History Podcasts

The Portuguese Colonization of Cape Verde

The Portuguese Colonization of Cape Verde

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The Portuguese colonization of the Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) Islands began from 1462. Initially envisaged as a base to give mariners direct access to West African trade, the Central Atlantic islands soon became a major hub of the Atlantic slave trade. Slaves were used on the sugar plantations of the islands and sold on to ships sailing to the Americas.

Unlike the other Atlantic islands under Portuguese control, the Cape Verde group was subject to arid winds and irregular rainfall, which made life there precarious. Given trading concessions for the African coast, Cape Verdeans did manage to make their agriculture sustainable, and their cotton textiles, in particular, were in great demand on the mainland. Cape Verde was strategically important as a base for resupply for ships sailing to and from Portuguese territories in the East Indies and Brazil. The islands sent African slaves across the Atlantic and used them to such a degree in the Cape Verde archipelago that eventually the population became racially mixed with few cultural ties to Europe by the 17th century. The islands gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

Geography & Climate

Located some 500 kilometres (310 mi) off the coast of West Africa (Mauritania and Senegal), the Cape Verde island group is named after the westernmost cape of the African continent. There are nine inhabited islands today, the capital being Praia on Santiago (São Tiago). The most important port is Mindelo on São Vicente. The other islands are Boa Vista, Brava, Fogo, Maio, Santo Antão, São Nicolau, and Sal. Santa Luzia is an uninhabited island, and there are several islets.

The islands are varied in topography, with some being relatively flat and others mountainous. Pico is an active volcano on Fogo and the highest point in the group at 2,829 metres (9,281 ft). The islands are divided into two groups: the Windward (Barlavento) and Leeward (Sotavento), names which indicate the strong winds which can blow in from across the Atlantic.

The Cape Verde islands proved useful stepping stones for mariners intent on expeditions of discovery further south.

The islands are not blessed with abundant water sources and rainfall is irregular, although often torrential when it does come. The soil is shallow but rich thanks to the volcanic origins of the islands. The climate is usually moderate, but the arid winds meant wheat, vines, and olives could not be grown as on other Portuguese territories. There were few meat sources on the island, the only indigenous mammal being bats. One source of meat was the sea turtles which nest on some of the islets.

Love History?

Sign up for our free weekly email newsletter!


It is likely that Cape Verde was known to ancient mariners such as the Phoenicians, and to Islamic sailors and Africans. However, it was not until the 15th century that anyone took a serious interest in populating the islands. Two Genoese mariners, sailing under the flag of Portugal, discovered the archipelago in 1460. Their names were Antonio and Bartolomeo da Noli.

The Portuguese Crown was keen to gain direct access to the gold of West Africa and the Cape Verde islands provided a handy means by which they could sail down the coast and avoid the Islamic states in North Africa who were themselves intent on monopolising African trade. The first major obstacle was a geographical one: how to sail around Cape Bojador and be able to make it back to Europe against the prevailing north winds? The answers were better ship design - caravels using lateen sails - and a bold course setting out away from the African coastline and using winds, currents, and high-pressure areas to sail back home.

Prince Henry the Navigator (aka Infante Dom Henrique, 1394-1460) had sponsored expeditions of discovery that led to the Portuguese colonization of Madeira (1420) and the Azores (1439). These islands proved useful stepping stones for mariners intent on expeditions of discovery further south. In 1462, it was the turn of Cape Verde to be added to Portugal’s maritime and agricultural assets.

In 1462 Portuguese settlers arrived on Santiago and founded Ribeira Grande, which would be the capital for the next 250 years. Initially, the islands were granted to Prince Fernando, nephew and heir of Prince Henry, but in 1495, they returned to the full control of the monarch, then King Manuel I of Portugal (r. 1495-1521).

While West Africa was, for the moment, Portugal’s to monopolize, there were some squabbles with Spain over the Atlantic islands, particularly over who should have possession of the Canary and Cape Verde Islands. The 1479-80 Treaty of Alcáçovas-Toledo set out that the Canaries were Spain’s domain while Portugal controlled the Cape Verdes, Azores, and Madeiras. There were also some additional vague clauses to the treaty that would cause trouble later such as Portugal’s right to future discoveries in Africa and Spain’s to islands beyond the Canaries, interests which were eventually identified as the Caribbean and even the Americas.


As with the Portuguese colonization of the Azores and Madeira, the Crown partitioned the islands and gave out 'captaincies' (donatarias) as part of the system of feudalism to encourage nobles to fund their development. The first 'captain' of Santiago was Antonio da Noli. Each 'captain' or donatario was given the responsibility of settling and developing their area in return for financial and judicial privileges, Accordingly, 'captains', in turn, distributed parts of their estates to their followers for development, parcels of land known as semarias. Men given such land had the responsibility of clearing it and beginning cultivation within a set period. The captaincies became hereditary offices in many cases. The model of donatarias would be applied to other Portuguese colonial territories in the future, notably in Brazil.

Cape Verde was ideally located to ship slaves from the African continent & then put them aboard the slave ships that crossed the Atlantic.

Settlers were a mix of mostly Portuguese (particularly from the Azores and the Algarve region of Portugal), some Jewish migrants seeking religious freedom, undesirables from Portugal such as deportees, and a number of Italians and French. Later, English and African settlers came, too.

As with the Portuguese colonization of Madeira and the Azores, sugar cane was planted with high hopes. However, the aridity of the islands limited yields. Droughts and famine were not infrequent due to the highly irregular rainfall. Settlers introduced such animals as goats and cattle, and forests were cut down to make way for agriculture, much to the detriment of the soil in the long term. Besides sugar, products of the Cape Verde islands included a red dye from the lichen orchil, salt deposits (on Maio, Sal, and Boavista), grains and roots of African origin, maize introduced from the Americas, manioc, and sweet potatoes. Horses were reared on Santiago in the 15th century which were then shipped to the African coast. The cotton textiles produced on the islands were in great demand on the mainland coast and were designed specifically for that market using traditional African patterns. There was, too, a specific Cape Verdean design - six stripes of white, black, and blue - and cloth strips of this design were even used as a form of currency on the islands.

The Portuguese Crown had granted Cape Verdeans the right to trade with the African coastal communities in 1466, and they were given tax exemptions. There were some conditions such as only residents who had been on the islands for four years could trade and they could only do so with goods from the Cape Verde islands. These favours were likely granted because the agriculture on the island was not dependable. The arrangement meant that Portuguese trade settlements were established on the continent, which could take advantage of the well-organised African trade that saw goods travel from the interior along the major rivers (e.g. Gambia and Senegal) to the coast. Goods acquired included gold, slaves, ivory, pepper, beeswax, gum, and dyewoods. At this stage, the Portuguese made no attempt at conquest since they lacked the manpower and it was, in any case, unnecessary since the existing trade networks were so well-established and organised. Sometimes fortifications were built to protect trade centres, but these were always constructed with permission from the local chiefs. The good trade relations between the islands and coast brought other advantages such as the possibility to lease land for cultivation when there were poor harvests on the islands and for the Cape Verdeans to offer refuge to exiles during tribal warfare on the mainland.

The islands continued to be of strategic value to mariners. Vasco da Gama’s historic voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to India in 1497-8 stopped off at the islands. Ferdinand Magellan’s epic expedition also called in for resupply at the Cape Verde Islands during the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1519-22.


The islands really gained wider prominence when the slave trade to the Americas took off. Cape Verde was ideally located to ship slaves from the African continent and then put them aboard the slave ships that crossed the Atlantic to be used as labour in plantations in the Caribbean, North America, and Brazil. On the return journey, these ships brought back trade goods which were then marketed through Cape Verde and on to Africa and Europe.

Slaves also worked on the sugar and cotton plantations on the Cape Verde Islands and in the industry producing indigo die. All three products were exported, along with island-made fabrics, to the African mainland and exchanged for slaves, which were then shipped to the Americas. Slaves were given a number of basic lessons in Portuguese and Christianity, both of which made them more valuable if they ever made it to the Americas. These lessons also eased traders’ consciences that they were somehow benefitting the slaves and giving them the opportunity of what they considered eternal salvation. Around 3,000 slaves a year took the terrible and often deadly voyage across the Atlantic. Many free Cape Vedereans went, too, attracted by the possibilities of Portugal’s new presence in Brazil.

