Estrada Real

Minas Gerais, Brasil, 2008

Diamantina, town centre.

“Estrada Real” is the name of the colonial territories in the state of Minas Gerais of Brasil which, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, made up the routes into the gold and diamond mining regions. The Portuguese term translates to Royal Road. It refers to a set of official itineraries assigned by the Crown to the transportation of minerals and goods to the seaports in the major coastal towns. A network of registry and levy offices was set up along these roads, which became the only authorised paths for the travel of people and products in the region. They connected through several towns which today still display the cultural and architectural marks from this period. One of the most important religious traditions in the region is the week of Easter celebrations and processions held in the town of Ouro Preto.

Commissioned by:
Instituto Estrada Real, Belo Horizonte

(Here is a small edit from a larger body of images.)

Thanks to:
Museu do Ouro, Sabará

Ouro Preto, Tiradentes Square.

Belo Horizonte, view over Cristiano Machado avenue, Cidade Nova district (north-east suburbs).

View over Ouro Preto’s town centre.

Belo Horizonte, city centre.

Students heading to a party. Ouro Preto, like other towns in the interior of Minas Gerais such as Diamantina, has both a sizeable tourism industry and is host to a large university student population. There are several campuses located in the main historical towns and many go to study there. Many of the buildings along the old main streets are now “Repúblicas”, autonomously governed student residential associations.

View from the stage in Sabará’s Municipal Theatre.

Display of 18th century gold prospector’s tools in the Museum of Gold in Sabará.

Sr. Júlio is one of the artisans who keeps a permanent workspace in Ouro Preto’s handicrafts market.

Arnaldo is a jeweller and works with locally mined gemstones. He is standing at the door to his workshop, not far from the town’s central square. There is an important industry in gemstones here, and several small workshops such as his sell a variety of cut gems from which they make custom jewellery to order.

Tatiana works at her mother’s home decoration and handicrafts store.

Holy Saturday’s night procession in Ouro Preto.

Easter Sunday’s procession.

Leonardo is an artist and a member of a local association that works to preserve Ouro Preto’s cultural patrimony. Easter Sunday’s procession follows along streets which are decorated with sawdust carpets showing colourful and religious motifs. These are prepared by artisans and volunteers starting from the previous day. The work often goes on overnight until early morning. Residents also help, joining the decoration work or supplying coffee and food to the artisans. Local musicians provide entertainment.