The People of Cabo Verde - History

The People of Cabo Verde - History

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Cabo Verde

The people of Cabo Verde are a mixture of Creole, Africans, with a small number of Europeans. Most of people of Cape Verde are Roman Catholics.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Cape Verdean(s).
Population (2001): 434,812.
Annual growth rate (2001): 2.9%.
Ethnic groups: Creole (mixed African and Portuguese), African, European.
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant.
Languages: Portuguese (official); Crioulo (national).
Education: Literacy (1999)--73.6%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2001)--37/1,000. Life expectancy (2001)--69 yrs.


Population, total (millions)0.340.430.490.54
Population growth (annual %)
Surface area (sq. km) (thousands)4444
Population density (people per sq. km of land area)83.9106.3122.2134.9
Poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines (% of population)..584635
Poverty headcount ratio at $1.90 a day (2011 PPP) (% of population)..
Income share held by lowest 20%..4.255.7
Life expectancy at birth, total (years)65697173
Fertility rate, total (births per woman)
Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19)111978373
Contraceptive prevalence, any methods (% of women ages 15-49)2453....
Births attended by skilled health staff (% of total)..899991
Mortality rate, under-5 (per 1,000 live births)61362520
Prevalence of underweight, weight for age (% of children under 5)........
Immunization, measles (% of children ages 12-23 months)79869799
Primary completion rate, total (% of relevant age group)6010610187
School enrollment, primary (% gross)126.2120.1111.1104
School enrollment, secondary (% gross)21698788
School enrollment, primary and secondary (gross), gender parity index (GPI)1111
Prevalence of HIV, total (% of population ages 15-49)
Forest area (sq. km) (thousands)
Terrestrial and marine protected areas (% of total territorial area)......0
Annual freshwater withdrawals, total (% of internal resources)..6.8....
Urban population growth (annual %)
Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita)86..217..
CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita)0.280.511.131.02
Electric power consumption (kWh per capita)........
Net migration (thousands)-6-10-8..
Personal remittances, received (current US$) (millions)5990131233
Foreign direct investment, net inflows (BoP, current US$) (millions)034116108
Net official development assistance received (current US$) (millions)105.394.732783.2


The Cape Verde islands have a colonial past and the islands are no less than 15 million years old. The history of Cape Verde has left its mark. It is still visible and tangible today. We have listed the most important moments in the history of Cape Verde in chronological order below.

Origin of the Cape Verde island group

About 15 million years ago, the island of Sal was created by volcanic magma. At the time it was a mountainous island, but due to the weather influences such as erosion, Sal is now almost completely flat. The area of ​​the Cape Verde islands is still developing. The island of Fogo is the youngest island of the Cape Verdean archipelago and is only 100,000 years old. The active volcano of Fogo is lastly erupted at the end of 2014.

First residents

The first references to the Cape Verde Islands can be found in a written work by a Roman who died in the year 45 A.D. Until the mid-15th century, the Cape Verde Islands remained almost completely undiscovered. There was a myth that every ship sailing south of the Canary Islands did not return. In fact, this had to do with the wind and current that sent the ships one way. After improved ships and sailing techniques it was possible to sail the other way. Due to these technical improvements more and more countries were discovered. Including the Cape Verde islands.

It is unclear who exactly discovered which island. In general it is assumed that the Portuguese Diogo Gomes and the Italian Antaonio de Noli discovered the southern islands of Cape Verde between 1455 and 1461 (Santiago, Maio, Fogo, Brava). Diogo Alfonso discovered the northern islands.

The archipelago was named Cabo Verde, which means green cape. The green cape is also a peninsula in Senegal and is the westernmost point of the African mainland. The explorers have named Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) after this green cape in Senegal.

Portuguese colonization in 1462

On the most promising island Santiago a small group of Portuguese, Spaniards and people from Genoa (Italy) settled in 1462. The first settlement Ribeira Grande (Cidade Velha) was founded here. At the order of Portugal, initially agricultural production was encouraged. Free labor was found in the form of slaves on the mainland of Africa. At the end of 1600 there were almost 14,000 slaves on Santiago and Fogo. Cape Verde was a very strategic point due to the increase and expansion of the maritime trade journeys. Because of the wind and currents, ships often came along the Cape Verde islands. It became an important stopover to store supplies and carry out work on the ships. In addition to trade in goods, Cape Verde also became the center of the slave trade. Most slaves were shipped to southern America. In the high-days an estimated 3,000 slaves were sold annually.

Free trade

The first settlement Ribeira Grande (Cidade Velha) on Santiago had grown into a large trading city. The city got its name from the river that ran through the valley to the coast. The valley was planted with fruit trees and coconut trees. Ribeira Grande was the first city in the tropics built by Europeans and one of the richest cities of Portugal. In 1556 even a cathedral was built. The power of the Portuguese crown was always such that trading by Cape Verdeans with non-Portuguese was forbidden. Most money that was earned went directly back to Portugal.

Due to the growth of prosperity and the power of certain European countries, a conflict arose in the early years of the 18th century. Certain countries such as Spain and France wanted to expand their power. Territorial expansion and defending the territory were the order of the day. Portugal was eventually also drawn into the conflict and the slave trade with the Spaniards stopped. In 1712 the Cape Verde City of Ribeira Grande was cleared and plundered by the French. When peace returned in the conflict, the Cape Verdeans gained more rights from Portugal and free trade was possible.

End of slavery

After about 300 years of slave trade between Africa and America, the slave trade came to an end in more and more countries. In 1854 the slave trade stopped in Cape Verde and in 1870 it was formally confirmed. In fact, there were still slaves forced to work after 1870.The end of the slave trade meant that no more money could be earned from this lucrative trade. The economy got even heavier. Due to the arrival of the steamship, there were less frequent voyages in the 19th century by sailing ship. Cape Verdeans could therefore earn less by supplying provisions and ship repairs.

