This study focuses on the first gated communities in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, which were developed between 1951 and 1964. In an era of democracy and economic growth, the Brazilian government promoted infrastructural improvements and attracted foreign capital. However, there was a concomitant increase in inequality and poverty, and deep-rooted political conflicts. Notwithstanding the varying motivations of those who chose to live in gated communities, this article argues that the attempt by elites to establish a lifestyle of leisure and European-style sophistication in these enclaves had political, ethnic, class and gender implications. Their self-segregation strengthened the patrimonialism and authoritarianism in politics that would prevail during the ensuing military dictatorship.