Minas Gerais ([ˈminɐz ʒeˈɾajs] (listen))[a] is a state in Southeastern Brazil. It ranks as the second most populous, the third by gross domestic product (GDP), and the fourth largest by area in the country. The state's capital and largest city, Belo Horizonte, is a major urban and finance center in Latin America, and the sixth largest municipality in Brazil, after the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Brasilia and Fortaleza, but its metropolitan area is the third largest in Brazil with just over 5,800,000 inhabitants, after those of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Nine Brazilian presidents were born in Minas Gerais, the most of any state.
With an area of 586,528 square kilometres (226,460 sq mi)—larger than Metropolitan France—it is the fourth most extensive state in Brazil. The main producer of coffee and milk in the country, Minas Gerais is known for its heritage of architecture and colonial art in historical cities such as São João del Rei, Congonhas, Ouro Preto, Diamantina, Tiradentes and Mariana. In the south, the tourist points are the hydro mineral spas, such as Caxambu, Lambari, São Lourenço, Poços de Caldas, São Thomé das Letras, Monte Verde and the national parks of Caparaó and Canastra. The landscape of the State is marked by mountains, valleys, and large areas of fertile lands. In the Serra do Cipó, Sete Lagoas, Cordisburgo and Lagoa Santa, the caves and waterfalls are the attractions. Some of Brazil's most famous caverns are located there. In recent years, the state has emerged as one of the largest economic forces of Brazil, exploring its great economic potential, which up until now has not yet been exploited.
Two interpretations are given for the origin of the name Minas Gerais. It comes from "Minas dos Matos Gerais", the former name of the colonial province ("Mines of the General Woods"). So a first and more common understanding affirms that the name simply means "General Mines", with the word Gerais serving as an adjective to the mines, which were themselves spread in several spots around a larger region. Another explanation is that this ignores the two large geographical spaces which conformed the state in its history: the region of the mines (Minas), and the region of the Gerais ("Matos Gerais" or "Campos Gerais", which means something close to "General Fields"). These corresponded to the areas of Sertão which were farther and hard to access (with an economy based on farming and agriculture) from the mining spots (whose economic space was urban from its origin). The confusion comes from the fact that the term "Gerais" is taken as an adjective to "Minas" in the first version, although according to this point of view it refers to the region called Gerais (as a noun). A further complication is that this is not a well-defined area on the map of the state, but rather a designation to these parts outside the mining spots, more related to the geography of Sertão, and more isolated from the state's nucleus.