Due to the economic problems, many Cape Verdeans left for other countries in the 19th century. Some residents of Fogo and Brava went along whalers from New England (northeast of the United States).


The Portuguese rulers acted according to skin color. Around 1850, 17 distinctive colors were counted on Cape Verde. From a skin color as white as snow, different shades of light brown to a skin color of dark black. Because the average skin color in Cape Verde was lighter than in other Portuguese colonies, Cape Verdeans were slightly better treated by Portugal.

Due to the still poor treatment of the Portuguese rulers and famine due to recurrent drought, the call for independence in all Portuguese colonies in Africa increased. Portugal, however, did not intend to give up Cape Verde as a colony and made it to overseas province in 1951. The struggle for independence continued. Under the leadership of Amílcar Cabral and its PAIGC party, the decolonization process was initiated and eventually elections were organized. On 5 July 1975, Cape Verde became independent from Portugal. The first president of the Cape Verde islands was the socialist Aristides Pereira. In 1990 the country got a multi-party system.

Current Cape Verde

After the independence, the economy became a market economy. Cape Verde is one of the best-governed and economically stable countries in Africa. Tourism is the most important growing industry and the country is gradually becoming more prosperous. The average Cape Verdean still does not have an easy life, but they have a better future than ever before.

"Cape Verde one of the best travel trips" -National Geographic-
"Beaches and islands of Cape Verde in top-10 best of the world" -Lonely Planet-
"Cape Verde in world's top 10 ethical destination"

How Do I Trace My Cape Verdean Ancestry?

My father is African American and Cape Verdean, and he grew up on Cape Cod. His mother was Almeda Matilda Santos, born Jan. 22, 1922. She died March 7, 2002, and her parents had immigrated to the United States from Cape Verde Islands in the early 1900s. My father’s father, Benjamin Franklin Johnson, was the child of a slave who escaped to Canada with a Wampanoag Indian wife, as the story goes.

Can you tell me who my Cape Verdean ancestors were, or how I would trace that?Renee Johnson

Perhaps we can. First, it’s important to note that the Cape Verde Islands nation (officially known as the Republic of Cabo Verde) is a nation of about 540,000 people located about 600 miles off the coast of Senegal on the west coast of the African continent. A Portuguese colony between the 15th century and 1975, Cabo Verde was active in the transatlantic slave trade and other types of commercial shipping. Immigration between the African country and America dates from the 18th century, when Cabo Verdeans were recruited for the New England whaling industry . According to The CIA World Factbook , 71 percent of the people in Cabo Verde are “mulatto” of mixed African and European heritage, while 28 percent are African and 1 percent are European. More than 200,000 people of Cabo Verdean descent live in the United States today. Many live in New England.

What Do We Know About Almeda Santos Johnson?

Which brings us to your grandmother Almeda Matilda Santos Johnson. We found the March 10, 2002, obituary of Almeda “Tillie” (Santos) Johnson, published in the Cape Cod Times newspaper. Almeda was born in Falmouth, Barnstable County, Mass., and was a lifelong resident of that town. If you are able to get to the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, Mass., you can access the newspaper’s archives to pull up the obituary (more about accessing newspaper archives online is below).

We also found a birth index listing for “Almeda Santos, Falmouth, Massachusetts, 1922, volume 40, p. 454” in the database Massachusetts Birth Index, 1901-1960 and 1967-1970 , available at (subscription required). This entry most likely pertains to the birth record of your grandmother. Knowing that she was born in 1922 and resided in Falmouth, we checked the 1930 U.S. federal census for an 8-year-old girl in Falmouth, Mass., and found a possible match for the family of Almeda Santos.

An 8-year-old named Elvira Santos resided in the household of Joseph and Mary Santos, both of Cabo Verde, in Falmouth, Mass. You can view this record at “Joseph Santos household, 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Falmouth, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, Roll: 883 Page: 6A Enumeration District: 0011 Image: 431.0 FHL microfilm: 2340618.” Although her first name isn’t Almeda, it may have been because of an error on the census taker’s part, or could have been a nickname for the child. Other members of this household include Arthur Santos, age 18 Albert Santos, age 14 Rose Santos, age 13 and Victor Santos, age 12. Do any of those names ring a bell?

Moving forward to the 1940 U.S. federal census, we saw a possible listing for Almeda Santos in the census entry for 18-year-old “Talvida” Santos, who lived with Mary Santos, a 59-year-old widow and Albert Santos, age 24. (Check under “Mary Santos household, 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Falmouth, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, Roll: T627_1565 Page: 10A Enumeration District: 1-28.”) Based on this census listing for the Santos family, Joseph Santos died prior to April 17, 1940, the date this census was enumerated. A death index listing for “Joseph Santos, Falmouth, 1940, volume 42, page 6” appears in the Massachusetts Death Index, 1901-1980 , available at This index listing most likely pertains to the death record of the husband of Mary Santos.

What Do We Do With the Clues We Now Have?

Now that you have these leads, there are a number of sources you can use to verify that the family listed in these census records is a match for the family of Almeda Matilda (Santos) Johnson, and to learn more about the Santos line of your family.

The Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics has birth, marriage and death records that have been filed in Massachusetts since 1921. If you reside in the Boston area, you can visit the registry to research the records in its collection, as well as purchase certified copies of these records. If you are unable to visit the registry, you can also order copies of these records by mail. You also have the option to order these records online through VitalChek .

Begin your search by reviewing Almeda’s full birth and death records (we only showed you the index records) in order to verify the names of her parents, and then work back through the Santos line from there.

If Joseph and Mary Santos were, in fact, the parents of Almeda Matilda (Santos) Johnson, you can then request a copy of Joseph’s 1940 death record, using the death index listing information we located for Joseph Santos. This document may provide his birth date, as well as the names of his parents, bringing the Santos line back another generation. His death record will also list where he is buried.

