Vila Rica was worth its name: gold seemed endless. And so was the Portuguese Government's lust for gold. Each mine proprietor was forced to pay a fifth of his earnings with gold mining. The exploitation grew ever bigger and inevitably, but unexpectedly, the gold started running short; and Portugal seemed to ignore this fact and the tax collection continued merciless.
In the meantime, the sons of the aristocrats would study in Europe. One of them, Jose Alvares Maciel, returned from Portugal, bringing with him new dreams of freedom, inspired in Voltaire and Rousseau. These ideas soon echoed among several men in Vila Rica: jurists, church dignitaries and military, from the bottom to the top.
Among the dissatisfied there was the Royal Cavalry Petty Officer Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier, also known as Tiradentes (the Tooth Puller), Judge and poet Tomaz Antônio Gonzaga, Attorney and poet Claudio Manuel da Costa, Colonel Jose Inacio de Alvarenga Peixoto, Jose Alvares Maciel and Priests Rolim and Toledo, among others.
They came up with the idea that Minas Gerais should rebel against Portugal and become a free republic. In 1789, everybody, everywhere, in Minas Gerais were prepared for the revolution. A flag was drawn, bearing a triangle and the motto 'Libertas Quae Sera Tamen,' which means 'Liberty, However Late.'
The password for the beginning of the rebellion was "Such day is the baptism". But the news also came to the ears of Colonel Joaquim Silverio dos Reis, who found an easy way to pay his debts to the Portuguese Crown: to denounce the plotters.
THE END OF THE MOVEMENT
Tiradentes, who had been indicted as head of the movement, was arrested on May 10, 1789, in Rio de Janeiro, where he had gone to buy arms for the rebellion. Taken to the prison in "Ilha das Cobras",(Island of Snakes), he was kept in custody for three years. Those who were members of the Church were sentenced to render charity services in monasteries in Portugal and the rest were deported to the Portuguese colonies in Africa.
On April 21, 1792, Tiradentes was hung in the Lampadosa Square, in Rio de Janeiro, so as to become an example to all those who might have similar ideas. After his death, his body was dismembered, and its parts were scattered along the road leading to Vila Rica. His head was placed in a cage hanging from a 'post of shame,' in the center of Vila Rica, now Tiradentes Square.
THE INCONFIDENCIA MUSEUM
The Inconfidencia Museum houses an invaluable collection, including pieces that remind of the whole history of the Conspiracy of Minas Gerais, as well as the works of various artists of that time, which depict, somehow, the ideals they lived. It is worth a visit!