History of Portugal

Gold discovered in Minas Gerais
Gold cycle ©Rodolfo Amoedo
1693 Jan 1

Gold discovered in Minas Gerais

Minas Gerais, Brazil

In 1693, gold was discovered at Minas Gerais in Brazil. Major discoveries of gold and, later, diamonds in Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso and Goiás led to a "gold rush", with a large influx of migrants. The village became the new economic center of the empire, with rapid settlement and some conflicts. This gold cycle led to the creation of an internal market and attracted a large number of immigrants.

The gold rush considerably increased the revenue of the Portuguese crown, who charged a fifth of all the ore mined, or the "fifth". Diversion and smuggling were frequent, along with altercations between Paulistas (residents of São Paulo) and Emboabas (immigrants from Portugal and other regions in Brazil), so a whole set of bureaucratic controls began in 1710 with the captaincy of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. By 1718, São Paulo and Minas Gerais became two captaincies, with eight vilas created in the latter. The crown also restricted the diamond mining within its jurisdiction and to private contractors. In spite of gold galvanizing global trade, the plantation industry became the leading export for Brazil during this period; sugar constituted at 50% of the exports (with gold at 46%) in 1760.

Gold discovered in Mato Grosso and Goiás sparked an interest to solidify the western borders of the colony. In the 1730s contact with Spanish outposts occurred more frequently, and the Spanish threatened to launch a military expedition in order to remove them. This failed to happen and by the 1750s the Portuguese were able to implant a political stronghold in the region.