Once you learn Joseph’s place of burial, we suggest that you contact the cemetery office to inquire about his burial plot. The cemetery staff may be able to tell you the names of other family members buried in that plot, as well as their death dates. This information will help you obtain more family names to research. For instance, once you know Joseph’s exact death date as well as those of other family members, you could then search for their death notices or obituaries in local newspapers. These articles may provide additional clues about when Almeda’s parents immigrated, when they were married and also list the names of other relatives, including the names of their parents.

There are several subscription-based newspaper databases available online, including GenealogyBank and . Many libraries have local newspapers available on microfilm. The Falmouth Public Library has microfilmed copies of the Falmouth Enterprise newspaper dating from 1896 and the Cape Cod Times newspaper dating from 1936. Some libraries offer to make photocopies of newspaper articles for a fee, so check with this library to see if this service is available.

Libraries Are Your Friends in This Search

In addition to their newspaper collections, town libraries are a valuable resource for genealogy research. The Falmouth Public Library has a number of items in its genealogy and local history collections that may be helpful to your research on the Santos family. Another library you may wish to contact is the New Bedford Free Public Library in Massachusetts. A large number of Cabo Verdeans who immigrated to the United States arrived through the port of New Bedford before settling in locations like Cape Cod. The city’s library has a number of sources of interest pertaining to Cabo Verdean research.

The James P. Adams Library at Rhode Island College also has an extensive collection of materials pertaining to Cabo Verdean history and culture. Posted on its website are several guides related to Cabo Verdean research that will provide additional avenues to pursue as you look into your family history.

Besides these libraries, the Zion Union Heritage Museum , located in Hyannis, Mass., has a number of collections related to Cabo Verdeans who resided on Cape Cod.

If you establish the birthplace of Almeda Matilda (Santos) Johnson’s parents, one source you may wish to consult is the database Republic of Cape Verde, Catholic Church Records, 1787-1957 , which is available online through Family Search. This database does not include an index, so it requires a page-by-page search. However, these records include births, marriages and deaths, which will help take your family lines back several generations. In addition to this database, a number of microfilms pertaining to Cabo Verdean genealogy and history are available to rent through the Family History Library .

Finally, if you want to verify the story of your Wampanoag great-grandmother, we suggest taking a DNA test of your ancestry admixture at 23andMe , FamilyTreeDNA and AncestryDNA as a first step. Keep in mind that Native Americans are closely related genetically to East Asians, and so if you do have Wampanoag ancestry, it could show up as Asian in test results. If you do get a positive result, read our previous column, “ How Do I Legally Prove Native American Ancestry? ” for additional steps to take.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also editor-in-chief of The Root. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .

The People of Cabo Verde - History

Considered the most ancient musical genre of Cabo Verde islands, batuku is a cultural manifestation that combines singing and dancing but brings a much profound meaning. This manifestation was brought or invented by the first slaves that arrived to the archipelago and lives through these days in the islands of Santiago and Maio as an uncontested African heritage and testimonial of Cabo Verde's historical path.

An art loved in secret

Once forbidden by law, batuku has been long considered an offense to Christian values, the official religion of the Portuguese empire in colonial era. Still, batuku has prevailed. In their quarters and/or in the backyards, the slaves still assembled the "tereru" (the circle where they sang and danced the Batuku). In their poems filled with sentimental feelings, the slaves expressed their unrest, their desire of change, their bitterness of slavery, the pain and suffering but also the little joys of their everyday lives.

In a society marked by slavery the «batuku» was assumed as a form of expression. Men and women gathered in circle, nonetheless, it seems like batuku has always been a territory of female prevalence. The hours spent in the «tereru» were the only moments of freedom and there they were queens and ladies. There, they were admired for the synchronized singing, for the energetic and sensual dance and more than that, they were heard and respected.

The prohibition on Batuku by the slave owners contributed to a false idea that it was generally associated to women of suspicious behavior. Interaction with batuku was denied to the women that wanted to be respected and viewed as good role models.

But despite its controversial social status, the batuku was constantly present in families gathering and social meetings. It was through the sound of txabeta, batuku's rhythm, that marriages, baptisms and many other important events were celebrated. Through the voices of the «batukaderas», the women that played batuku, they expressed their critical views of society and relieved their pained souls.

Batuku represents the blossoming of the female soul and the expression of her vision of the world.

It is a group art, with a very well organized hierarchy and internal structure. On top of this hierarchy there is the main singer. She is the poet that improvises the verses that combine with the txabeta. She is the prophet that announces changes to come and criticizes the status quo in a firm and rhythmic voice and so often melancholic. Sat in circles the "kantaderas di kumpanha", the women that make chorus to the lead singer, respond with a vibrant and well synchronized chorus.

The popularity of Batuku is not only due to the hot rhythms of txabeta but also and mainly due to the "torno". That is how it is called, the characteristic dance of batuku where the hips follow the musical cadence.

The music starts slow and as it goes, it gains rhythm and pace until it reaches its peak. It is only than that the dancers come in with their hips moving at the rate of the txabeta. The swinging of the hips demands body control and coordination but it seems natural to the dancers that flow with the music.

The dance is one of the most appreciated elements of batuku as two or three dancers show off their skills. The movement is centered on the hips and the rest of their body must not move at all. And to prove their abilities many of them dance with objects on top of their heads that remain still despite the frenetic movement of their hips.

As the rhythm intensifies also does the clapping and whistling as a sign of approval. The batuku feeds of this energy. The invitation to join the dance is made through the passing on of the cloth that is tied a little below the person´s waist so it can enhance the hip movements.

Chanted poetry

Besides the more energetic component batuku also presents itself in a more cadenced and melodic form. That is the «finason». In this case the txabeta works as background tune to some sort of chanted poem. It is with finason that some big names of the cabo verdean popular wisdom eternalized themselves, such as Bibinha Cabral, Nácia Gomi or Ntoni denti d'óru (Ntoni golden tooth, since he had one in his mouth).

One finason song can last hours in the flow of improvisation.

