Monday, February 18, 2013

Carnaval in Ouro Preto

There are more than 22 churches in this tiny mountain town.

Street party throughout most of the center of town.

Over the past 13 years Luiz and I have paraded in the Rio Carnaval parade three times and watched the Rio parade from the stands in the Sambadromo five times. It is truly the most spectacular celebration of its kind on the planet, and the energy is indescribable.

But, alas, we must admit to getting a bit tired of the “same old thing” year after year (a statement only made possible by living here).

This year we decided to forgo the Rio tourist invasion, the street party crush that only gets bigger every year, and ultimately the parade itself with our cooler filled with sandwiches and beer to last until dawn. We set our sights on Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais.

Ouro Preto has a number of elements that attracted us, chief among them our friends Dü and Carlos who live there.  Ouro Preto is a college town of about 50,000 people woven into the mountains in eastern Minas Gerais at about 4,000 feet. The town is famous for its bone chilling history of slave labor digging mines during the early gold rush in Brazil. Signs of this brutality (and wealth) are everywhere in this amazingly preserved and extensive colonial  town.  For this reason, this post will feature more photos than text.

The view from our friend's living room window.

The apartment has three levels of  outdoor space.

Luiz standing buy a retaining wall built by slaves.

The Carnaval celebration in Ouro Preto takes the form of a four night long street party that essentially infiltrates the entire center of the town. There is a main stage in the central Praça Tiradente, and four or five additional stages at various street intersections fanning out from there. The street party with all the live music is free. The whole affair is a bit like a better-organized “Bloco” so popular in Rio.

Immediately apparent to us was how young the crowd was. College students, as you would imagine. Not too many of us older folks.

There are also numerous concerts at temporary venues set up at locations a bit further out from Praça Tiradente. These events feature nationally successful bands. Patrons buy a Tshirt identifying them as “paid” and then enjoy six or so hours of music and dance (endless beer and booze included).

Dü at the waterfall with Carlos and Luiz in the background.

After the street party marathon, on Wednesday (the day after 90% of the visitors have gone home), we went for a hike to take a dip in a waterfall up in the mountains. Magical.

Taking a dip and getting out of the heat.

For those looking for an alternative to Rio for Carnaval – and if you enjoy hanging with the youngin’s – we encourage you to consider Ouro Preto.


GingerV said...

wonderful photos, and wish I'd been there. looks like so much fun. did you go to the open mines. when we were there the guys were pulling out smokey topaz.

American Heart Brazilian Soul said...


First of all YOU look so Great!!!!!! :)
Second, Ouro Preto is my absolutely favorite place in Brazil, all the cidades historicas, always a favorite area to visit if you ask me. These areas with the water falls are amazing, they are all over the area.
Good alternative to the traditional big city parades.
Great post.



The Reader said...

Beautiful location, but I have to agree with Ray -- you look fantastic!

Haven't been to Ouro Preto yet, but it's on The List.

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