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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



The foundation of Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais in 1897 represents a pivotal moment in urban planning and the search for modernity in Brazil. This thesis argues that the decision to move the capital of Minas Gerais at the outset of the First Republic and the designing of the new city encompassed an evolving vision of modernity that helped establish the planned city as a means to transport Brazil into the future. It also situates the effort to build Belo Horizonte within the wider theoretical discourse on modernity and the development of urban spaces in Brazil. The politicians in favor of the move, mudancistas, responded to the unique geo-political situation of Minas Gerais to craft a vision of the city that embraced railroads and industry and rejected Ouro Preto for its association with the colonial past. They envisioned a white space with little room for Brazil’s majority population of color that would embody the republicanism of Brazil’s future. After the decision to move the capital, Chief Engineer Aarão Reis added significant elements of Positivist thought to the vision of modernity surrounding the creation of the new capital city, Belo Horizonte. Reis sought to build a city based on mathematic rationality that would bring order to society. He echoed politicians’ rejection of Ouro Preto in his emphasis on sanitation and the prevention of unregulated development. Moreover, he intended for Belo Horizonte to be a performance of modernity that would be studied around the world.


First Advisor

Joel Wolfe

Second Advisor

Heidi Scott