These are verses composed by humble people, rural men and women without any literary education who did not read or write. Yet, they produced authentic relics of the cabo verdean oral tradition, most of which was lost in time.

Through finason advices were given, remarkable moments were told and people reflected on the creole experiences.

From generation to generation the tradition resisted. Today batuku has gathered the prestige it deserves and groups are born especially through the island of Santiago where it is more popular.

Besides its purest form, the batuku is also presented in a more elaborate form in the hands of many cabo verdean songwriters. They bring to the txabeta new instruments such as the guitar, the Harmonica and percussion. Maybe it is a return to the past, to times where the circles of batuku were also composed with the chords of the «cimboa», also known as cimbó, an instrument that has almost fallen into oblivion.

This traditional genre is treasured by cabo verdeans all around the islands and it has become one of the post cards of the archipelago. Batuku has gained prestige and is highlighted on national and international stages.

Today, more than ever, batuku is the fearless voice of women that face the past as part of a path always in the making.

Ethnic Groups Of Cape Verde

Cape Verdean artists painting in the streets of Praia. Editorial credit: Alain Lauga /

Cape Verde is an African nation that is comprised by ten islands and five smaller islets. The islands are located off the west coast of Africa. The country is a socialist practicing a mixed economy, and there are state-operated enterprises such as public supply companies and the Society for Fish Purchasing and Marketing. The government does not interfere with the private investments, and Agriculture has been ignored in the country for a very long time. The country imports most of its food and parts of the rural areas practice subsistence agriculture as the main economic activity which include sugarcane, beans maize, and bananas. 5% of the total production in the country is produced by only 29% of the working population. Cape Verde is a former Portuguese colony and the culture in the country is a mixture of Portuguese and African cultures. Most Cabo Verdeans have both Portuguese and African ancestors and identify as Creole and Mulatto. Africans and Portuguese and other Europeans make up the rest of the population.

Creoles and Mulattoes

The Creole or Mulatto ethnic group boasts of comprising 71% of the total Cape Verdean population. The Creole population traces back their history to African slavery and Portuguese colonization. Cape Verde was an important slave trade center and linked Africa to the Western countries. Intermarriages between the freed slaves and the European settlers gave rise to the Creole population.

The Creole language was formed from African and European language elements as a means of communication between the two groups. Although Portuguese is the official language in the country, the Creole language is the most widely spoken across the country. The culture of the Creole population heavily derives from traditional African and European cultural elements. This cultural mixture is evidently visible in music, dance, and literary expressions. Creole dances include the Kizomba, Morna, Funana, and Coladeira and are widely performed in Creole weddings and festivities.


Africans are the largest minority ethnicity in Cape Verde. 28% of Cabo Verdeans have predominately African ancestry and trace their roots to slavery and the settlement of other African groups. African groups in modern day Cape Verde includes the Mandyako, Fulani, and Balante ethnic groups. African influence in Cape Verde is evident in traditional oral narratives, musical, and other artistic expressions. The batuko musical genre is performed by women whose rhythm and beats reflect African musical traditions. African culture in Cape Verde reflects heavily elements of the culture in West Africa. Festivals such as Tabanka are colorful African festivities in Cape Verde which attract participants from all over the world

Portuguese and Other Europeans

Portuguese and other European make up around 1% of the entirety of Cape Verde's population. Some of the European immigrants in Cape Verde are Italian and French. English and Portuguese are common languages in the European minority. European influence is especially evident in the architectural and wardrobe aspects of Cabo Verdeans’ way of life. The wealthy and middle-class in Cape Verde have adopted the Mediterranean style when building their homes. Western clothing has also been adopted in the islands although Cabo Verdeans also incorporate African elements.

Immigration and Emigration in Cape Verde

Cape Verde has long been an emigration country, with thousands from its population moving into Western nations and other African countries. Future predictions show that Cape Verde is well on its way to becoming an immigrant country. Future immigration to Cape Verde will be fueled by economic growth in the islands. The composition of the immigrants is predicted to be Cabo Verdeans living abroad, foreigners and Africans. These groups will contribute to the already culturally diverse country.

The Ladino Moors: The Jews of Cape Verde, the Guinea Rivers and Gulf of Biafra

The Moors of the Iberian pennisula suffered great and incalculable losses when their centuries old rule was brought to a violent end in Spain in 1492 following the loss of the Caliphate of Granada.

Beginning from that same 1492 in Spain and 1497 in Portugal, the exile of the original dark sons was inauguarated. The conquering European armies were filled with a strange blood lust and an incurable pathological jealousy of the Moors. It was their simple wish to dispossess the Moorish owners of the land, confisicate all their properties and enslave their bodies.

It was easy and simple for them because the fight for Iberia had been drawn across racial lines, so-called “white” Asiatic-Europeans versus so-called black n brown Africans and Afro-Arabians.

The Moors occupied the land mass where Lisbon is currently situated and in their time they called it Alishbuna. They had ruled for 400 years since 700 AD only losing their grip on power in 1147 AD. From that date until 1249 when christian crusaders conquered Algarve, the Moors lost land and authority before the hordes of inner Europe.

Following the complete conquest of Portugal in 1249 (with the capture of Algarve), the crusaders gradually tighten the noose around the Moor’s neck, literally speaking. Discrimination got worse. Odinary folks were constantly harrassed. Moors were under unrelenting suspicion of disloyalty, insurrection, and rebellion.

They were imposed on with excessive taxes. Their cultural rights were abrigded, language was restricted, political and business space became increasing non-accessible.

Finally, with the conquest of Granada in 1492 by the Spanish branch of the crusaders, all hell was let loose on the hapless Moors living then in Spain and in Portugal.

The crusaders decided that the fact of being a Moor was criminal enough in itself and so Moors were required to symbolically renounce their heritage and culture. They were required to adopt a new identity as christians called “conversos.” Sometimes these new christians were called “marranoes” a racist term which connoted a “pig” or something unclean.

