The Country

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National Anthem

Canta, irmão

canta meu irmão

que a Liberdade é hino

e o Homem a certeza.

Com dignidade, enterra a semente

no po da ilha nua

No despenhadeiro da vida

a esperança é do tamanho do mar

que nos abraça, 

Sentinela de mares e ventos

perseverante

entre estrelas e o Atlântico

entoa o cântico da Liberdade 

Canta, irmão

canta, meu irmão

que a Liberdade é hino

e o Homem a certeza. 

History

History tells us that Cabo Verde was discovered in the 15th Century – specifically, in 1460. Portuguese colonization began soon after its discovery, with Santiago and Fogo the first islands to be settled. In order to encourage colonization, the Portuguese court granted a charter of privileges to the residents of Santiago involved in the slave trade with the Coast of Guinea.

In Ribeira Grande, on the island of Santiago, a first trading company was established, and served as a stopover point for Portuguese ships and for the slave traffic and trade that had begun to grow at the time. Later, with the abolition of slavery and the relatively unfavorable climate as a result of its geographic position, Cabo Verde began to show signs of weakness and fell into decadence, with its poor economy being one mainly of subsistence.

In the 20th Century, liberation and independence movements begin to emerge all over the African continent, and Cabo Verde joined the struggle for the liberation of Portuguese Guinea.

The islands’ strategic position along routes linking Portugal to Brazil and to the rest of Africa led to their being used as a commercial and provisions entrepot. With the abolition of the slave trade in 1976, the archipelago’s commercial interest to the metropolis diminished, and Cabo Verde only began to be of importance again in the second half of the 20th Century. In the meantime, the conditions for the Cabo Verde we know today had already been created: Europeans and Africans joined together in a symbiosis that resulted in the creation of a people with its own characteristics.

Climate

The archipelago of Cabo Verde is located in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an arid or semi-arid climate. The Atlantic Ocean and the trade winds moderate the temperature. The average annual temperature is rarely more than 25º C or less than 20º C. The temperature of the sea water varies between 21º C in February and 25º C in September.

There are fundamentally two seasons in the year: the rainy season and the dry season, also known as the breezy season. The rainy season, between August and September, is very irregular and generally exhibits low levels of precipitation, particularly on the islands of São Vicente and Sal, both of which have been known to see several years go by without rain. The more topographically irregular islands, such as Santo Antão, Santiago and Fogo, generally enjoy higher levels of precipitation.

The driest season, which runs from December to July, is characterized by constant winds. The so-called “dry haze,” which consists of sand from the Sahara brought by the Harmattan winds, at times results in the paralyzing of airport services.

Location

Cabo Verde is an archipelago located off the West Coast of Africa. The volcanic islands of which it is made are small and mountainous. There is an active volcano, on the island of Fogo, which also happens to be the archipelago’s highest point, at 2,829 meters.

The country is made up of ten islands, nine of which are inhabited, and several uninhabited islets. The islands are divided into two groups – to the north are the Windward Islands, which are, from West to East, Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia (uninhabited), São Nicolau, Sal and Boa Vista. Also in the Windward group are the uninhabited islets of Branco and Raso, located between Santa Luzia and São Nicolau, Pássaros islet, located in Mindelo Bay off the island of São Vicente, the Rabo de Junco islets, off the coast of Sal, and the islets of Sal Rei and Baluarte, off the coast of the island of Boa Vista.

To the south are the Leeward Islands, which, from East to West, are: Maio, Santiago, Fogo and Brava. Islets include Santa Maria, facing Praia off the island of Santiago, the islets Grande, Rombo, Baixo, Cima, Rei, Luís Carneiro and Sapado, located some eight kilometers from the island of Brava, and Areia islet, located just off the coast of the same island.

The largest islands are Santiago, in the southeast, where the capital, Praia, is located, and Santo Antão, in the northwestern corner of the archipelago. Praia is also the archipelago’s largest population center, followed by Mindelo, on the island of São Vicente.

 

Marine Life

Cabo Verde’s marine life is very rich and diverse thanks to the purity and mild temperature of the water (25º C, on average), as well as to the existence of color platforms, which attract many colorful species of fish.