The Florentine merchant and slaver Francesco Carletti visited the Cape Verde Islands in 1594. He gives the following vivid description of the slave trade on Santiago:

…we bought seventy-five slaves, two-thirds men and one-third women, both young and old, large and small. All were mixed together according to the custom of the country in a flock, just as in our country we would buy sheep, having first taken all the necessary precautions to make sure that they were in good health, had good constitutions and had no bodily defects. Each owner then marks them, or to say it more appropriately, brands them with his own brand mark. This is made of silver and is heated in the flame of a candle made of tallow with which the burn is anointed. The mark is made on the breast, or the arm or the back so that they be recognised.

…The slaves were embarked in the ship we had hired, the men below decks pressed and squeezed together one against the other in such a way that they had great difficulty in turning from one side to the other when they wanted to. The women were lodged after their own fashion on deck wherever they could find room in the ship.

(Newitt, 156-8)

As Cape Verde was much further from Portugal than the other Atlantic colonies (about two weeks sailing), so the islands attracted fewer European settlers, especially women. As a consequence, Europeans and Africans intermarried on the islands, creating an Afro-Portuguese culture which had a strong African religious and artistic influence. It was very often these free mixed-race Cape Verdeans who settled in the trading posts on the coast of Africa.

Another cultural influence was from the Portuguese ships sailing from the East which stopped off at the islands on their way back to Europe. As the major junction between the Portuguese African, American, and Indian empires, the Cape Verdes were certainly a cultural melting pot. In addition, the number of resident slaves steadily increased to eventually greatly outnumber the free settlers. By 1582, the populations of Fogo and Santiago, still the two main islands, were made up of 1,600 whites and mixed-race mulattoes, 400 free blacks, and 13,700 slaves.

The wealth going through the islands and their strategic value inevitably attracted unwanted attention from other European powers, notably England and Spain, but also pirates of various nationalities. Pirates attacked the archipelago in 1541, and the English came in 1585 and 1592. The first English raid was led by Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596 CE) and resulted in the sacking of several settlements on Santiago. These latter raids had developed since Philip II of Spain (r. 1556-1598) had taken over Portugal in 1580 and so the Cape Verde Islands were seen as a legitimate target by Spain’s enemies. In 1598, a Dutch fleet attacked the islands as the international competition around West Africa became ever more intense. Trade routes also moved to the direct passage between Europe and West Africa so that the islands went into decline. A series of droughts throughout the 16th century further impoverished the islands. In 1712, the French pirate Jacques Cassard attacked the islands with the consequence that Praia became the capital in a gradual process not fully completed until 1770.

Later History

As the fortunes of the islands declined, many Cape Verdeans migrated to the Portuguese islands of São Tomé and Principe or to North America where the whaling industry offered employment. This was especially so with the end of the slave trade in 1876. The islands have always been strategically important and now they became useful as a refuelling base for steamships heading across the Atlantic and down the coast of Africa, even if the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 meant that east-bound ships no longer had to go around the Cape of Good Hope. An important coaling station was developed for passing ships at Mindelo on São Vicente.

The various national groups on the islands intermarried early on in the island’s history and so the majority of today’s islanders are of mixed European and African descent, known as mestiço or Crioulo, which is also the name of the language spoken (with Portuguese still dominating in more formal contexts). Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion, and the Iberian peninsula still dominates imports and exports. Cape Verde gained independence from Portugal in 1975 in a less tumultuous handover than was seen in Portuguese colonies on the African continent. The islands then became the Republic of Cabo Verde. Cidade Velha (formerly Ribeira Grande) on Santiago is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its rich colonial architecture.

History of the Cape Verde Islands

The history of Cape Verde is typical and yet unique for its location. For three centuries, the islands were a setting for the transatlantic slave trade, exile for political prisoners of Portugal and a place of refuge for Jews and other victims of religious persecution during the Spanish-Portuguese Inquisition. But even in the 19th century, the slaves led very different lives than those of North or South America: On Cape Verde, families developed from the “free” people and slaves who lived together in peacefully and as a matter of course. Situated at the hub between Europe, America and the Indian Ocean, Cape Verde can now look back at a significant achievement: the birth of a completely new Creole culture and language, evolving from the blending of very diverse ethnic groups. The Creole people assumed a forerunner role in the independence movement of Africa in its seemingly never-ending battle against colonization. They also assumed the intellectual fatherhood for one of the most modern constitutions in one of the few pluralistic but stable systems in the region.

Discovery period, slave trade and famine

The discovers of Cape Verde, the Portuguese, described the islands upon their arrival in 1456 as “completely uninhabited.” In any case, there is still no evidence of any human life before the descoberta.

The Portuguese intended to establish new trade routes and goods, as well as expanding their knowledge of geography since Islamic traders controlled the Trans-Saharan trade of gold and slaves to the north and salt to the south. The Turks dominated the overland route along the Mediterranean for the trade of spices and fabric with India, charging high customs duties. The goal was to discover a new, Christian-controlled access to gold, slaves and spices in West Africa and India.

The recorded history of Cape Verde begins with Portuguese discovery in 1456. Possible early references go back around 2000 years. The Portuguese explorers discovered the islands in 1456 and described the islands as uninhabited. However, given the prevailing winds and ocean currents in the region, the islands may well have been visited by Moors or Wolof, Serer, or perhaps Lebou fishermen from the Guinea (region) coast.

Folklore suggests that the islands may have been visited by Arabs, centuries before the arrival of the Europeans.[citation needed] The Portuguese writer and historian Jaime Cortesão (1884—1960) reported a story that Arabs were known to have visited an island which they referred to as “Aulil” or “Ulil” where they took salt from naturally occurring salinas. Some believe they may have been referring to Sal Island.

European discovery and settlement

In 1456, at the service of prince Henry the Navigator, Alvise Cadamosto, Antoniotto Usodimare (a Venetian and a Genoese captains, respectively) and an unnamed Portuguese captain, jointly discovered some of the islands. In the next decade, Diogo Gomes and António de Noli, also captains in the service of prince Henry, discovered the remaining islands of the archipelago. When these mariners first landed in Cape Verde, the islands were barren of people but not of vegetation. The Portuguese returned six years later to the island of São Tiago to found Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha), in 1462—the first permanent European settlement city in the tropics.

In Spain the Reconquista movement was growing in its mission to recover Catholic lands from the Muslim Moors who had first arrived as conquerors in the 8th century. In 1492 the Spanish Inquisition also emerged in its fullest expression of anti-Semitism. It spread to neighboring Portugal where King João II and especially Manuel I in 1496, decided to exile thousands of Jews to São Tomé, Príncipe, and Cape Verde.

The Portuguese soon brought slaves from the West African coast. Positioned on the great trade routes between Africa, Europe, and the New World, the archipelago prospered from the transatlantic slave trade, in the 16th century.

The islands’ prosperity brought them unwanted attention in the form of a sacking at the hands of many pirates including England’s Sir Francis Drake, who in 1582 and 1585 sacked Ribeira Grande. After a French attack in 1712, the city declined in importance relative to Praia, which became the capital in 1770.

Colonial Period

In 1747 the islands were hit with the first of the many droughts that have plagued them ever since, with an average interval of five years. The situation was made worse by deforestation and overgrazing, which destroyed the ground vegetation that provided moisture. Three major droughts in the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in well over 100,000 people starving to death. The Portuguese government sent almost no relief during any of the droughts.[citation needed]

Abolition of the slave trade

The 19th-century decline of the lucrative slave trade was another blow to the country’s economy. The fragile prosperity slowly vanished. Cape Verde’s colonial heyday was over.

Main article: History of Cape Verdean immigration in the United States

It was around this time that Cape Verdeans started emigrating to New England. This was a popular destination because of the whales that abounded in the waters around Cape Verde, and as early as 1810 whaling ships from Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the United States (U.S.) recruited crews from the islands of Brava and Fogo.

At the end of the 19th century, with the advent of the ocean liner, the island’s position astride Atlantic shipping lanes made Cape Verde an ideal location for resupplying ships with fuel (imported coal), water and livestock. Because of its excellent harbour, Mindelo (on the island of São Vicente) became an important commercial centre during the 19th century, mainly because the British used Cape Verde as a storage depot for coal which was bound for the Americas. The harbour area at Mindelo was developed by the British for this purpose.

