Juiz de Fora (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈʒwiʒ dʒi ˈfɔɾɐ], Outsider Judge), also known as J.F., is a city in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the state border with Rio de Janeiro. According to 2017 estimates the current population is about 563,769 inhabitants. The geographical area of the municipality is 1,437 km2 (555 sq mi).
The city's location was a key factor in its economic and demographic development since it is situated between the three most important financial and economic metropolises of southeast Brazil (and also the three largest urban sprawls of the country): Rio de Janeiro (189 km (117 mi)), Belo Horizonte (260 km (160 mi)) and São Paulo (486 km (302 mi)). Major highways connect Juiz de Fora with these three metropolitan areas, the most important being the BR 040 which connects Brasília with Rio de Janeiro via Belo Horizonte. The city is built on the Paraibuna, a major tributary of the Paraíba do Sul river.
The city's decay can be seen in the figures for its population which remained stagnant from the early 1930s to the late 1960s. By the mid-1970s, the city started to experience new growth, which continues to this day. This new era began with the establishment of a federal university (UFJF) in the city and the decision by the Brazilian military junta (1964–1985) to promote the city as a major military centre. This sparked a phenomenon rarely experienced by post-industrial towns: the industrial rebirth of the city, this time following Brazilian industrialization itself, based on heavy-industry such as steel and engineering.
Recently, the city seems to be experiencing a new era in its history, again following a boom in Brazilian economy, and is reinventing itself as a major centre for services (such as telecommunications, with an important call centre) and education (following the federal university, private colleges have been established in the city).
The massive presence of immigrants – especially from Portugal, Italy, Germany, Syria and Lebanon and more recently China – throughout its history has given the city a cosmopolitan spirit and diverse cuisine. Walking down Avenida Rio Branco, (a broad and straight avenue several kilometers long) one can find typical German, Italian, Arabic, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese restaurants, as well as traditional Brazilian and vegetarian cuisine.
Juiz de Fora is an important regional cultural center, one of the few towns in south-east Minas Gerais to have permanently functional cinemas, theatres, music venues and light entertainment. There is a nationally important museum (Museu Mariano Procópio) and a Philharmonic Orchestra (Orquestra Filarmônica Pró-Musica). The city also hosts a yearly classical music festival, the Festival Internacional de Música Brasileira Colonial e Música Antiga (International Festival of Brazilian Colonial Music and Early Music). It is home to the "Meninos Cantores da Academia" the second oldest choir in this category in Brazil and to the "Coral da UFJF" an eclectic and neat choir with a remarkable musical legacy of 50 years in the city. Cultural life is also boosted by many cinema, gastronomic and rock festivals like: "Primeiro Plano Juiz de fora Cinema Festival", "JF Sabor", "Comida di Buteco JF" and "Festival de Bandas Novas", a festival specially settled for debuting bands. The Federal University and several private-owned colleges in Juiz de Fora turn it in a highly sought destination for students. Some of the courses at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora are reputedly among the best in Brazil
The south of Minas Gerais is hilly and green, with coffee and milk production. This region is notably cooler than the rest of the state, and some locations are subject to temperatures just below the freezing point during the winter. The region is also famed for its mineral-water resorts, including the cities of Poços de Caldas, Lambari, São Lourenço and Caxambu. Many industries are located at Varginha and Pouso Alegre.
The southeast of the state, called Zona da Mata (Forest Zone) was the richest region until the mid 20th century, nowadays the biggest city, Juiz de Fora, remains an important industrial, cultural and educational center, being also the fourth largest in the Minas state. The day-to-day living in the Zona da Mata however, is better represented by a group of smaller cities like Manhuaçu Além Paraíba, Viçosa, Leopoldina, Cataguases, Muriaé, Ubá, Astolfo Dutra and several others. Those cities put together form a strong economic presence based mostly on agriculture, textiles and minerals. The city of the principal coffee region in Minas Gerais is São João do Manhuaçu situated in Zona da Mata.
Prior to 1720, Minas Gerais was part of the captaincy of São Vicente (later renamed São Paulo e Minas de Ouro). The first capital of Minas Gerais, and seat of the local see, was the city of Mariana; it was later moved to Vila Rica. In the late 18th century, Vila Rica was the largest city in Brazil and one of the most populous in America. As the gold mines were exhausted over the 19th century, the city lost its importance; it was later renamed Ouro Preto and remained the state capital until the construction of the all-new, planned city of Belo Horizonte at the turn of the 20th century. The gold cycle left its mark in cities such as Mariana, Ouro Preto, Diamantina, Sabará, Tiradentes and São João del Rei. The relative isolation from European influence, added to the huge influx of gold and other valuable minerals, helped the local people to develop their own style of art, which became known as Barroco Mineiro. Prime examples of this period are the richly decorated churches in the colonial cities. The most important artist of this period was Antônio Francisco Lisboa, who became known as Aleijadinho. His sculptural and architectural work is highly valued by experts as one of the most refined artistic expressions outside Europe at that time.
Cohabitation was the most common crime in Minas Gerais. The Catholic Church was strict in the punishment of this crime, in order to prevent the widespread miscegenation between White, mostly Portuguese males with Black or Mulatto women.
According to a 2013 autosomal DNA study, the ancestral composition of the state of Minas Gerais can be described as: 59,20% European, 28,90% African and 11,90% Native American A genetic study (with a few samples and not covering the most populated part of the state, the South of Minas Gerais), suggested that the "Whites" from Minas Gerais would have slightly lower levels of European (at 71%) ancestry among the Brazilian regions and higher levels (at 16%) of African admixture, with significant Amerindian (13%) admixture, the European reference population in the study being 95% European, 2.8% Native American and 2.6% African, which would give an actual percentage of European ancestry of about 75% actual European ancestry, and less than 15% of each, Native American and African ancestries.
According to another study, however, the European ancestry is dominant throughout Brazil at about 77%, Minas Gerais included (and this taking into account the whole of the population of Minas Gerais, "white", "pardos" and "blacks"). "A new portrayal of each ethnicity contribution to the DNA of Brazilians, obtained with samples from the five regions of the country, has indicated that, on average, European ancestors are responsible for nearly 80% of the genetic heritage of the population. The variation between the regions is small, with the possible exception of the South, where the European contribution reaches nearly 90%. The results, published by the scientific magazine American Journal of Human Biology by a team of the Catholic University of Brasília, show that, in Brazil, physical indicators such as skin colour, colour of the eyes and colour of the hair have little to do with the genetic ancestry of each person, which has been shown in previous studies"
Music is one of the most striking features of Minas Gerais and has been part of the history of the state since the early 16th and 17th centuries.
From the 18th century, composers including Jose Joaquim Lobo de Mesquita, Francisco Gomes da Rocha, Marcos Coelho Neto and Manoel de Oliveira Dias reinforced the musical tradition of Minas with the composition of baroque pieces that are now revered as masterpieces. For classical music, the state features productions and performances of various orchestras and choirs.
Among them there are the Symphonic Orchestra of Minas Gerais and the Coral Lírico de Minas Gerais, a State Choir, maintained by Clovis Salgado Foundation, an institution linked to the Secretary of State for Culture. These and other groups have a strong presence in the capital and throughout the state, working for the popularization and democratization of classical music. One of the most prolific contemporary composers was born in Minas Gerais, Prof. Dr. Andersen Viana, which music has been recognized most frequently abroad.