Colonial Towns

A UNESCO World Heritage Site
"A Jewel in a Necklace of Inhospitable  Rocky Mountains"

Few people outside Brazil have heard of Diamantina, which is a shame. This gem of a town is situated about 280 Km north of Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, in southeastern Brazil. Of all the Brazilian colonial towns, Diamantina is my favorite. 

Set in a rocky, windswept area about 1,100 meters above sea level, Diamantina is probably the least spoilt of any of Brazil's many 18th-century towns -- a fact perhaps due to its remoteness and isolation. Diamantina is also the hometown of Juscelino Kubitschek (1902-1976), the Brazilian president responsible for building  Brasilia, which became the new capital of the country in 1960, replacing Rio de Janeiro.

This is how UNESCO refers to Diamantina  upon declaring it a World Heritage Site in 1999: 

"Diamantina shows how explorers of the Brazilian territory, diamond prospectors, and representatives of the Crown were able to adapt European models to an American context in the 18th century, thus creating a culture that was faithful to its roots yet completely original. 

"The urban and architectural group of Diamantina, perfectly integrated into a wild landscape, is a fine example of an adventurous spirit combined with a quest for refinement so typical of human nature. 

"Diamantina, a colonial village inserted like a jewel in a necklace of inhospitable rocky mountains, illustrates the adventure of diamond prospectors in the 18th century and testifies to human cultural and artistic ascendancy over its living environment."

Today, with a population of about 40 thousand, Diamantina still depends on mining for a living, and diamonds and gold continue to be  mined in the area.  The town, with its cobbled streets, has many beautiful examples of colonial architecture, as well as many two-story colonial mansions with balconies displaying exquisite ornamental ironwork.

Diamantina can be easily  reached by bus from Belo Horizonte. This charming, picturesque 18th-century town has several hotels, albeit not in the luxury category.  It's a rather sleepy, peaceful small town, where one can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of a bygone era, and soak up the colonial atmosphere as one walks up and down the cobbled streets. The people are friendly. Spending a day or two in this colonial town is a most momorable experience -- not to mention that it's a photographer's paradise. 

Enjoy looking at my pictures of Diamantina!



You are listening to  Villa-Lobos' "O Trenzinho do Caipira" ("The Little Train of the Hillbilly"), a toccata from his Bacchianas Brasileiras # 2.

Impressions of Diamantina









Note: All photos on this website are by & the property of E. F. Giacomelli
      Updated July  2004
   © 2004   E.F. Giacomelli

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