.

What’s a visit to a historical city without some souvenir shopping? We popped into various shops full of homemade trinkets, souvenirs, and postcards. We even were able to venture into several jewel shops to check out stones mined right there here in Minas Gerais. Thank heavens numbers look the same in Portuguese or it may have been a bit more of a struggle!

After a great afternoon we loaded the bus and headed to Bruhmadinho.  The bus took us to what seemed like the top of the world and then back down into the city where we will stay for the night.  We enjoyed the salad and Brazilian-style lasagna for dinner and headed out for the “Fellowship of the I-CAL” team!

~ Kiah Twisselman (University of California, Davis) and Ana Schweer  (South Dakota State University)

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