Minas Gerais was the seedbed of the Brazilian revolution. Inspired by the American and French revolutions, a group of Mineiros, led by Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, nicknamed Tiradentes because he was a dentist, tried to break free from Portuguese rule, but was suppressed. The motto of Minas is Libertas quae sera tamen (Liberty, though it be delayed).
"Minas Gerais" means "General Mines", so called because of the various mines in the area. Some still operate; in February 2006 a ring of diamond smugglers, passing off diamonds from Minas as if they were South African, was broken up.
Electricity in Minas Gerais is 110 V 60 Hz, but there may be 220 V outlets, so ask. Plugs have two round prongs about 2 cm apart, but outlets that also handle US plugs are common in places frequented by tourists, such as hotels and LAN houses.
Mineiros speak Portuguese like other Brazilians, but, for some, the mineiro accent can be difficult to understand. Middle-class young people usually speak at least some English. Some expressions are often linked to the concept of the mineiro accent. Examples:
uai - used liberally as a form of emphasis, often at the end of sentences. It sounds like the English word why, but is basically meaningless and can be ignored. It is also equivalent to ué (less mineiro) and can be replaced for ora (more formal).
trem - locals use the word for train to mean thing or stuff, as in "Me passa aquele trem ali" ("Pass me that thing over there").
Trail of Tiradentes - The cobblestone streets of quaint mountain towns such as Congonhas, Ouro Branco, Ouro Preto, Mariana, São João del Rei and Tiradentes hold a great deal of colonial history, largely untouched by time. Grand churches, government buildings, and noble residences abound, their histories entwined with the local gold rush, slavery, and the Inconfidência Mineira, an important early attempt to break free from colonial rule. Many area churches bear the mark of famous architects and artists such as Aleijadinho.
Minas is home to various producers of (the finest, as some might say) cachaça, a very strong drink, often found on recipes for caipirinha cocktails.
It's capital, Belo Horizonte, is said to be the "alcoholics' paradise", with more than ten thousand bars and restaurants.
Espírito Santo — Although off-the-beaten path, the state east of Minas Gerais has much to offer tourists. The capital Vitória's beautiful bay and bridge; Vila Velha's Convento da Penha (a 16th-century hilltop Franciscan convent); Guarapari's beaches and summer parties; the German-colonized town of Domingos Martins; Pedra Azul State Park's beautiful blue rock; and Itaúnas's dunes and forró (a Northeastern Brazilian dance); are some of the main attractions that should guarantee tourists a good time.