The island was made a coaling and submarine cable station, and there was plenty of work for local labourers. This was the golden period of the city, where it gained the cultural characteristics that made it the current cultural capital of the country. During World War II, the economy collapsed as the shipping traffic was drastically reduced. As the British coal industry went into decline in the 1980s, this source of income dried up, and Britain had to abandon its Cape Verdean interests — which ended up being the final strike to the highly dependent local economy.

Although the Cape Verdeans were treated badly by their colonial masters, they fared slightly better than Africans in other Portuguese colonies because of their lighter skin. A small minority received an education and Cape Verde was the first African-Portuguese colony to have a school for higher education. By the time of independence, a quarter of the population could read, compared to 5% in Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau).

This largesse ultimately backfired on the Portuguese, however, as literate Cape Verdeans became aware of the pressures for independence building on the mainland, while the islands continued suffering from frequent drought and famine, at times from epidemic diseases and volcanic eruptions, and the Portuguese government did nothing. Thousands of people died of starvation during the first half of the 20th century. Although the nationalist movement appeared less fervent in Cape Verde than in Portugal’s other African holdings, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC, acronym for the Portuguese Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde) was founded in 1956 by Amílcar Cabral and other pan-Africanists, and many Cape Verdeans fought for independence in Guinea-Bissau.[2]

In 1926 Portugal had become a rightist dictatorship which regarded the colonies as an economic frontier, to be developed in the interest of Portugal and the Portuguese. Frequent famine, unemployment, poverty and the failure of the Portuguese government to address these issues caused resentment. The Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar wasn’t about to give up his colonies as easily as the British and French had given up theirs.

After World War II, Portugal was intent to hold on to its former colonies, since 1951 called overseas territories. When most former African colonies gained independence in 1957/1964, the Portuguese still held on. Consequently, following the Pijiguiti Massacre, the people of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau fought one of the longest African liberation wars.

After the fall (April 1974) of the regime in Portugal, widespread unrest forced the government to negotiate with the PAIGC, and on July 5, 1975, Cape Verde gained independence from Portugal.

The first national flag of Cape Verde.

Immediately following a November 1980 coup in Guinea-Bissau (Portuguese Guinea declared independence in 1973 and was granted de jure independence in 1974), relations between the two countries became strained. Cape Verde abandoned its hope for unity with Guinea-Bissau and formed the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). Problems have since been resolved, and relations between the countries are good. The PAICV and its predecessor established a one-party state and ruled Cape Verde from independence until 1990.

Responding to growing pressure for a political opening, the PAICV called an emergency congress in February 1990 to discuss proposed constitutional changes to end one-party rule. Opposition groups came together to form the Movement for Democracy (MpD) in Praia in April 1990. Together, they campaigned for the right to contest the presidential election scheduled for December 1990. The one-party state was abolished September 28, 1990, and the first multi-party elections were held in January 1991.

The MpD won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, and the MpD presidential candidate António Mascarenhas Monteiro defeated the PAICV’s candidate by 73.5% of the votes cast to 26.5%. He succeeded the country’s first President, Aristides Pereira, who had served since 1975.

Legislative elections in December 1995 increased the MpD majority in the National Assembly. The party held 50 of the National Assembly’s 72 seats. A February 1996 presidential election returned President António Mascarenhas Monteiro to office. The December 1995 and February 1996 elections were judged free and fair by domestic and international observers.

In the presidential election campaign of 2000 and 2001, two former prime ministers, Pedro Pires and Carlos Veiga were the main candidates. Pires was the Prime Minister during the PAICV regime, while Veiga served as prime minister during most of Monteiro’s presidency, stepping aside only when it came time for campaigning. In what might have been one of the closest races in electoral history, Pires won by 12 votes, he and Veiga each receiving nearly half the votes.

Acculturation and Assimilation

Cape Verdean Americans carry with them a history of hardship and devastation into the United States. The strength that they developed fortify them as they face obstacles life in a new country. Cape Verdean immigrants keep watch not only for themselves in a new country, but continue to work for the betterment and survival of their fellow Cape Verdeans who remain in the islands.

The distinction between "black" and "white" in the America to which the Cape Verdeans arrived was defined and the Cape Verdeans faced prejudice. Dr. Dwayne Williams, the executive director of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, spoke about Cape Verdeans to a group at Brown University in Providence in February of 1997. He explained that even when Americans attempted to classify Cape Verdeans as black, and often dismissed them because of that, "Cape Verdeans [still] refused to fit within this framework. That differentiates them." Those Cape Verdeans born in the nineteenth century, and before World War I in the islands and in America, created a distinct identity, separate from their African ancestors. They did not think of themselves as "African Americans" in the same way that the descendants of America's slaves did. For them, their European blood was as much a part of their ancestry as was their African blood. That was true especially for those who settled away from the concentrated Cape Verdean environments of New England, and moved into the Midwest. Because a majority of them were Roman Catholics in a country where few African Americans shared in that faith, Cape Verdean Americans more often found themselves in the company of other white Catholics. Many of these white Catholics were immigrants from Eastern Europe, also struggling to blend into their new country. The Cape Verdeans considered themselves Portuguese and usually expressed that distinction when their identity was questioned.

Cape Verdean immigrants, like their fellow white parishioners and factory coworkers in ethnic neighborhoods, spoke a different language. Although many of them were forced into black neighborhoods because of their skin color, earlier generations of Cape Verdean Americans maintained a society separate from other African Americans surrounding them. Their customs, their language, and their religion kept them together in closely-knit extended families. Cape Verdeans, into the middle of the twentieth century, often had large immediate families, with five or more children. For Catholics, practicing a faith that banned birth control and abortion, children were accepted as a natural consequence of marriage. For Cape Verdean Catholics endured a past marked by great uncertainty because of droughts and famines, and children were accepted not only as a matter of their faith. They were also received with joy at the prospect of continuing on and surviving for generations to come.

When the children and grandchildren of the first immigrant waves became involved in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, a new sense of solidarity with other African Americans emerged. Cape Verdean Americans of the post World War II generation in particular saw the similarities between their own struggles and the struggles of other African Americans. While older Cape Verdean Americans frowned upon these ties, the fight for independence from Portuguese rule back in the islands was headed toward victory. Cape Verdeans moved to places all over the world, from Macau to Haiti to Argentina to northern Europe

By the end of the twentieth century, the Cape Verdean community in America had grown in its self-awareness as well as its opportunities to express its identity. Cape Verdean Americans who were scattered throughout the United States, from well-established communities in New England and Southern California to newer clusters in metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, began to renew their heritage with the younger generations.


Roman Catholicism provides much of the Cape Verde's religious heritage, but animist customs and beliefs linger in the practices of Cape Verdeans in America as well as the islands. The superstitions born of their African ancestry included a belief in witches, the powers of healers and non-traditional medicine. Nuno Miranda, a healer and spiritualist recognized by all Cape Verdeans in the twentieth century, was responsible for passing down many such customs. Many pagan beliefs were eventually interwoven into the celebration of Roman Catholic holidays.


Many proverbs continue to be passed down from the older generations born in the islands to the younger generations born in America. These proverbs reflected the often troubled lives of the Cape Verdean people, for example: Who stays will not go away. Who never went away will not come back anymore Without leaving there is no coming back If we die in the departure, God will give us life in the return Cover just as your cloth permit it (do not bite off more than you can chew) A pretty girl is like a ship with all its flags windwards Who does not want to be a wolf should not its pelt wear Who mix himself up with pigs will eat bran A poor foreigner eats the raw and the undercooked There is no better mirror than an old friend Good calf sucks milk from all the cows Who does not take the risk, do not taste (life) The fool is sly people's bread What is good ends soon. What is bad never ends.


The food that most Cape Verdean Americans eat is the dish Katxupa, or Cachupa. Cape Verdeans offer many slight variations of this, but the two main versions are Cachupa rica, indicating the inclusion of meat for the rica, or rich people and Cachupa povera, for the povera, or poor, who cannot afford meat. The main ingredients of the dish are beaten corn, ground beef, bacon, sausages, pigs' feet, potatoes, dry beans, cabbage, garlic, onions, laurel (bay) leaves and salt and pepper to taste. All of these ingredients are cooked slowly together in a big pot for several hours. It is sometimes made with fish in America's New England community and in the islands, where fish is plentiful.

