Cape Verde at a Glance
The Cape Verde Islands are located in the mid – Atlantic Ocean approximately, 700Km from the coast of Senegal, West Africa and some 800Km South of the Canary Islands. The Archipelago includes 10 islands and 5 islets. The capital city, Praia, is located on the Island of Santiago, the largest of the Islands.
The islands are named after the Cap Vert Peninsula in West Africa, the nearest land formation. Volcanic in origin, the Islands comprise some 4,000 square kilometres in total area with diverse landscapes and topographies, some being mountainous while others being more low lying and exposed to the mainland African winds. Mount Fogo, on the island of Fogo, is the only remaining active volcano in the Archipelago and at some 3,000 metres high is also the Archipelago’s highest mountain. Mount Fogo last erupted in 1995 without the loss of life or serious property damage.
The islands were uninhabited when the first Portuguese settlers arrived in 1456 to claim the Archipelago as a Portuguese colony. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries the islands were an important staging point for the slave trade to the Americas and Europe. Due to their location adjacent to the mid – Atlantic shipping lanes, the islands were to become a main stop off location for the re – supplying of trans Atlantic shipping between the 17th and 20th centuries. During the 19th century the town of Mindelo, on the island of Sao Vicente, flourished as an important commercial centre mostly because of its natural deep – water port, making it an ideal stop over location for re – fuelling ships.
During the 19th century, due to economic hardship and colonial neglect, many native Cape Verde inhabitants immigrated to New England in the United States on the whaling vessels that regularly sailed to Cape Verde in search of crews. This emigration trend was to continue well into the 20th century and indeed today more first and second generation Cape Verde peoples reside in the U.S.A. Brazil, Holland, Angola and Portugal than actually reside on the islands themselves.
In 1951 the status of Cape Verde as a Portuguese colony was changed to that of an Overseas Province of Portugal and in 1975 Cape Verde became formally independent from Portugal. Initially following independence, the islands were governed by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea – Bissau and Cape Verde [PAIGC] and remained as such until 1991. The present Government PAICV was elected to power in 2001 and returned to power in 2006.
Sal was discovered in 1640 and was known as LLANA meaning flat. Following the discovery of a lagoon in an extinct volcano at its centre which produces salt after it rains it became known as ‘Sal’. From North to South, Sal is about 30 kms long and does not exceed 12kms in width. The overall surface is 216km2.
The population of Cape Verde is estimated to be approximately 450,000 people, 60% of whom reside on the Island of Santiago. It is anticipated that the population of the islands will grow to in excess of 600,000 by the year 2020, partially due to the returning expatriates, many of whom will seek to return to their traditional homelands or to live in Cape Verde during holiday times.
The economy is primarily based on agriculture although only 10% of the land is arable. Roughly one-third of the population are farmers.
The islands produce bananas, corn, beans, sugarcane, coffee and some fruits and vegetables, but supply less than one-fifth of the countries needs. Much of the rest comes in the form of aid from the U.S.A. Portugal, Holland and other Western European Countries.
Agriculture accounts for one-third of the GNP, services and transportation for one-half. This is due, in part to the growth of tourism which has been enhanced by the construction of luxury hotels and resorts on several islands. Construction comprises nearly one-forth of the GNP as the country continues to urbanize and the population expands.
Cape Verde’s main trade partners are countries of the European Union [Portugal, France, Holland, Germany, Spain and Italy]. Small amounts of fish, salt, lobster, bananas, shoes and pharmaceutical products are exported. Large quantities of food, construction and building materials, machinery and textiles are imported.
The culture of Cape Verde reflects its mixed Portuguese and African roots. The official language is Portuguese which is used for official functions and for all written communications. The vernacular is a Creole, which is founded in archaic Portuguese influenced by African and European languages.
Cape Verde is a Mestizo society, 78% of the population is Creole, which is a mixed African and European blood, and the remainder consists of 28% black African and 1% white. Corn is the staple food of Cape Verde the national dish, Cachupa is a stew of hominy, beans and whatever meat or vegetables may be available. Other common foods include rice, beans, fish, potatoes and manioc.
98% of the Cape Verde population is Roman Catholic. The Nazarene church is also represented as are the Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons and Evangelical Christians. There is a history of several Jewish settlements that dates back to the inquisition but they are now extinct.
Cape Verde natives are an extremely generous and hospitable people. It is considered rude to eat in front of others without sharing, and for this reason one does not eat in public setting such as on the street or on a bus. Cape Verdeans stand close together when talking and are physically demonstrative, often touching and holding hands, greetings can be somewhat lengthy and include shaking hands and inquiring about each other’s health and family, this is usually done each time two people meet, even if it is more than once in the same day.
The overall climate of the Cape Verde Islands is classed as dry – tropical with an average temperature ranging between 21C and 31C with water temperatures between 22C and 27C. There are two main seasons, a dry season between November and July and a comparatively moderate humid season between August and October. The Cape Verde climate offers an attractive all year round destination for tourists remaining warm through the winter months without uncomfortably high temperatures during the summer season. Cape Verde enjoys similar latitude to that of the Bahamas Islands in the Caribbean.