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.
Minas Gerais may be called the Profound Brazil by analogy with the France profonde. It has a distinctly more native flavour than cosmopolitan São Paulo, a more traditional slant than flashy Rio de Janeiro, and is more Portuguese than the South and São Paulo with their great influx of Italians and other Central Europeans, the North with its native Indians, or the Northeast with its heavy Afro-Brazilian influence.
The people are considered reserved, prudent, relatively silent to the point of melancholy, but welcoming and family-focused. It is one of the most religious states, with a large proportion of staunch Roman Catholics and a burgeoning Evangelical and neo-Pentecostal population, with pockets of African religions. Kardecist Spiritism is also professed by a significant portion of the population, partly due to the influence of Chico Xavier, the main spiritual icon of Brazil, who lived in Minas Gerais all his life.
Minas Gerais is also known nationally for its cuisine. The cultural basis of its cuisine is the small farmhouses, and many of the dishes are prepared using locally produced vegetables and meats, especially chicken and pork. Traditional cooking is done using coal- or wood-fired ovens and cast iron pans, making for a particularly tasty flavor; some restaurant chains have adopted these techniques and made this type of food popular in other parts of the country.
Many of the cakes and appetizers of the local cuisine use corn or cassava (known there as mandioca) flour instead of wheat, as the latter didn't adapt well to the local weather. The best-known dish from Minas Gerais is "pão de queijo", a small baked roll (known internationally as "Brazilian cheese rolls") made with cheese and cassava flour that can be served hot as an appetizer or for breakfast.
Minas Gerais is often recognised abroad as the state where the footballer Pelé was born and raised.
Many famous Brazilian writers were born in Minas Gerais: Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Fernando Sabino and João Guimarães Rosa. Aviation pionner Alberto Santos-Dumont was born in Minas Gerais.
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.
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