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Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon) is the capital of and largest city in the state of Minas Gerais, located in the southeastern region of Brazil. It is the third largest metropolitan area in the country. Belo Horizonte (also known as "Belô", "Beagá", or "BH") has a population of over 2.4 million, or almost 5.4 million in the official Metropolitan Area.
The region was first settled in the early 18th century, but the city as it is known today was planned and constructed in the 1890s, in order to replace Ouro Preto as the capital of Minas Gerais. The city features a mixture of contemporary and classical buildings, and is home to several modern Brazilian architectural icons, most notably the Pampulha Complex. In planning the city, Aarão Reis and Francisco Bicalho sought inspiration in the urban planning of Washington, D.C. The city has employed notable programs in urban revitalization and food security, for which it has been awarded international accolades.
The city is built on several hills and is completely surrounded by mountains. There are several large parks in the immediate surroundings of Belo Horizonte. The "Parque das Mangabeiras" affords a view over the city. The "Mata do Jambeiro" nature reserve with vegetation typical of the Atlantic forest. More than one hundred species of bird inhabit the reserve, as well as ten different species of mammals.
The previous capital of Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto (meaning "black gold", due to dark rocks with gold inside found on the region), originally called "Vila Rica" ("wealthy village"), was a symbol of both the monarchic Brazilian Empire and the period when most of Brazilian income was due to mining, and that never pleased the members of the Inconfidência Mineira, republican intellectuals who conspired against the Portuguese dominion of Brazil. In 1889, Brazil became a republic, and it was agreed that a new state capital, in tune with a modern and prosperous Minas Gerais, had to be set.
In 1893, due to good climatic and topographic conditions, Curral Del Rey was selected by Minas Gerais governor Afonso Pena among other cities as the location for the new economical and cultural center of the state, under the new name of "Cidade de Minas," or Minas City.
Aarão Reis, an urbanist from the State of Pará, was then set to design the second planned city of Brazil, and then Cidade de Minas was inaugurated finally in 1897, with many unfinished constructions as the Brazilian Government set a deadline for its completion. Inhabitation of the city was subsidized by the local government, through the concession of free empty lots and funding for building houses. An interesting feature of Belo Horizonte Reis designed was the downtown street plan, featuring a regular array of perpendicular and diagonal streets, named after Brazilian states and Brazilian indigenous tribes.
In 1906, the name was then changed to Belo Horizonte, and at that time the city was experiencing a considerable industrial expansion that increased its commercial and service sectors. From its very beginning, the city's original plan prohibited workers to live inside the urban area which was defined by Avenida do Contorno (a long avenue which goes around the city's central areas), reserved for the public sector functionaries (hence the name of the still trendy neighborhood "Funcionários"), and bringing about an accelerated occupation outside the city's area well provided with infrastructure since its very beginning. Obviously, the city's original planners did not count on its population growth afterwards, which proved especially intense in the last twenty years of the 20th century.
In the 1940s, a young Oscar Niemeyer designed the Pampulha Neighborhood to great acclaim, a commission he got thanks to then-mayor, soon-to-be-president Juscelino Kubitschek. These two men are largely responsible for the wide avenues, large lakes, parks and jutting skylines that characterize the city today.
Belo Horizonte is fast becoming a regional center of commerce. The Latin American Research and development center of Google, situated in Belo Horizonte, is responsible for the management and operation of the social networking website Orkut. It continues to be a trendsetter in the arts, particularly where music, literature, architecture and the avant-garde are concerned. There are plans underway to move a complex of government ministries north of the center, onto the road to Confins International Airport, liberating space around beautiful palm-fringed Praça da Liberdade to house the city's symphony orchestra and other arts organizations.
Autor/fonte: Weirdo Video http://vimeo.com/30215537