Cape Verde

Cape Verde is located off the western coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. It is an archipelago comprised of ten main islands, nine of which are inhabited. The capital Praia is located on Santiago which is the largest, the most populated, and the first settled of the islands.

The islands that make up what is today Cape Verde were uninhabited prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century. The islands were a major point of transit for enslaved Africans during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The culture of the islands has been influenced primarily by African and European heritage, though people from many different cultures have settled on the islands. Each island has its own unique character with cultural, linguistic, and geographical variations between them. Cape Verdeans tend to relate strongly with the island they are from.

Some islands are vastly dry and desert-like with sprawling sand dunes and occasional desert oases. Other islands have extensive mountain ranges, fertile valleys, rich soil and green forests. On the island of Santo Antão, for example, figs, citrus fruits, coffee, lavender, acacia, carob trees, coconut and date palms grow in deep valleys surrounded by verdant hills. The island to the furthest southwest, Brava, is known for its abundance of interesting flora.

Fogo volcano is an active volcano which last erupted in 2014 and hiking to its summit (Pico de Fogo) is one of the most popular activities on the island.

Activities besides hiking include beach-going, horseback riding, surfing, and indulging in the local music which is an integral part of Cape Verdean life. It is possible to see sea turtles lay their eggs on the eastern islands during some months of the year, and whale watching is possible at certain times of the year.

People

Cape Verdean sentiment toward their home island is strong. Urban life generally varies significantly from rural life.

Past centuries have seen a largely agriculturally based economy. Though farming and fishing remain important to the economy many people now live in urban environments, mostly in and around Praia and Mindelo. Many Cape Verdeans also live abroad. It is estimated that more Cape Verdeans live abroad than comprises the actual resident population of the country.

Many Cape Verdeans are farmers or fishermen, though only a small percentage of the land area is suitable for cultivation. Much of the food that is consumed locally is imported. Crops that grow on the islands include bananas, sugarcane, corn, coffee, beans, and various fruits and vegetables. Fish and seafood are important products harvested from the sea both for domestic consumption and, to a lesser degree, for export. Agriculture and (more recently) tourism are some of the main industries of the islands.

The family system is very strong in Cape Verdean culture. Personal reputation and upholding social values are also important. Cape Verdeans are generally hospitable and generous.

Communal celebrations are held often and include food, drink, music and dancing. Music and dancing are strongly intertwined with Cape Verdean culture. Musical styles include funana and batuque, both strongly African influenced and especially popular in Santiago. Each island has its own musical traditions.

Mindelo on São Vicente is the second most populous city in Cape Verde and is sometimes referred to as a cultural center of the country. The traditional musical styles most strongly associated with São Vicente are morna and coladeira.

Many islanders live in the most populated city and the capital of the country Praia, on Santiago. It is a relatively chaotic metropolis with a burgeoning population, leaving many visitors to quickly pass through it, though there are many interesting sights to see within the city and its vicinity. Outside of Praia Santiago’s landscape includes two major mountain ranges, long stretches of sandy beaches, arid desert, and valleys.

 

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