Another favorite dish is Canja de galinha, which includes chicken, rice and tomatoes, and is cooked with onions, garlic, sage, and bay leaves. This dish is always included at funerals, or in times of big family celebrations and parties. Jagacida is cooked with lima or kidney beans, salt, pepper and fresh parsley, and served with meat or poultry . Caldo de peixe is a fish soup, and a favorite among an island culture that relies on fish as a major food source. Lagaropa, a red grouper fish, native to the sea surrounding the islands, is used when available. Custom dictates that when someone is suffering from too much alcohol consumption, a spicy version of the soup is necessary to recover. For something sweet, Pudim de Leite, a simple milk pudding is served. Whenever food is served among Cape Verdean Americans, the important factor is the coming together of family and friends, celebrating the gift of food, and sharing it with love.


The hardships and trials of the Cape Verdean homeland, and their struggles in the lands to which they immigrated, has resulted in a music full of melancholy, or morna, as the traditional ballads are known. Cape Verdeans enjoy tunes from the beautiful mixture of guitar, violin, and vocals. Song lyrics often reflect the separations endured throughout the waves of immigration, particularly between the islands and America. John Cho wrote in his article, "The Sands of Cape Verde," that, "Given such a history filled with loss and departures, plus having the Portuguese (themselves known for their pensive nature) as their European component, it is not a surprise that the popular music of Cape Verde are steeped in melancholy. Alienation and a forced abandonment of roots have also played a role, as the bulk of the population is composed of the descendants of African slaves from various ethnic backgrounds who were cut off from their histories and had to develop a Creole language and culture under a particularly ruthless colonial regime. An obvious analogy is the development of another great music of melancholia, the blues, also by slaves and their progeny in the United States." In America, Cape Verdeans have continued their devotion to their music. In addition, their heritage led to an interest and participation in the distinctly American music, jazz.


The major holidays of Cape Verdean Americans are rooted primarily in their Christian beliefs, and include Christmas, the Feast of St. John the Baptist and the celebration of Carnival, the weeklong period preceding Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the season of Lent. The celebration of saints constitutes many of the other celebrations among Cape Verdeans. Most of the holidays in the islands and abroad occur during the months of May, June, and July, with some, such as the Feast of All Saints, and All Souls' Day, occurring in early November. In addition to celebrating the July 4 as Independence Day for the United States, their adopted country, Cape Verdean Americans share the worldwide recognition of the islands' own day of independence from Portuguese colonial rule on July 5th. The Cape Verdean Americans of the New England area celebrate St. John's feast with traditional parades, dancing the kola, and favorite foods.


Americans of Cape Verdean ancestry do not suffer any recognizable disease or illness specific to them. However, they do have an increased risk for high blood pressure and diabetes that is common among African Americans.

Due to the unique role of Cape Verdeans as an isolated cultural group in America, social services addressing problems such as domestic abuse and youth violence and delinquency were not readily available until the end of the 1990s. Until then women and men suffered in silence in deference to the family and to the Catholic church. This situation began to change when people like Jose Barros and his Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston's Roxbury section, and Noemia Montero with the Log School Family Education Center in Dorchester, another Boston-area neighborhood, developed programs for the betterment of Cape Verdean immigrants, some of them not yet American citizens, who struggled with identity, poverty, and poor education.

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Piecing together the past is always going to be a difficult task due to the nature of records available and their consequent embellishments by the authors to relay events in a neutral light. Nevertheless, efforts can be made to piece together histories of certain times, not least of all the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade because we know full well significant historical accounts to be true. It is, therefore, a matter of filling in the gaps to paint a picture that faithfully reproduces a timeline that is congruent with what is known.

Due to my passion in researching history, I am able to give a reasonable account of the past although I will freely admit it is tainted by a particular viewpoint that I am most passionate about and as you will read, I have a certain flavor that causes me to draw conclusions with a context of truth search.

I give you here, my account of events that bring us forward …

It is from Portugal that I begin this account since it is from this land that my patriarchal ancestors began and it is from here also that subsequent notorious events were indeed birthed. From the inequities of Portugal and the Roman Catholic Church in its vilifying of what came to be the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade to the colonization of significant swathes of land the world over, Portugal is by far a worthy contender for my attention.

Continuing on from the accounts of Nuno Alvares Pereira in the 15 th century, it is apparent that what was to infect the Kingdom of Portugal was an insatiable hunger for dominion of land, trade, and people. This was indeed the ‘Golden Age’ in the eyes of many of its wealthy inhabitants and the desire was too great for their leaders to do anything but continue with their domination of the seas and an insatiable desire for conquest.

Being one of the very first European nations to begin building a colonial empire, it was not only a time of great exploration but also a time of taking great advantage of the power that the Papal Monarchy held over the rights and privileges of every human being on the planet. Privileges that would allow the colonialists a ‘free pass’ to kidnap, rape, torture, and murder, any indigenous population that was considered to be not of the Christian order.

It was during this century that Portuguese sailors would apparently ‘discover’ and colonize several Atlantic archipelagos including Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde, and the ‘African’ Coast. This led to the enslavement of the first Negroland (African) people and the start of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. In 1441, Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão captured 12 Negrolanders in Cabo Branco (modern Mauritania) and take them to Portugal as slaves.

European and African Slave Traders

The two Maps below boldly display what was to be the very last depiction of the then widely known area called The Kingdom of Judah (Whidah) from whence came the kidnapped slaves on the Slave Coast. Further into the interior of Negroland and to the west as far as Liberia, multiple millions of people were slaughtered, raped, tortured and sold into slavery, not only by the colonial slave traders themselves but the very African people who had become their neighbors for several centuries beforehand.

It was known always among African tribes that the Hebrews were a foreign people and these stories were passed down through the ages as new generations arrived. Still, to this very day, many of the African nations know full well that the so-called ‘African American’ was never an African in the first place. He was sold into slavery, to the colonialists, simply because the riches that they could provide, offered for their captives, was just too enticing to turn down.

It was unacceptable for the colonialists at the beginning of the slave trade to enter into the heartland of Africa, not least because they feared what might happen to them once they entered the interior. So it was predominantly coordinated by the African Kings that controlled the lands and due to the fact that the Hebrew Israelite’s were foreigners in the land, it was an easy task and fine pickings for the African rulers to claim them as trespassers and to sell them as slaves to the colonial traders.

Early map of Negroland depicts the coastal regions of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade

Many more than this dozen slaves are brought into Portugal over the ensuing 3 years, which is serving a need for the traders to reap profits from the buyers of the labor and at the same time establishing themselves as businessmen with the African Traders in Negroland. In 1444, de Freitas lands 235 kidnapped and enslaved Africans in Lagos. It is the first large group of African slaves brought to Europe.

When the very first slave auction took place, the people in Portugal began to see the reality of what was happening and there was much talk between the common folk as they began to speak out, enraged at seeing what was happening with these stolen indigenous people. The separation of families no doubt struck at their hearts as the stolen families were separated by slave purchasers. However, it did very little to sway the Crown or the slave merchants who were engrossed in increasing their revenues. In fact, it had the opposite effect of only helping to solidify the practice bylaws that were established.

The slave merchants were able to justify slavery through precedents that allowed the use of slaves, captive acquisitions by war or trade. Using lawyers and Papal decrees that helped them to relegate the slaves to inferior positions of humanity, the path was cleared for the most horrendous holocaust that eclipses anything that has been inflicted on any one race in the history of the world, including the Jew-ish holocaust of the Nazi’s

To clear up an argument that justified the enslavement of captives, people historically have cited the laws that prevailed throughout Christian Europe previously. All prisoners of war could be justifiably enslaved, but by the 13 th Century, there was a general consensus that Christians could only enslave non-Christians provided they were taken in a just war. The ‘just’ war that is cited is that of a crusading nature. It was within the power of the Holy Roman Church to authorize war on ‘infidels’ with the expectation that the conquered be converted to Christianity as soon as possible. Still, the Portuguese Kings believed they had sufficient authority to declare war on the ‘infidels’ of Western Africa regardless of Papal authorization and any doubts about the legitimacy of enslavement quickly disappeared when wars were recognized as ‘Crusades’ and therefore indisputably just.

house362/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Pope-Nicholas-V-300x225.jpg?resize=300%2C225&is-pending-load=1" />

Pope Justify’s the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade

In 1442, D. Henrique wished to elevate the raids on West Africa to the status of a crusade so that he could legitimize the human trafficking and also attract the required manpower with the promise of ‘spiritual indulgences. His wishes were granted in the Papal Bull ‘illius qui’.