Conversos were like second class christians of Portugal. Those who would not convert and accept their official second class status as de-culturated animals were then forcibly expelled either as prisoners, slaves or refugees.

The notorious instuitition known as the inquisition, a system of spies, secret police, tortures, confessions and swift executions was established. It was responsible for the death of millions of Moors all over Europe but especially in the Iberian pennisula. It lasted for hundreds of years torturing, maiming and killing all real and suspected enemies of the new European royalty. Its bloodlust, sadism and cruelty are now live in infamy. Those Moors it did not kill or maim, it sold as slaves.

It so happened that in 1496-7 Portugese Kings Joao II and Manuel I horded hundreds of thousands of Jews sent them into exile on the West African coasts of Guinea and Biafra, and on the Islands of Cape Verde and Sao Tome, into a live of perpetual slavery. These peculiar branch of the Iberian moorish Hebrews were called the Ladinos.

Ladino means latinized negros. It was a racist term used for the black Jews of Iberia who were soon deported to African Islands and coastal settlements and used as the first slaves in the sugar plantations. See, Abu Alfa MUHAMMAD SHAREEF bin Farid, “A Continuity of the 19th Century Jihaad Movements of Western Sudan,” Sankore: Institute of Islamic-African Studies,”

According to Richard Lobban, in his article “Jews in Cape Verde and on the Guinea Coast” Paper presented at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, 11 February 1996:

“..Portugese or Iberian Jews sometimes use this term to note this social group which consitituted a portion of early migrants to the Cape Verde Islands. Some reference use this term for the people and language of 16th and 17th century Sephardic Jews from Iberian Pennisula. The term Ladino could also refer to baptized African slaves. In either case, the reference was often racist, and derogatory and implied a lying, wandering, sneaky, and thieving group which was particularly untrustworthy.”..

Exiled Moors, the Jews of Biafra:

The Portugese had followed the pursuit of their defeated Moorish foes right across the straits of Gibraltar. The objective was to defeat the Moors in all of their land and seize it as Iberia had been seized.

Following the path of the Moorish network, the Protugese had soon falled on Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa which they seized in the middle 15th century.

Cape Verde was a half-way restocking station for the ancient Phoenicians and their medieval Moorish successors on their voyages across the ocean towards the continent in the west which later came to be known as the Americas and the Carribeans.

Having seized these groups of Islands, the Portugese continued their raids on the Moorish lands off the Gulf of Guinea and Biafra. Many coastal communites were sacked and burnt. Strategic locations on the coast such as the Elmina castle area in Cape coast, Porto Novo area in Dahomey, were occupied and declared to be under the realm of the King of Portugal. Islands such as Lagos, Escarvos, Fernado Po, and Sao Tome were colonized that early in time.

States and Kingdoms of coast of Guinea and Biafra were harrassed by the marauding Portugese crusaders cum slave raiders. Their acts of depredations were vigorously challenged by many Kings and Queens of those coastal states. One of the more famous incidents involved the war between Protugese crusaders and Queen Nzinga over the former’s incessant slave-raiding activites.

The Portugese crown had soon declared a monopoly of trade over the rich Moorish territories newly aquired off the coast of Guinea and Biafra. The Crown viewed the unwanted Moorish Jews and Muslims as cheap and easy labour to develop these newly acquired territories. It was a master stroke, getting rid of the black-a-moors and getting rich while doing it.

Between 1450 and 1500, Portugese record detail the deportation and enslavement of more than 500,000 Moorish Jews to the Islands off the the Gulf of Guinea and Biafra. Many of these were children who had been stolen and separated from their parents.

According to an article in the New York Times, September 24, 2004 by Edward Rothstein:

“The Inquisition played a more central role in the later Jewish journeys… Jews entering Portugal after being expelled from Spain in 1492 were heavily taxed. If Jews could not pay, their sons ages 2 – 10 were enslaved and sent to Sao Tome, a Portugese outpost…and worked in sugar fields…” Sao Tome was one of the more infamous slave Islands of the Atlantic that grew fabulously rich off the sugar trade.

The Moorish Jews of Guinea and Biafra

By the middle of the fifteenth century the Portuguese had deepened their penetration of West Africa. Having nothing of value to provide the coastal Moors of Guinea and Biafra in exchange for what they desired, they resorted to selling firearms, and kidnapping, slave trading and plantation production.

On the island of São Tome in the Gulf of Guinea as well as at Elmina in Ghana where the Portuguese first settled during it’s colonization of Africa, the Portuguese had, for all intents and purposes, “gone native”.

They discarded their European fashions and clad themselves in native garb, and favored the African women and lived with many of them in concubinage.

In that peculiar colonial-plantation production slave society that was created, the several categories of persons are notable.

There were the capitaos, Portugese agents of the Crown who supervised the extraction of wealth and resources from this newly conquered land of the Moors on the coast of West Africa. They were the ruling elites of those societies.

They were the degrados, or the lancados Portugese. Lancados literally means “outcasts” or “throw-aways.” They were cast off of the Portuguese society, ex-convicts, debtors, murderers and thieves. These were allowed to trade as long as they stayed within the applicable restrictions imposed by the Portugese Crown including restriction on the sale of firearms, iron bars, navigational equipment, cloth currency known as Panos, and slaves which were the King’s monopoly.

Then there were the Iberian Jewish Moors – the Ladinos who had been disposessed of all they had and exiled or enslaved on the Islands of West Africa. Many of the Jews had fled the persecutions of the Portugese inquisition which ranged between 1496 and 1510, then had ramped up in 1536. Many came looking for their children who had been stolen by the authorities and enslaved along the coast of West Africa.

Muslim Moors who spoke Arabic were widespread in the area especially in Upper Guinea area. They were known as “Targomas” (a word that means “interpreters”).

