A Town Named Tooth Puller

Tiradentes (tooth puller) is a beautiful colonial town in the mountains of Minas Gerais, an inland state of Brazil. While the town may not have a romantic name, it provides a lovely weekend getaway from Rio de Janeiro.

The four hour, winding drive is beautiful. The mountains of Minas Gerais are rich in mineral wealth – gold, diamonds, and other gems and metals. We passed a couple of working mines along the way.

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After the Portuguese colonizers discovered gold here in 1693, the subsequent gold rush caused the area’s population to grow quickly. In Lisbon, the Portuguese government actually had to implement legislation to slow the exodus of fortune seekers wishing to emigrate to Brazil. It is also estimated that 1 million slaves were brought to Minas Gerais to work the gold mines, diamond fields, and coffee plantations.

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But why is our destination town named Tiradentes (tooth puller)?

In 1746, Joaquim José da Silva Xavier was born near São João del Rei, Minas Gerais. He had various jobs as an adult but his time working as a dentist gave him his nickname, Tiradentes. In the late 1790s, times had grown ever more difficult for the colonists in Minas Gerais. Portugal’s demand for gold and taxes increased, Tiradentes and other local elites became outraged. Inspired by his readings of the French Enlightenment philosophers, he became a leader in the fledgling Brazilian independence movement and took part in the first revolt, the Minas Conspiracy. He was captured, tried, hung, and then chopped into pieces, with head stuck on a pike to set an example for others who might dare to challenge Portuguese rule. A martyr and national hero was thus created and a town took his name.

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Tiredentes

Ours was sort of a spur of the moment visit (we decided a week out) so we couldn’t find any vacancies in the old city center.

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Instead we stayed at Hotel Serra Vista – about a mile away

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We could have easily walked from our hotel into town but it was raining.

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It only took 5 minutes to drive and park.

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Lunch

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Brazilian staples

Tiradentes - food

Since the rain was still falling, we decided to duck in and out of shops for awhile.

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The clouds soon parted and the sun acted immediately on the wet streets, the humidity level seemed to triple.

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We lived three years in Portugal before moving to Brazil, so I was feeling a bit of deja-vu as we walked the cobblestone streets lined with colorfully trimmed whitewashed buildings.

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Capela de São João Evangelista, 1760

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Statue of Tiradentes

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So many charming details

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The street leading up to Igreja Matriz Santo Antônio is under construction.

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The church is named after the town’s patron saint. The facade was updated in 1810 but the church dates back to the early 1700s. The amount of gold inside is overwhelming! Sadly, no photos are allowed.

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We stopped for a water break at a corner snack/religious icon shop across the street from Santo Antônio church.

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Love the textures and colors!

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Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos Church – this church was built by and for slaves.

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We sampled cheese at Ouro Canastra and bought a wheel of our favorite.

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And then we stumbled upon a chocolate shop – I really like this town!

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Church – Bom Jesus da Pobreza

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This cutie smelled the cheese I had purchased and followed for a bit.

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Beautiful old trees in the main square.

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Enjoyed drinks and music at one of the outdoor restaurants on the square.

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More wandering before dinner.

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Fountain Chafariz de Sao Jose has three sections one for thirsty people, one for thirsty horses, one for washing clothes.

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Pinheiro – pine trees

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As the sun set, a bride and groom were having wedding photos taken. Love the antique car!

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We had dinner at DiVagar Gourmeco, a delicious Italian restaurant. My husband chatted with the Italian owner who was from a small town in Italy near where my husband lived for a few years back in the late 80s early 90s.

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My 3 cheese honey and pepper risotto.

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My husband’s pasta and softball size meatball.

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Such an enjoyable, relaxing day.

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Our Hotel Serra Vista was clean and simple. Perfectly adequate for us except the shower had low pressure and was only lukewarm.

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However, the hotel breakfast was very nice!

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Next door to our hotel was a rock shop with a reminder of the region’s slave history.

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We stopped for gas on our way back to Rio and this shrine/recycling bins juxtaposition in the parking lot amused me.

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Gas station snacks

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Do we unwrap and bite, or cut, or spread? They look way too messy for car snacking.

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Tastes like condensed milk.

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We look forward to returning to scenic Minas Gerais, to explore more of the mountains and colonial towns.

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