As you might have seen on previous stories, Minas Gerais is a very traditional state, and particularly famous for its mining exploitation and coffee plantation techniques. Therefore, it is a perfect place to be explored, especially for those who love nature, history, and want to have a deeper comprehension of the lifestyle in old colonies, like Brazil.
Some of the traditions have been preserved- mainly the ones strongly connected to Catholicism. Brazil is a very religious country, and many touristic spots are related to religious architecture, arts, and events. That is the case of Mosteiro de Macaúbas (in English, Macaúbas Monastery), dedicated to Our Lady of Conception of Macaúbas.
Located in the small and old city of Santa Luzia (about 40 minutes away by car from Belo Horizonte) this is a monastery open to visitors, who are looking to spend some time in a spiritual and peaceful place. Nowadays, around 16 cloistered nuns live and work in this monastery; they prepare and sell rose wine and sweets made from fruits, such as orange and figs. They can rarely leave the place, and even in the church, they have separate space from the rest of the visitors. Doesn't this travel you back in time?
In 1711, the hermit Félix da Costa arrived from the state of Alagoas to Santa Luzia, where he built a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Conception of Macaúbas, of whom he was a devotee. Before his arrival, he had a vision of himself dressed as a monk in the exact place where the Monastery is, and that was the starting point for founding this religious mansion.
Nevertheless, for the first two centuries, the Mosteiro de Macaúbas was a women’s retirement mansion- the first of its kind in Minas Gerais. These homes were used to educate girls on religious principles and to teach them how to read, write, calculate, sew, and to do other activities that would prepare them for marriage. No need to say that only the richest girls from the mining elite would join these mansions. Also, prostitutes in the “rehabilitation” process and women that were away from their parents and husbands would be kept in these mansions for safety.
In the middle of the XIX century, a school for girls opened, but it only lasted until the beginning of the 1920 decade. In 1933 the women’s retirement mansion was shut to give space to the cloistered convent for the nuns of the Order of the Immaculate Conception. They follow a lifestyle that is almost unthinkable for the present and modern society we live in. Far from the internet, their only daily contact is with other nuns and a few employees of the convent. Their clothes cover all their bodies, except for face and hands. A life of total dedication to pray and work.
Even if you don't approve their lifestyle a visit to the Mosteiro de Macaúbas is a well worth experience. Of course, there are other spots in Santa Luzia you could visit too. But we'll talk about those soon!
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