1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the Papal Bull ‘Dum Diversis’ authorizing the Portuguese to reduce any non-Christians to the status of slaves and enemies of Christ in West Africa. The Portuguese ‘sugar-slave complex’ is also started and sugar is first planted in the Portuguese island of Madeira. For the first time, African slaves are put to work on sugar plantations.

Officially, however, most of the trade between the Portuguese and West Africa was limited to friendly trade. The new mode of acquiring slaves seemed to need justification considering they were trading with ‘infidels’ that was currently prohibited since they were enemies of Christendom. The Portuguese make short work of the required authority and in 1455 Pope Nicholas V issued the Papal Bull ‘Romanus Pontifex’ giving them exclusive rights to conquer and enslave the West African People legally. The following one hundred years of enslavement, conquest, and war is perpetuated by an underlying biblical reference to the plight of the Negro slaves. To justify the horrors, people would site the acceptance of slavery because of the sinful race of Ham, whose son Canaan’s descendants had been cursed by his father Noah.

Inhumane Slave Ship Transport Arrangements

By the 1460s, Portuguese settlers begin to habitat the Cape Verde islands because of it’s lush, tropical landscape, valleys and close proximity to the West African coastline, it is a prime territory on the sea routes for traders between Europe, West Africa, and the Americas. They set up plantations on the settlers’ estates by using some of the captured slaves that are bound for Madiera, Portugal, and Spain.

Despite Papal opposition, Spanish merchants begin to trade in large numbers of slaves in the 1470s. Carlos de Valera of Castille in Spain brings back 400 slaves from Africa and the slave trade is beginning to spread like a disease. Nearly a decade later João Afonso Aveiro makes contact with the kingdom and of Benin. The Portuguese settled the West African island of São Tomé. This uninhabited West African island is planted with sugar and populated by African slaves by the Portuguese. The settlement thus extended and developed the sugar-slave complex that had been initiated in Madeira

Around this time, a trading agreement is established with the Kingdom of Dahomey. Though the leaders of Dahomey appeared initially to resist the slave trade, it flourished in the region of Dahomey for almost three hundred years, beginning in 1472 with a trade agreement with Portuguese merchants, leading to the area’s being named “the Slave Coast”. By about 1750, the King of Dahomey was earning an estimated £250,000 per year by selling so-called ‘Africans’ to the European slave-traders in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Enterprise.

TransAtlantic Slave Trade Door of No Return

The Dahomey Kingdom’s name eventually changed to Benin. The capital’s name Porto-Novo is of Portuguese origin, meaning “New Port”. It was originally developed as a port for the slave trade. The most haunting of all memorabilia for me personally is the ‘Door of No Return, (port du non retour) in Ouidah (Whidah | Kingdom of Judah), a former slave trade post in Benin which still stands today as a testament to the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. As the very last thing that many of the slaves saw as they were shipped out to the waiting ships and prepared for the long terrible voyage, I am too perplexed and ill-equipped to understand the significance of what my eyes perceive as I glance upon this most repulsive doorway as it stands in full color, a reality of betrayal.

By 1497, all free Jews and Muslims have been expelled from Portugal or converted to Christianity and by the mid-16 th Century the Crown had stepped up its efforts to baptize the Negro slave to Christendom in the Royal Trading Posts in Africa. Some freethinkers began to have serious doubts about the legitimacy of the slave trade, questioning whether the slaves had been justly acquired and whether the method of propagating the Christian belief was effective. They were mostly Spaniards under the influence of Las Casas and Victoria, who had drawn attention to the plight of the American Indians. Since Spanish America was one of the principal destinations of the slaves from western Africa, it was not surprising they would concern themselves with the justice of the means used to acquire the African Slaves who often replaced the dwindling American Indian workforce.

Slave Coast of West Africa’s Trans Atlantic Slave Trade

The labor of the slaves in the Cape Verde Islands primed a profitable trade with the African region which becomes known as Portuguese Guinea or the Slave Coast. The slaves work in the Cape Verde plantations, growing cotton, and indigo in the fertile valleys. They are also employed in weaving and dying factories, where these commodities are transformed into cloth. The cloth is exchanged in Guinea for slaves. And the slaves are sold for cash to the slaving ships which pay regular visits to the Cape Verde Islands.

TransAtlantic Slave Trade Triangular Trade

house362/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/João-de-Barros-lithograph-by-Luiz-after-a-portrait-by-Legrane.-267x300.jpg?resize=267%2C300&is-pending-load=1" />

This African trade, together with the prosperity of the Cape Verde Islands, expands greatly with the development of labor-intensive plantations growing sugar, cotton, and tobacco in the Caribbean and America. The Portuguese enforce a monopoly of the transport of African slaves to their own colony of Brazil. But other nations with transatlantic interests soon become the main visitors to the Slave Coast.

By the 18th century, the majority of the ships carrying out this appalling commerce are British. They waste no part of their journey, having evolved the procedure known as the triangular trade, they turn the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade into a monumental enterprise of biblical proportions.

Within the former space in time was one Joao de Barros, educated in the household of the Portuguese heir-apparent and became a good classical scholar. His chivalrous romance Crónica do Imperador Clarimundo (1520) induced King Manuel I of Portugal to encourage Barros in his idea of writing an epic history of the Portuguese in Asia. But first he wrote several moral, pedagogical, and grammatical works, including Rópica pnefma (1532 “Spiritual Merchandise”), the most important philosophical dialogue of the time in Portugal, and an elementary Portuguese primer-catechism (1539) that became the prototype of all such works.

The Portuguese fort of Santiago, Cape Verde

The Cidade Velha (Old Town) of the island of Santiago in Cape Verde islands is located 15 kilometers west of the city of Praia, along the Santiago island coast. It constitutes the first city built by Europeans in the tropics and the first capital of the Cape Verde archipelago.

The settlement was originally named as Ribeira Grande, been changing name to avoid ambiguity with the homonymous village on the island of Santo Antão. Because of its history, manifested by a valuable architectural heritage, on 26 June 2009 the old town was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

The Forte Real de São Filipe also referred to as Fortaleza Real de São Filipe ou Cidadela – which dominates the city 120 meters high – was erected in 1587. This fort was the first and most important fortification of the archipelago of Cape Verde. Work began in 1587 and were completed in 1593, in charge of military engineer João Nunes and with outlines of Italian military architect and engineer Filippo Terzi.

The Fort features a trapezoidal shape, with with stone walls, two full pentagonal bastions at the west and east corners, separated by curtains, and two half-bastions at the north and south corners, with its watchtowers. The interior of the fortress is accessed by two gates: the main gate is located on the southwest wall on the side facing the city. The defensive set was still integrated by seven small fortifications.

Portuguese Fort Santiago, Cape Verde. Author and Copyright João Sarmento

Fortaleza Sao Filipe, Santiago, Cape Verde. Google Earth

Portuguese Fort Santiago, Cape Verde. Author and Copyright João Sarmento Portuguese Fort Santiago, Cape Verde. Author and Copyright João Sarmento Fortaleza Sao Filipe, Santiago, Cape Verde. Google Earth

The beginning of colonization

Ceuta was the first territory that would become a Portuguese colony after"its conquest"against a Muslim stronghold in 1415. With approximately 200,000 men, Portugal took control of the city in one day.

In 1453 Portugal suffered an economic delay because the Islamists closed the way both by sea and land, which prevented the maintenance of commercial activities until finding a new route.

As a result, Portugal became part of India, which was under its mandate until 1960. In this route were established mercantile, military and transit activities that Portugal lost because of the Islamists.

But the establishment of a Portuguese colony in Indian territory did not stop just as a trade stop. The Lusitanian country began to teach religion according to the Roman Catholic Church in the territory, which was maintained until 1812.

At the same time, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to settle in Africa. This gave them the right to be the last to withdraw from these lands in the late 1900s, after several bloody wars and pro-independence revolutions.

The colonization of Cape Verde occurred in 1456, in Sao Tome in 1472, in Guinea in 1474 and in Goa in 1498. It was considered a stage of economic splendor because Portugal imported natural and mineral resources. In addition, the empire used natives to profit from the sale of slaves to neighboring countries.

