Juscelino Kubitschek, one of Brazil’s great postwar presidents, was born in Diamantina in 1902 and spent the first seventeen years of his life in the town. His enduring monument is the capital city he built on the Planalto Central, Brasília, which fired Brazil’s and the world’s imagination and where his remains are interred (he was killed in a road accident in 1976). The house where he was born and his later home, Casa de Juscelino, is preserved as a shrine to his memory (Tues–Sat 8am–6pm, Sun 8am–1pm; R$2), on the steep Rua São Francisco, uphill from his statue at the bottom.

Juscelino had a meteoric political career, fuelled by his energy, imagination and uncompromising liberal instincts. You can understand his lifelong concern with the poor from the small, unpretentious house where he spent the first part of his life in poverty (Juscelino was from a poor Czech-gypsy family). Restoration has rather flattered the house, as the photos of how it was when he lived there make plain; with the exception of Lula, no Brazilian president has come from a humbler background. The photos and the simplicity of the house are very moving – a refreshing contrast to the pampered corruption of many of his successors.

Juscelino and his wife, Julia, are still sources of considerable pride for the inhabitants of the town he clearly never left in spirit. September 12, his birthday, is Diamantina’s most important festa, featuring music of all kinds performed in the town’s praças late into the night. Many of the bars still display photographs of him, largely dating from before he became president in 1956. And many still don’t believe his death was a genuine accident, just as few mineiros believe Tancredo really died of natural causes. The massive turnout for Juscelino’s funeral in Brasília in 1976 was one of the first times Brazilians dared to show their detestation of the military regime.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Brazil features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Amazing new aerial images show uncontacted tribe in Brazil

Amazing new aerial images show uncontacted tribe in Brazil

Incredible aerial images of one of the Amazon rainforest's uncontacted tribes have been released by Survival International. The pictures, taken by photographer …

18 Nov 2016 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
A sex-themed amusement park is set to open in Brazil

A sex-themed amusement park is set to open in Brazil

Forget about virtual-reality roller coasters, the future of theme parks just got a whole lot raunchier. Developers in Brazil are planning to build an adults…

13 May 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
23 brilliant pictures of Brazil

23 brilliant pictures of Brazil

This year sees the Olympics and Paralympics take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. If you're heading to Brazil to catch any of the sporting action, here are a fe…

04 Mar 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month