Serra da Moeda

Minas Gerais, Brazil

Site History and Significance 

Serra da Moeda is an imposing mountain range and cultural landscape that extends through eight municipalities in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Occupied for many centuries, the area contains diverse cultural resources and historic sites dating to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Many communities of those descending from runaway slaves, called quilombos, are scattered throughout the site. Their traditional harvest festivals and dance ceremonies still take place and are part of the area’s intangible heritage. The mountains are also the backdrop for important places in the neighboring municipalities. For example, Serra da Moeda faces the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Matosinhos, a World Heritage site with baroque sculptures by prominent Brazilian architect Aleijadinho. Serra da Moeda has a long history of gold, iron ore, and manganese mining. The word moeda, which means coin, is derived from the illegal mint that operated in the town of São Caetano between 1729 and 1731, and the abandoned ruins of the Brumadinho Fort include seventeenth-century vestiges of the gold mining industry.

Our Involvement

2014 World Monuments Watch

Despite the importance of Serra de Moeda, pressure from urban development and increasing mining activities in the mountain range endanger its cultural heritage and ecological surroundings. The practice of unregulated open-pit mining has significant social and environmental impacts on the natural and cultural landscape and on the local communities. Serra da Moeda was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch in order to help advocates demand more sustainable mining practices that better protect the heritage in the area.

In April 2014, participants celebrated Watch Day at Serra de Moeda with a workshop, exhibitions, guided tours, and heritage education opportunities. The event coincided with the “Serra de Moeda Hug,” which brought 8,000 people together to embrace the mountain.

Since the Watch

In September 2014, the Municipal Council of Historic, Cultural, Artistic, and Natural Heritage of Belo Vale announced the protection of 37.8 hectares of land in Serra da Moeda. However, in 2020 there was a new threat to Serra de Moeda and the rich cultural landscape of Minas Gerais when the Government of Minas Gerais unveiled the proposal for the South Loop Beltway. An extensive ring road cutting through an area of the state with the largest concentration of archaeological sites, this beltway would also cause severe strain on the aquifers and other environmental resources in the landscape.

Learn More 

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Last updated:
April 2021

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