For 1482 they arrive in Angola, which provides them with a source of natural resources at all levels. Oil deposits, diamonds, gold, iron, copper and again the slave trade, a growing"trade".

In 1505, Mozambique was occupied by Portuguese to settle in a province that had previously belonged to the Islamists. This territory made it a vital part of his empire. The base of this colony was gold, silver and slaves.

By 1878 a decree for the abolition of slavery in Mozambique was published, a decree that did not make significant changes because the Africans were put to work long hours for very little money. However, Portuguese schools, hospitals and the roads that until today connect Mozambique with Zimbabwe were built to establish Portuguese families there permanently.

Despite the decree abolishing slavery and building structures for Portuguese quality of life, these latter resources were not available to those who were not Portuguese.

Mozambique was destined to create mining and sugar industries among others and of course its inhabitants were forced to work in a denigrating situation.

For the year 1891 it is agreed with the English the places that the Portuguese would maintain in the future within the South of Africa, changing the status of Portuguese province to Portuguese colony in 1910.

The nationalist groups began to fight for the liberation of Mozambique, but after years of assassinations, uprising and guerrillas, in 1975 it was declared an independent country.

In addition, there were other establishments that never became Portuguese colonies such as Nagasaki, which was only a strategic port for the sale of tobacco, spices, bread, textiles, etc.

The Portuguese Colonization of Cape Verde - History

Elmina Castle , West Africa, 1668. This castle was erected by the Portuguese in 1482 as São Jorge da Mina, in what is now present day Ghana in West Africa. Elmina eventually became one of the most heavily trafficked trading centers in the trans-Atlantic slave trade .

Replica of the caravel Boa Esperança, image by Hernâni Viegas, Lagos, Portugal, 2013. The invention of the caravel in the early fifteenth century enabled Portuguese mariners to travel south along Africa’s Atlantic coast.

Finding a New Trade Route

Until the late medieval era, southern Europe constituted an important market for North African merchants who brought gold and other commodities—and small numbers of slaves—in caravans across the Sahara Desert. But during the early fifteenth century, advances in nautical technology (especially the invention of the caravel, with its aerodynamic hull and triangular lateen sails) enabled Portuguese mariners to travel south along Africa’s Atlantic coast in search of a direct maritime route to gold-producing regions in sub-Saharan West Africa. Founded in 1482 near the town of Elmina in present-day Ghana, the feitoria São Jorge da Mina was of special importance in that it gave the Portuguese far better access to sources of West African gold.

Map of Portuguese discoveries, exploration, contacts and conquests, 1336 to 1543, created 2009. Arrival dates noted with location main sea routes to the Indian Ocean in blue and territories claimed under King John III of Portugal (r. 1521-57) in green.

Portuguese mariners sailed beyond Cape Bojador, Morocco, for the first time in the 1430s. By 1445, a trading post was established on the small island of Arguim off the coast of present-day Mauritania. As Portuguese ships continued to explore African coastlines and rivers over the following decades, they established similar feitorias or trading “factories” with the goal of tapping into pre-existing local commercial networks. Portuguese traders procured not only captives for export, but also various West African commodities such as ivory, peppers, textiles, wax, grain, and copper.

Map of Santiago, Cape Verde, 1589, created by Giovanni Battista Boazio. Santiago was the first of the Cape Verde islands to be settled by the Portugeuse in the 1460s. The slave trade out of West Africa eventually made Cidade Velha in Santiago one of the wealthiest cities in the Portuguese empire.

In addition to trading posts, Portugal established colonies on previously uninhabited Atlantic African islands that would later serve as collection points for captives and commodities to be shipped to Iberia, and eventually to the Americas. Portuguese colonization of the Cape Verde Islands, some 350 miles west of the Upper Guinean mainland, was underway by the 1460s. Farther south in the Gulf of Guinea, Portuguese mariners encountered the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe around 1470 colonization of São Tomé began in the 1490s. Both groups of islands served as entrepôts for Portuguese commerce across vast regions of western Africa. Though São Tomé became an important sugar producer, the island also collected slaves for trans-shipment to Elmina, many of whom would be sold to local merchants and used to transport gold from the interior.

Map of West African coast showing "A mina" (the mine), which later became Elmina in present day Ghana, ca. sixteenth century.

Despite Portugal’s success in using maritime routes to finally bypass trans-Saharan overland trade routes controlled by Muslim intermediaries, Portuguese activity in western Africa was soon overshadowed by much more lucrative commerce in India. In 1453, the Ottoman Empire’s successful capture of Constantinople (Istanbul)—formerly Western Europe’s main source for spices, silks, and other luxury goods produced in the Middle East and Asia—added further motivation for European overseas expansion. After several decades of Portuguese expeditions venturing southwards along western Africa’s coastlines, Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias famously sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, opening up European access to the Indian Ocean. By the close of the fifteenth century, Portuguese merchants were able to circumvent Islamic commercial, political, and military strongholds in both North Africa and in the eastern Mediterranean. One significant outcome of Portuguese overseas expansion during this period was a dramatic increase in Iberian access to sub-Saharan trade networks.

Cape Verde: From Colony to a Success Story

A visitor to this tidy, seaside capital finds services that are memories in the rest of Portuguese-speaking Africa - taxis, public telephones, garbage collection, bustling markets and restaurants offering fresh lobster.

Fifteen years after Portugal's 500-year-old empire started to collapse across Africa, only one of the new countries, Cape Verde, has progressed.

In varying combinations, civil wars, white flight, socialist policies and centuries of colonial neglect contributed to drastically reduced living standards in Portugal's four other former colonies: Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome e Principe.

The only success story is Cape Verde, long derided as Portugal's ugly duckling colony, an Atlantic archipelago of 10 volcanic islands that has been wracked for centuries by bleak cycles of drought and famine. 'Threshold of Development'

But, since independence in 1975, life expectancy has increased by 20 years, to 65 years, for Cape Verde residents. Per capita income has roughly doubled in this decade - from $277 in 1980 to $500 in 1987. '⟊pe Verde is about to cross the threshold of development,'' said Martino Meloni, the European Community's aid delegate here. 'ɻut they still need aid to consolidate their base.''

Benefiting from international aid donors, this nation of 350,000 consistently attracted the higest per capita aid of any West African country in the 1980's. In 1987, the country received $86 million in aid - the equivalent of half the gross national product, or $246 in aid for each islander.

''We have beaten on all the doors -we know how the system works,'' said Jose Brito, deputy minister of planning. ''However, I feel that foreign aid won't grow anymore.''

Looking to the 1990's, Cape Verdeans say that development should be driven by private foreign investment.

Last November, the ruling party adopted an economic program to attract tourism, banking, data processing and assembly plant operations. In December, the authorities here signed contracts with a Scandinavian group to build 2,500 hotel rooms. Studying Another Success

Cape Verde has also studied Mauritius' export processing zone, which has drawn 530 assembly companies in five years with low wage rates and taxes.

'ɺ lot of people are starting to come in,'' said Raymond A. Almeida, a Cape Verdian-American businessmen who helps investors.

Explanations given here for Cape Verde's triumphs are diverse.

''There was no rupture with the colonial administration,'' Mr. Brito said, noting that the transition to independence was gradual. Further, in the racial caste system of colonial Portugal, largely mixed-race Cape Verdians had greater access to education and were used as colonial administrators. At independence, Cape Verde had a ready cadre of experienced administrators.

In the rest of Portuguese Africa, independence was accompanied by white flight and, in Angola and Mozambique, civil war. All four countries were crippled by colonial neglect of education.

The coup of left-wing officers in Portugal in 1974 left as its legacy ''people's republics'' in Angola and Mozambique and socialist governments in Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome e Principe. Today, all four are trying to undo the damage with radical economic liberalization and appeals to foreign investors.

Finally, in contrast to the inhabitants of the resource-rich mainland, the people of this dry, windswept archipelago learn frugality and pragmatism at an early age.

Aristides Pereira, Cape Verde's president, said in an interview recently: ''The principal wealth of our country is the people. It's all we have.''

Due to difficult living conditions, about twice as many Cape Verdians live outside the country as on the islands. But the government has moved to mine emigration the way other countries mine phosphate. Passenger flights are regular now between Sal and the major points of the the Cape Verdian diaspora - Amsterdam, Boston, Dakar, Lisbon, Luanda, Paris and Rio de Janeiro.