The word “Lanados” connotes “Africanized” Portugeses Moorish Jews. Those had abondoned the Portugese outposts and had gone completely native. They lived together with the African communities of the interior, as Africans, intermarrying and interworshiping with them having very little recollection of their Portugese connections. The synthesis that occurred between the lanados and the local Africans of the coast created the nuclues of the Creole culture, a vibrant cultural expression which defines modern West Africa, especially the coastal states.

Thus, as early as the later 15th century and through the 16th to the 17th centuries, a Jewish coastal presence was deeply established on the coast of West Africa. (See above). Jean Boulegue reports that in 1517, King Manuel I made reference to a group of deported Jews (lanadoes) on the coast of Senegambia.

In the early 1600s, lanados had established trade stations along the entire Senegambia coast encompassing such areas as Goree, Joal, Ziguinchor in Casamance, Cacheu, Bissau, Bolama.

Ladinos were living as migrants and trading in the kingdom of Benin (in today’s Nigeria), they were in Lagos, Forcados and Fernanda Po, as well. Benin oral traditions still recall the visit of Pierto de Nino a Moorish Jewish sailor who took Chritopher Columbus on his first trip to the Americas. Other Moorish Jews had made their way into the Ondo region where they still live today as the Beni Emphraim.

In 1622 the Cape Verdan Governor, Dom Francisco reported to the Portugese king that the coast of Guinea (..and Biafra) “was full of Jews who were masters of the local regions and were quite independent of the Crown (Portugal).”


The coastal areas of West Africa have this dominant culture which is known as creole culture. Creole culture is best exemplified in the beautiful musical expression of hi-life music a brand of music which combines jazz, with afro-latin fusion to create a pulsuating and vibrant intoxicating musical beat.

Creole culture is also obvious in the foods eaten across West Africa notable of which is the famous Spanish rice (Jollof rice) which is prepared and eated Iberian style right across the entire region. Jollof rice is very popular in Nigeria. It is viewed as indigenous Nigerian cusine but its ingredients and style of cooking is exactly the same as obtains in Spain.

Creole culture is the hypnotic rythymic drawl of sweet West African creole patios either in English (the Nigerian pidgin English) or the French. It is a combination of various European and African languages which created new dialects or sub-language groups that are still spoken and understood by virtually all the descendants of the Africans and the Moorish Jews that live in the cities of modern Africa.

The traditional African coastal city architectural style which combines the old Iberian Moorish pattern of building and 15th African motifs and notions are products of the creole culture. This architectural style is called the “Brazilian style” in memory of the Black Moorish builders of some of those early homes. Many came directly from Portugal and later moved to Brazil, many returned from Brazil to the coasts of West Africa.

The “Jewish danger” as it was described in Portugal was considered so seriously that the dreaded inquisition made a landfall in Africa, in Cape Verde in 1672. This establishment of this notorious instuition was followed as usual by excesses and outrages committed in the name of religious chauvinism.

Jewish property was wantonly siezed from them. They were jailed and repressed for the lest suspected misdemeanour. They were enslave for any imagined infraction and sent to one penal slave Island or the other, anywhere from Africa to the South American Brazil.

In light of this renewal of persecution, many Moorish Jews who were already “natives” by all imaginable standards, melted away into the deeper recesses of the interior where they knew the Portugese would not dare come.


This article has argued that the Moorish Jews who took refuge in West africa went “native” due to the similarity of culture and the sameness of the physical structure. There were no racial hang-ups. It has been shown how many lanados and ladinos simply took wives from local communities and became one with them.

Combined with the later pressures and depredations of the Portugese inquisition which sought to uproot the Jewish competition, as well as pressures from the upstream Muslim communities to convert, the influence of the Moorish Jews may not be as pronounced as it once was on the coast of West Africa. But it yet remains, easily discernable to any modern day inquirer.

In Cabo Verde, the presence of Moorish Jews can still be traced in their earliest settlments in Sao Tiago which they fled to as degraded and dis-enfranchised refugees returning home to the bosom of the the continent of Africa.

Jewish historical presence remains on Santo Antao, traceable in the name of a little village of that domain, Sinagogs. There is a dated Jewish cemetary at the town of Ponta da Sol.Other Jewish cemetaries can be found in Brava (Cova da Judeu), Boa Vista (in Praia and Cidade Velha) in Sinagoga, Fogo, and other places.

Many Moorish Jewish families can still be traced by their surnames in Boa Vista, Cabo Verde such as Auday, Benros, Ben David, DaGama, Seruya, Salomao Ben Oliel. According to Ricahrd Lobban, supra, “the family names of Cohn (priest) and Wahnon are prominent in Santo Antao.”

In Nigeria, in Lagos, Badagry, Warri, one finds names such as Cardoso, Gomez, DAcosta, and Gonsalis as the remenants of the Moorish Jewish families who retained their Portugese or Spanish names up to the present times. They are mistaken called “the Brazilian” returnees by those who do not know any better.

Those that returned to the African tribes simple adopted their new identities and commenced a life of relative peace and security. They intermarried and interworshipped with the nations that adopted them.

Yet, some of those Moorish Jews retained enough of their cultural traits, names, books or oral traditions that provide indications of their origins.

For example, it has been reported that “The Bnai Ephraim (“Children of Ephraim”) from Nigeria, live among the Yoruba tribe. Their oral history tells that the Bnai Ephraim people came from Morocco after the Jews were banished from Spain sometime after 1492.”

“They speak a creole language that is a mixture of Moroccan Arabic, Yoruba, and Aramaic. They are known by the Yoruba tribe as the Emo Yo Quaim, or “strange people”. This community has solid proof of its historical origins because unlike other African Israelite communities in Nigeria, they have portions of the Torah which they keep in their sanctuaries.”

Some segments of the Efik ethnicity of Nigeria (related to the Igbos and Ibibios) and the Ishan ethnicity as well do claim descent from some Jewish migration that might have probably occurred in the 15th century.

