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In the late 19th century, as the Brazilian Republic was coming into its own, Mineiros began planning a new capital to replace hard-to-reach Ouro Prêto, which had fallen out of favor as a symbol of colonialism. Belo Horizonte sprang up as an art-nouveau city, influenced by the spirit of Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progress), the new slogan on the Brazilian flag.

In the 1940s, Belo expanded northward. Then-mayor Juscelino Kubitschek commissioned young architectural-school graduate Oscar Niemeyer to design the brand-new Pampulha district. These two men are largely responsible for the wide avenues, large lakes, parks and jutting skylines that characterize the city today.

More than 100 years after its founding, Belo still has the young, contagious energy of a community reinventing itself. Plans are currently underway to move a complex of government ministries north of the center, onto the road to Confins airport, liberating space around beautiful palm-fringed Praça da Liberdade to house the city’s symphony orchestra and other arts organizations.