I am here uploading some modest pictures from a recent trip to Ouro Preto and the cities of gold in Minas Gerais – Brazil’s mining state in which 2/3rds of the world jewels were extracted in the 18th century – under predictably odious conditions for the slaves involved. The ‘Ciclo do Ouro’ ended with the Rebellion of the Inconfidentes against the Portuguese in 1789 – an anti-tax revolt inspired by American example – and the hanging of Tiradentes, the populist leader. Other poets and writers were sent into exile in Mozambique and the episode has gone done in Brazilian legend as a piece of ‘proto-nationalism’ .
Tiradentes (1746-92) is unquestionably the iconic figure of the revolt. His curious name means, of course, ‘teeth-puller’ – i.e., dentist – and his original premises still enjoy a touristic shadow-life in present day Ouro Preto – as do the houses of the other conspirators, most of whom were officials or doyens of the local administration. He was hanged after a judicial processo in Rio de janeiro and sent back in pieces to the areas where the abortive revolt had started. He is usually depicted as a Christ-like figure approaching the scaffold with a saintly phiz in a Dickensian night-shirt. Robert Emmet is his closest Irish counterpart. While intellectuals are a bit sniffy about his populist credentials. Continue reading