Politics and Government

Cape Verdeans were prominent as judges and state representatives in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for much of the twentieth century. In 1998, the first Republican Cape Verdean, Vinny Macedo, the representative from Plymouth, was elected to the Massachusetts State Legislature.

Cape Verdean Americans served in both World Wars, in Korea, and in Vietnam. The Verdean Veterans Association remained active in many areas of the United States, but particularly in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Due to the Constitution of the Republic of Cape Verde in 1975, all people of Cape Verdean ancestry, whether in the islands or abroad, were able to realize dual citizenship, and partake actively in elections in their home nation. Even Cape Verdeans who are born in United States feel a strong tie to their ancestral country. One organization, the Foundation of Cabo Verde, Inc. helped native islanders with financial assistance, economic development, and disaster relief aid. The 1995 Congress of CaboVerdeanos included more than 225 Cape Verdean Americans, who took a charter flight over to the islands to attend the event. The organization, along with other Cape Verdean Americans, provided assistance in 1995 when a volcano erupted on the island of Foga and destroyed over 2,000 homes. As the Republic of Cape Verde continued to develop economically and socially, Cape Verdean Americans remained at the forefront, working cooperatively with the islanders and government.

Cabo Verde Facts

1. Cabo Verde Only Has Two Seasons

Because Cabo Verde is located close to the equator, the climate and weather is very tropical. Because of this, Cabo Verde never experiences cold seasons like fall and winter. Instead of spring, summer, fall, and winter, Cabo Verde’s two seasons are called the rainy and dry seasons. These two seasons last half of the year. Dry season is difficult for farmers and food production because there are very few plants that can grow easily without water. This means that during the rainy season, the farmers need to work especially hard to produce food, an interesting fact about Cabo Verde.

2. Cabo Verde Has a Very Strong Government

There are many different styles of government in Africa, and many of them are very weak and unstable compared to other countries. Cabo Verde is said to have the strongest government in all of Africa. The Portuguese influence on the islands has created a democratic government that is a primary example of organized government in Africa.

3. One of the 10 Islands in this isalnd is Uninhabited

Since the 15 th century, nine of the islands in Cabo Verde are inhabited by people, but one was never settled on. Even in the modern day, nobody lives on the island named Santa Luzia. Santa Luzia is only 35 square kilometers, and because of its small size, nobody is permitted to live there, an interesting Cabo Verde fact. Most of the population lives on the island name Santiago, where the capital Praia, is located.

4. There are over 100 types of Birds in Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde’s climate attracts many species of birds to come to the island through the year. Many birds from mainland Africa fly to Cabo Verde to enjoy the rainy season. There are also many birds that fly from Europe to experience the warm Cabo Verde weather. One of the most exotic birds found on the islands is the Flamingo.

5. Portuguese is the Official Language in this country, But Not the Most Spoken Language

Due to the colonial history of the islands, the presence of Portuguese language and culture is very strong in Cabo Verde. Because of this deep history with the European nation, Portuguese is the official language in Cabo Verde. There is still very deep and rich African culture that is found on Cabo Verde’s islands and because of this, a combination of African languages and Portuguese vocabulary formed the most spoken language in Cabo Verde called Crioulo. Even though most of the people speak Crioulo, the schools in Cabo Verde do not teach students how to properly speak it, and they only instruct in Portuguese. Many of the Crioulo language techniques are passed down through family and cultural events.

6. African and European Religions Combine at this country

A majority of the people in Cabo Verde practice Catholicism, but similar to the language, there is a mixture of African and Portuguese culture within religion. Catholic holidays and religious ceremonies are common, but many of these events include African cultural twists. African cultural dances, music, food, and art have become a part of these Catholic practices, an interesting fact about Cabo Verde. The unique celebrations and ceremonies in Cabo Verde cannot be found in a similar style anywhere else in the world.

7. Its Most Popular Art is Storytelling

One of the most popular forms of art through ancient history is the art of storytelling. In the modern world, we still receive stories, but through things like books, TV, and video games. Cabo Verde has a link to the ancient world because the people there still sit down and listen to the great storytellers in person. These storytellers share long tales of great African heroes or historical events, an interesting fact about Cabo Verde, and these stories are called Nho Lobo tales.

8. There is Only One Native Animal in Cabo Verde

While it was mentioned that there are many species of birds in Cabo Verde, none of them are native to the island, a fun Cabo Verde facts. All of the birds and other animals in Cabo Verde were brought from other countries. The only native animal to this country is the long-eared bat, which can also be found in other African countries. Because of the size of many of the islands, there are very few animals that live in Cabo Verde, most of the animal products come from mainland Africa.


Cabo Verde is a very unique country within Africa. Many of the African countries have been influenced by colonialism throughout history, but no country has as strong European influence as Cabo Verde. The Portuguese language, religion, government, and culture influence most parts of everyday life on the islands. While the European influence is strong, there are many African cultural practices that still remain a part of life here and have influenced many of the families in Cabo Verde. The long history of Cabo Verde and its role in colonial trade created the original economy and has continued to grow to this day. The combination of the two different worlds from Europe and Africa has created a very unique blend of culture that is unique to Cabo Verde. While the islands of Cabo Verde may be very small, the rich culture that runs deep in this country is a huge influence on the rest of Africa.

I hope that this article on Cabo Verde facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!

Structure [ edit | edit source ]

Dornier 228 of the Cabo Verdean Coast Guard.

The Cabo Verdean Armed Forces are part of the Ministry of National Defense of Cape Verde and include:

  • the Military bodies of command:
    • Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces (CEMFA),
    • Office of the CEMFA,
    • Staff of the Armed Forces (EMFA),
    • Personnel Command,
    • Logistics Command

    The CEMFA is Colonel, being the highest rank officer of the Armed Forces.

