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Ouro Prêto, Minas Gerais (Brazil)

Last modified: 2002-03-23 by joe mcmillan
Keywords: brazil | minas gerais | ouro preto |
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[Flag of Ouro Prêto, MG (Brazil)] by Jaume Ollé

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About the Flag of Ouro Prêto

I assume the motto is some kind of pun on the name of the city.
Joseph McMillan,28 January 2001

Proetiosum tamen nigrum, as Joe implies, means "precious though black," referring to the meaning of ouro preto, "black gold". (If I recall correctly, this in turn refers to coffee, once a highly valuable crop in this area.) Naturally, what was common sense whenever this flag was designed is now a rather racist statement-- that something is, however precious, alas black. A minimal politically correct change (and here I'm using "politically correct" in a positive sense, as it happens) would be Proetiosum quanquam niger, inverting the adversative stress to something like "precious, even if black", if my Latin doesn't fail me. Of course a more plain "Precious and black" (proetiosum et niger--or is it proetiosum nigerque?) would be much better. Anyway, the overall lack of knowledge of Latin makes this potentially offensive motto harmless, though I'd welcome any movement supporting the removal of the lettering, either on esthetic or ethical grounds.
António Martins, 29 January 2001

The name Ouro Prêto dates from 1698, when gold was found in Minas Gerais (which, by the way, means "General Mines"). I can't be related at all with coffee, as for two reasons:

(1) coffee was introduced in Brazil well after that, and become a source of wealth only at the end of the 19th century.
(2) coffee cultivation was mainly located in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (Paraíba do Sul River valley). Today Minas Gerais is the second largest coffee producing state in Brazil, but I don't think anyone would be growing coffee while there was gold to be dug.
The name "black" comes from the color of the gold nuggets. Details are at sobreop.htm.

As for the inscription, if "black" refers to gold, then there's no racism. It means simply "precious though not with the color we would expect."
Gunter Zibell, 29 January 2001

About Ouro Prêto

Ouro Prêto is one of the oldest settlements in Brazil, featuring a very well preserved urban center, embellished by the stoneworks of the famous sculptor Aleijadinho ("little cripple"), in an interesting early phase of the Brazilian mixture of Portuguese and local elements.
António Martins, 4 July 2000