Portuguese language heritage in Africa

After the conquest, in 1415, of the Arab stronghold of Ceuta in Morocco, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the African coast, and in the 1460s they built the first fort in Arguin (Mauritania). 1482 was the year of the construction of São Jorge da Mina Castle on the Gold Coast (Ghana). In 1487 the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Diaz rounded the Cape of Good Hope and in 1497 Vasco da Gama circumnavigated the African continent and arrived in India (1498).

The Portuguese practically ruled undisputed on the African coast during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Portuguese settlements in Africa were used by the Portuguese ships as supplying stations on the route to India, but they were also trading stations, where the Portuguese traded in gold, slaves and spices with the Africans and the Portuguese language was used as Lingua Franca along the African sea shores.

Now Portuguese is spoken in several nations of Africa, mainly in the former Portuguese colonies: It is the official language in Mozambique, in Angola, in São Tomé and Príncipe, in Guinea-Bissau and on the Cape Verde Islands a creole kind of Portuguese is used in Senegal, in Guinea-Bissau, on the Cape Verde Islands, in São Tomé and Príncipe and also in Equatorial Guinea. A large community of Portuguese from Portugal, Angola and Mozambique resides in South Africa.

The Portuguese language has also influenced several African languages. Many Portuguese words were permanently lent to various kinds of African languages such as Swahili and Afrikaans.


In the 16th century along the coast of Senegal, Gambia and Guinea, the settlement of several groups of Portuguese merchants and Lançados (mixed-race) contributed to the spread of the Portuguese language in those areas. Today a Portuguese Creole is still spoken in Casamance (Ziguinchor Creole in Senegal and Gambia) and Guinea-Bissau (Bissau-Bolama Creole, Bafatá Creole and Cacheu Creole), its local name being Kriol (Crioulo). This language is the first creole language which emerged from the contact between Europeans and the African peoples.

In Guinea-Bissau Kriol is the national language and Portuguese is the official language. The Cape Verde Islands were a Portuguese colony till 1975, and thus Portuguese is today the official language of the archipelago. The Cape Verde Creole (Kriol or Crioulo) is spoken by the whole population and it is similar to that of Guinea-Bissau and Casamance. Portuguese is the second language for many people.

Cape Verde: 350,000 Cabo Verde Creole first language speakers (1990), Portuguese is the second language for the majority.

Guinea-Bissau: 150,000 Creole first language speakers (1996) and 600,000 second language users 20,000 Portuguese first language speakers (1991).

Senegal and Gambia: 55,000 Ziguinchor Creole first language speakers (1990). The Senegal dialect is a little different from that in Guinea-Bissau, with some French vocabulary.

Portuguese speaking communities in Africa today. Portuguese language heritage in Africa. Author Marco Ramerini


A kind of Portuguese language (Creole) developed along the coast of Ghana (Gold Coast) and was spoken by native traders in their dealings with the other Europeans (Dutch, English, Danes, Brandenburghers, French, Swedes), during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, even several years after the Portuguese abandonment of the Gold Coast. Till 1961 Portugal had a fort in Dahomey, now called Benin. Its name is São João Baptista de Ajudá (Ouidah). Here Portuguese was used in the past centuries by a community of mixed Portuguese descendants. Portuguese was also used in the Kingdom of Dahomey as language for the external relations with the other Europeans.

On several islands of the Gulf of Guinea the Portuguese Creole is still spoken today. These islands are: São Tomé and Príncipe islands (São Tomé & Príncipe), Annobon island (Equatorial Guinea). São Tomense (Forro) and Angolar (Moncó) are spoken on São Tomé Island, Principense on Principe Island. These Creoles are quite distinct from the Creoles of Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Gambia.

Portuguese is the official language of São Tomé and Príncipe and is spoken as second language by the majority of the inhabitants in 1993 only 2,580 people used it as first language. On the Island of Annobon (Pagalu, Equatorial Guinea), the population speaks a particular sort of Portuguese Creole, called Annobonese or Fá d’Ambô, a rare mixture of Angolan Bantu dialects and old Portuguese, which is similar to that of São Tomé. The Portuguese became the third official language of Equatorial Guinea since July 20, 2010

São Tomé and Principe: 85,000 São Tomense first language speakers (São Tomé Island), 9,000 Angolar first language speakers (São Tomé Island), and 4,000 Principense first language speakers (Principe Island) (1989) 2,580 Portuguese first language speakers (1993) and a large part of the inhabitants speak Portuguese as second language.

Equatorial Guinea: 8.950 Annobonese first language speakers (Annobon Island) (1993). The Portuguese became the third official language of Equatorial Guinea since July 20, 2010.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Congo, Angola, South Africa and Mozambique.

During the 16th century in the Kingdon of Congo, many people of the ruling class spoke Portuguese fluently. This language was also the vehicle for the spread of Christianity. The testimony of a European traveler in 1610 prove that in Soyo all children learnt Portuguese. There is proof of the existence in the Congo Kingdom of Portuguese schools managed by the missionaries during the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries the influence and the use of Portuguese as a trading language spread along the coast of Congo and Angola from Loango to Benguela.

In Angola – a Portuguese colony till 1975 – Portuguese is the official language and is spoken by many people. Most Mestiços (in 1995 about 1,5 % of the Angolan population, that is 170,000) speak Portuguese as household language and they tended to identify with the Portuguese culture. In Mozambique – another Portuguese colony till 1975 – Portuguese is the official language and is spoken by many people, principally as second language. In South Africa Portuguese is spoken by people of Portuguese descent and by the immigrants from Angola, Mozambique and Brazil (600,000).

Angola: 57,600 Portuguese first language speakers (1993) and a large part of the inhabitants speak Portuguese as second language.

Mozambique: 30,000 Portuguese first language speakers (1993) and 4,000,000 second language users, about 30% of the population (1991).

South Africa: More than half a million Portuguese first language speakers.

EAST AFRICA: Kenya and Tanzania.

Portuguese was used as Lingua Franca in the 17th and 18th centuries. This was due to the Portuguese domination of the East Coast of Africa till the end of the 17th century. Mombasa was held till 1698 and a brief reoccupation was attempted in 1728/1729. There is evidence given by an English lieutenant that in 1831 a confused Portuguese was spoken by a man in Mombasa. The contact between the Portuguese and Africans influenced also the Swahili language, which today is used along the whole East African coast. There are more than 120 words of Portuguese origin in the Swahili language.


– Chataigner, Abel “Le créole portugais du Sénégal: observations et textes” ?, in: Journal of African languages Vol. 1,1 1963, pp. 44-71

– Cardoso, Eduardo “O Crioulo da Ilha de São Nicolau de Cabo Verde”, 142 pp., Imprensa Nacional, 1989, Lisbon, Portugal.

– Couto, Hildo Honório do. “The genesis of Portuguese creole in Africa”, in: Holm, John & Frank Byrne (eds.).”Atlantic meets Pacific: a global view of pidginization and creolization”, John Benjamins Publishing Company,1993, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, pp. 381-389.

– Dalphinis, Morgan, “African language influences in Creoles lexically based on Portuguese, English and French with special reference to Casamance Kriul, Gambian Krio and Saint Lucia Patwa”, 756 pp. PhD. Thesis, University of London, 1981, London, United Kingdom.

– Ferraz, Luís Ivens “The creole of São Tomé”, 122 pp., Separata African Studies, 37, Witwatersrand University Press, 1979, Johannesburg, South Africa.

– Günther, Wilfried “Das portugiesische Kreolisch der Ilha do Príncipe” Selbstverlag, 1973, Marburg an der Lahn.

– Kihm, Alain “Kriyol syntax: the Portuguese-based Creole language of Guinea-Bissau”, VIII, 310 pp. Creole language library n° 14, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1994, Amsterdam and Philadelphia.

– Lorenzino, Gerardo A., “The Angolar Creole Portuguese of São Tomé: its grammar and sociolinguistic history”, 290 pp. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, City University of New York, 1998, This Thesis deals with the genesis and development of the Angolar Creole Portuguese of São Tomé and Príncipe (Gulf of Guinea), off the coast of West Africa. Angolar is the language spoken by descendants of maroon slaves who escaped from Portuguese plantations on São Tomé in the mid-sixteenth century.