    National Guard [ edit | edit source ]

    The National Guard (Guarda National) is the main branch of the Cabo Verdean Armed Forces for the military defense of the country, being responsible for the execution of land and maritime environment operations and the support to internal security. It includes:

    • Territorial commands:
      • 1st Military Region Command,
      • 2nd Military Region Command,
      • 3rd Military Region Command
      • Military Police Corps,
      • Marine Corps,
      • Artillery Corps.

      There is not a general command of the National Guard. Each military region command is headed by a Lieutenant-Colonel directly subordinate to the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and includes units of the three corps.

      Coast Guard [ edit | edit source ]

      Coast Guard patrol boat Tainha (P 262).

      The Coast Guard (Guarda Costeira) is the branch of the Cabo Verdean Armed Forces responsible for the defense and protection of the country's economical interests at the sea under national jurisdiction and for providing air and naval support to land and amphibious operations. It includes:

      • Coast Guard Command
      • Maritime Security Operations Center (COSMAR)
      • Naval Squadron
      • Air Squadron

      The Coast Guard is headed by an officer with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. The Naval and Air Squadrons incorporate, respectively, all the vessels and aircraft of the Cabo Verdean Armed Forces.

      U.S. Relations With Cabo Verde

      The United States and Cabo Verde have strong historical roots dating to 18th century whaling routes. The tradition of emigration to the United States began at that time and continues today with a concentration primarily in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. As a result, Cabo Verde’s diaspora in the United States rivals the islands’ current population of 570,000, while approximately 3,000 U.S. citizens now reside in the nine inhabited islands that make up the archipelago nation.

      The first U.S. consulate in sub-Saharan Africa opened in what is now Cabo Verde in 1818, and the United States established diplomatic relations with Cabo Verde in 1975, following its independence from Portugal. Cabo Verde is one of Africa’s success stories and an important U.S. partner in West Africa. A model of democratic governance, the country enjoys relatively high literacy rates, high per capita income, and positive health indicators. The country was under one-party rule from independence until 1990 the first multiparty elections were held in 1991. There has never been a violent conflict on Cabo Verdean soil. Although it has few natural resources, fish are plentiful. The economy is service-oriented, and tourism drives GDP. Cabo Verde’s current administration has prioritized relations with the United States and Europe. China has a strong and growing presence, and the government has announced new agreements in the last year to advance cooperation with Russia as well .

      In September 2017, the United States and Cabo Verde signed a Status of Forces Agreement, which entered into force in November 2018.

      Top U.S. priorities in Cabo Verde include increasing economic growth and development, improving security, and supporting human rights.

      Bilateral Economic Relations

      The economic partnership between the United States and Cabo Verde has strong potential for growth. Cabo Verde is eager to attract U.S. trade and investment. As part of the United States’ Prosper Africa initiative, the Department of State is working closely with the Cabo Verdean government and the U.S. Embassy in Praia to ensure that U.S. companies are aware of trade and investment opportunities.

      The government has a development plan linked to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and it welcomes interested investors in all areas. Cabo Verde’s Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development (PEDS – 2017-2021) looks at positioning the country as a mid-Atlantic platform, taking advantage of its geostrategic location between the African, European, and American continents. The strategy aims to harness the private sector – both domestic and international – as the key driver for continued economic development. Renewable energy, tourism, maritime and air transportation, information and communications technology (ICT), blue economy industries, financial services, and agribusiness are key sectors of the economy identified for private sector investors and public-private partnerships. Cabo Verde continues to invest in solar and wind energy and, with a goal of achieving 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The country seeks expanded ties with American companies to develop these renewable resources.

      In 2002, Cabo Verde and the United States signed an Open Skies agreement to facilitate air travel safety and expansion. In December 2019, Cabo Verde Airlines launched new direct flights from Dulles, Virginia, and Boston, Massachusetts, to Cabo Verde as well as new flights to South America, Africa, and Europe. Cabo Verde is an FAA Category 1 country. Cabo Verde seeks to position itself as an important aviation hub.

      Cabo Verde is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). U.S. exports to Cabo Verde include poultry, low-value shipments, vehicles, machinery, and perfumery and cosmetics. U.S. imports from Cabo Verde include machinery, aircraft parts, rum and tafia, prepared meats and fish, toys and sports equipment, soap, coffee, corn products, and baking-related goods. The United States has a trade and investment framework agreement with ECOWAS, of which Cabo Verde is a member.

      U.S. Assistance to Cabo Verde

      U.S. security, counter narcotics, and law enforcement assistance seeks to build the capacity of Cabo Verde’s military and police to respond effectively to various security challenges, including crime, money laundering, and drug trafficking. To strengthen bilateral law enforcement cooperation, in 2018 the Department initiated a partnership between the Cabo Verde National Police and the Boston Police Department, whose jurisdiction includes a large Cabo Verdean diaspora community. In September 2019, the United States and Cabo Verde signed a bilateral Letter of Agreement on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Sector Support.

      Cabo Verde’s strategic location makes it an important partner in the fight against trafficking of drugs, weapons, and people. U.S. security assistance focuses on building capacity to further our joint counternarcotic and security objectives. The United States conducts training and exercises and shares information to build Cabo Verde’s capacity to interdict suspected illicit maritime vessels, gather evidence, and prosecute traffickers, as well as carry out search and rescue operations. The Department has provided training to Cabo Verdean prison officials to improve the management, security, and human rights conditions of Cabo Verde’s correctional centers.

      In November 2017, Cabo Verde completed its second Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact ($66.2 million) which focused on water, sanitation, and land management reforms. Cabo Verde’s first compact, (for $110 million, signed in July 2005), focused on strengthening the investment climate reforming the financial sector enacting policy reforms increasing agricultural productivity building or rebuilding roads, bridges, and ports and improving public access to markets, jobs, and social services.

      Cabo Verde’s Membership in International Organizations

      Cabo Verde and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

      Bilateral Representation

      Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List .

      Cabo Verde maintains an embassy in the United States at 3415 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20007 (tel. 202-965-6820), and a Consulate General in Quincy, MA.

      More information about Cabo Verde is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

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