Could and Should
Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
83Trip End Ongoing
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And it did (blow me away). Ouro Preto is a small town nestled in the mountains of Minas Gerais. The town has done a good job preserving and/or recycling itself to look like what it might have looked like in colonial days. The town itself is in a small valley surrounded by mountains (or large hills), so getting around town was not easy. Imagine climbing up a steep, probably 40- to 50 -degree, hill that has giant cobblestones, most of which are slippery because the rocks had been worn down and polished by ages of wear
I got to Ouro Preto early on November 29 after a night bus from Rio de Janeiro. During my first two days in Ouro Preto, I just walked (hiked, really) up and down the streets of town confused at what I was seeing. What was this place?
When I was in Rio de Janeiro the week before, I found the most awesome chain bookstore: the Livraria da Travessa. In this bookstore I found the entire version of The Open Veins of Latin America in English(!) I was happy that I'd finally get to read (and understand) all of it instead of just the bits (in Spanish) contained in that Galeano anthology I picked up in Montevideo. I was happily reading it while I was in Ouro Preto and was somewhat surprised when I came across a few-page section in the book on Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto, it seems, is the lesser-known Potosi. I think most of us 'Merricans know about Potosi and the European bloodletting of its silver veins, but my high school world history class somehow left out (or reduced) Ouro Preto - I didn't even know of its existence until I heard about it in Floripa. Apparently (according to those few pages in Galeano's book) Ouro Preto was the gold equivalent to Potosi, though there was far less gold in Ouro Preto than there was silver in Potosi - but it had similar issues on imperial advantage-taking.
It really was quite something to be someplace while reading and learning about it for the first time. I'm not sure if I'm describing this concept well. I mean, I think that I'd have a different experience when I visit Potosi in a few months because I already know of its existence and some of its history. Ouro Preto was different - I knew nothing about it when I got there and after reading those few (dense) pages in Galeano's book after already being in it for 2 days, I wanted to go out and trek those same cobbled hills again because they all started to mean something different to me altogether.
Galeano quotes someone saying that, at one point, Ouro Preto was so rich from gold that they didn't know what to do - so they built churches one next to the other
I could go on and on about all this, but you get the idea.
On one of the days I also visited a neighboring town of Mariana, which, though not as impressive as Ouro Preto, still gave you those WTF? moments.
On the fourth day I was in Ouro Preto, I decided to leave. I could have easily stayed because I really liked the feel of the town and it was so cheap there. But I had to ask myself the question about whether I should stay.
Despite being astounded and confounded by the town, I still hadn't been able to shake off the funk I acquired in Rio de Janeiro
Reading list: The Open Veins of Latin America, obviously.
Playlist: A companion playlist to the one from Rio de Janeiro: One Two (this version) Three
Until next time.