– Maurer, Philippe “L’angolar. Un créole afro-portugais parlé à São Tomé”, Buske, 1995, Hamburg.

– Moreau, Marie-Louise “Destino de uma sociedade, destino de uma língua. Balizas para a história do crioulo português em Ziguinchor” in: “PAPIA Revista de Crioulos de Base Ibérica”, Universidade de Brasília, Volume 3, nº 1, 1994

– Perl, Mathias “Acerca de Alguns Aspectos Históricos do Português Crioulo em África”, in: “Biblos”, vol. LVIII (Segunda Parte da Homenagem a M. Paiva Boleo), 1-12 pp. FLUC, 1983, Coimbra, Portugal.

– Perl, Mathias “A reevaluation of the importance of early Pidgin/Creole Portuguese”, pp. 125 – 130, JPCL (Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages) N° 5/1 (April 1990), John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam and Philadelphia.

– Ploae-Hanganu, Mariana “Le créole portugais de l’Afrique: sa base portugaise”, 2 vols. (251, 58 f.) : [10] maps, 1991, Lisbon.

– Washabaugh, William and Greenfield, Sidney M. “The Portuguese Expansion and the Development of Atlantic Creole Languages” In: “Luso-Brazilian Review” n. 18 (2),1981, 225-238 pp.

The Portuguese Colonization of Cape Verde - History

Cover of Crónica dos feitos da Guiné by Gomes Eanes de Zurara, published in 1460, Paris, France, courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. King Alfonso V commissioned the Crónica, which was first composed by Zurara in 1453. This chronicle documents the early development of Portuguese interests in large-scale slave trafficking out of West Africa.

With Portugal’s expansion into western Africa in the fifteenth century, Iberian merchants began to recognize the economic potential of a large-scale slave trafficking enterprise. One of the first to record this sentiment, according to Portuguese royal chronicler Gomes Eanes de Zurara, was a young ship captain named Antam Gonçalvez, who sailed to West Africa in 1441 hoping to acquire seal skins and oil. After obtaining his cargo, Gonçalvez called a meeting of the twenty-one sailors who accompanied him and unveiled his plan to increase their profits. According to Zurara, Gonçalvez told his crew, “we have already got our cargo, but how fair a thing would it be if we, who have come to this land for a cargo of such petty merchandise, were to meet with good fortune and bring the first captives before the presence of our Prince?” That night, Gonçalvez led a raiding party into Cap Blanc, a narrow peninsula between Western Sahara and Mauritania, and kidnapped two Berbers, one man and one woman. Another Portuguese mariner, Nuno Tristão, and members of his crew soon joined Gonçalvez. Although the raid resulted in less than a dozen captives, Zurara imagines in his account that prince Henry of Portugal responded to this enterprise with, “joy, not so much for the number of captives taken, but for prospect of other [countless] captives that could be taken.”

While Gonçalvez’s voyage in 1441 is widely considered to mark the beginnings of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, it may also be viewed as an extension of an older tradition of raiding and ransom on both shores of the Mediterranean. Upon returning to Portugal, Gonçalvez treated his captives in accordance with this custom, and allowed them to negotiate the terms of their release. Rather than offering a ransom of money, the captives promised to give Gonçalvez ten slaves in exchange for their own freedom and safe passage home. According to royal chronicler Zurara, the Berbers explained that these new captives would be “black [and] not of the lineage of Moors, but Gentiles.” Thus in 1442, Gonçalvez returned his Berber captives to Western Sahara, receiving as payment ten enslaved sub-Saharan Africans, whom he then transported back to Portugal for re-sale.

Fifteenth-century Iberian legal traditions regulated Christians’ treatment of Jews, Muslims, and other Christians, clearly delineating, for example, who was enslaveable and who was not. In contrast, the juridical status of people who did not fit these categories was more ambiguous. Legal and philosophical arguments to address this issue began to evolve during the second half of the fifteenth century, once Portuguese mariners began to return to Iberia with captives acquired in West Africa and West Central Africa. Notably, the treatment of “black Gentiles” was addressed in 1452 and 1455, when Pope Nicolas V issued a series of papal bulls that granted Portugal the right to enslave sub-Saharan Africans. Church leaders argued that slavery served as a natural deterrent and Christianizing influence to “barbarous” behavior among pagans. Using this logic, the Pope issued a mandate to the Portuguese king, Alfonso V, and instructed him:

. . . to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever …[and] to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit . . .

Romanus pontifex, papal bull of Pope Nicolas V, Portugal, 8 January 1455, courtesy of the Arqivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Lisbon, Portugal. This papal bull legally granted Portugal the right to enslave any and all people they encounter south of Cape Bojador, on the coast of Western Sahara. About midway through the bull, the Pope declares all Sub-Saharan Africans henceforth be held in perpetual slavery.

Excerpt in Latin

Nos, premissa omnia et singula debita meditatione pensantes, ac attendentes quod cum olim prefato Alfonso Regi quoscunque Sarracenos et paganos aliosque Christi inimicos ubicunque constitutes, ac regna, ducatus, principatus, dominia, possessiones, et mobilia ac immobilia bona quecunque per eos detenta ac possessa invadendi, conquirendi, expugnandi, debellandi, et subjugandi, illorumque personas in perpetuam servitutem redigendi.

English Translation

We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso—to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.

[Translation from Davenport, Frances Gardiner. Ed. European Treaties bearing on the History of the United States and its Dependencies to 1648. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C.: 1917, p. 23.]

Though the papal bull mentions “invading” and “vanquishing” African peoples, no European nation was willing or able to put an army in western Africa until the Portuguese colonization of Angola more than a century later (and even then, Portuguese forces received extensive aid from armies of Imbangala or “Jaga” mercenaries). Early raids such as the one made by Gonçalvez and Tristão in 1441 were unusual, and may have only been possible because the Portuguese had never previously raided south of Cape Bojador. Portuguese mariners soon learned that inhabitants along the Upper Guinea coast were more than capable of defending themselves from such incursions. Not long after his 1441 voyage, Tristão and most of his crew were killed off the coast of present-day Senegal.

Prior to the colonization of Angola, Portuguese colonies and commercial hubs in Africa were generally established on islands that had previously been uninhabited. Meanwhile, feitorias on the mainland depended largely on maintaining good relations with local populations. Thus in addition to justifying the enslavement of Muslims and other non-Christian peoples—including an increasingly important population of sub-Saharan Africans and their descendants—within the Iberian world, this legislation essentially authorized Portuguese colonists and merchants overseas to acquire enslaved Africans through commerce, drawing on pre-existing markets and trade routes.

As the 1455 bull indicates, at first the Church officially limited African slave trading to Alfonso of Portugal. Regardless, other European groups soon followed. During the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, French and English mariners occasionally attempted to raid or trade with Portuguese settlements and autonomous African communities. During the War of the Castilian Succession (1475-1479), the Spanish faction supporting Isabel—future Queen Isabel of Castile—directly challenged Portuguese claims in western Africa, sending large fleets to raid the Cape Verde Islands and conduct trade near Elmina. Despite Castile’s formal recognition of Portuguese interests in western Africa, stipulated in the treaties of Alcáçovas (1479) and Tordesillas (1494), voyages organized in Andalucia and the Canary Islands continued to visit African ports.

The Papal Bull of 1455 justified the expansion of (black) African slavery within early Iberian colonies, and the acquisition of more African captives and territory, but the same decree also provided a legal framework for sub-Saharan Africans to negotiate with Iberian authorities on equal footing, and to make claims of their own, should they convert to Christianity. Perhaps the best-known example of this form of negotiation is found in the Kingdom of Kongo in West Central Africa. During the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Kongolese political elites adopted Christianity and sent emissaries to Europe. In the 1520s, Kongo’s Christian ruler used diplomatic pressure based on his religious status to try to limit the Portuguese slave trade from Kongo.


  1. Vubar

    I believe you were wrong. I'm sure. Write to me in PM, discuss it.

  2. Armanno

    I confirm. This was and with me. We can communicate on this topic.

  3. Pentheus

    the absurd because this

  4. Yehuda

    Competent point of view, in a seductive way

  5. Atum

    Who told you?

  6. Amwolf

    I think I make mistakes. We need to discuss.

  7. Jamil

    I hope because of the quality I will catch the meaning!

  8. Suthclif

    I mean, you allow the mistake. Write to me in PM, we will discuss.

Write a message