Cabo Verde is considered one of the three best places on the planet to catch the Atlantic blue swordfish, a species prized by pole and hook sports fishers, given that each specimen weighs between 90 and 150 kg. Indeed, the capture of one of the world’s largest specimens of the species, which weighed in at 495 kg, has been duly confirmed by official authorities in Cabo Verdean waters.

There are also relatively good chances of catching other species such as the wahoo, the Atlantic bonito, dolphin fish and several species in the shark family. Numerous perennial species of fish may be seen at different times of the year, such as the gilthead bream, red mullet, amberjack, perch, Atlantic goliath grouper, moray, grey mullet and sea bass; as well as migratory species such as tuna, dolphins [sic], humpback whales, killer whales and other types of cetaceans.

The largest concentration of these migratory species can be found in the eastern regions of the archipelago – Sal, Boa Vista and Maio – which lies along the migratory routes of tuna species, which, for their part, are relatively abundant during certain months of the year. The archipelago also has a permanent tuna population made up mainly of albacore and bigeye tuna.

Among the most important of the migratory tuna species is the skipjack, which passes through Cabo Verdean waters between July and November. Below the rocky outcrops of the shorelines of several of the country’s islands we may find giant sea turtles, which are endangered and protected, and which are one of the five species of sea turtles that nest on the island of Maio. 

Flora

Following the islands’ emergence as a result of underwater volcanic activity, the wind, ocean currents and birds undertook the task of populating them with animal and plant species.

Over time, the plant species evolved to adapt to the relief and micro-climates on the islands, thus becoming differentiated from their ancestors. It is known that vegetation on the islands was once exuberant, albeit without any woody forests.

Man’s action on nature caused dramatic alterations in the vegetation, and the creation of agricultural plots, the diversion of streams, the introduction of new pasture plants, the arrival of domesticated mammals, particularly goats, and the felling of trees and shrubbery took place so quickly that the islands’ natural vegetation was unable to regenerate on its own.

Since Cabo Verde’s independence, considerable efforts have been undertaken to protect endemic species and carry out reforestation of hillsides in order to secure topsoil exposed to erosion. Cabo Verdean flora, although not exceptionally rich, differs horizontally from island to island, as well as vertically, depending on altitude.

Macaronesian species account for most of Cabo Verde’s endemic plant species, such as the Sideroxylon mirmulano, the dracaena, which is found in the largest numbers on São Nicolau and Brava, the Cabo Verdean date palm, several species of the Echium genus, the Euphorbia tuckeyana, the Periploca chevalieri and the Cabo Verdean artemisia, among others.

The species of tropical Africa, particularly from the Sahel zone, are predominant at lower altitudes, where we find vegetation typical of the transition zone between the herbaceous savannah – mostly undifferentiated and relatively dry species – and the more densely wooded savannah, with an abundance of acacia and other species typical of humid zones.

These are plants of Sudano-Sahelian origin such as the baobab, the cottonwood tree, the tamarind tree, the wild fig tree, the Juniper bush, the white acacia, the mallow raisin, and others.

In higher elevations, between 400 and 1,400 meters, we find humid or sub-humid vegetation more tropical in nature. More than 200 different species have been introduced by man from practically all continents, with food crops such as corn, beans, sweet potato, potato, tomato, etc., being grown. In addition to the above-mentioned plants, Cabo Verde also hosts other species such as lantana, agave, jatropha, castor bean plant, grapes, sugarcane, apple trees, orange trees and European fig trees.

Fauna

In Cabo Verde, there are no particularly dangerous or poisonous animals. Cabo Verdean fauna is made up essentially of domesticated animals and non-domesticated species such as birds, small reptiles, beetles and endemic insects, with a number of small monkey species on the island of Santiago as well. There are some 150 species of land and sea birds, some 42 of which reproduce locally. Of this total, 24 species and varieties are endemic, while others migrate from Europe – such as the royal heron – and Africa.

Many of the birds are marine species, building their nests on escarpments on the coasts of islands and islets (including the red heron and the kite, among others). Among the most prominent endangered species are the marbled duck, the saltator and the black kite.

Prominent birds of prey are the falcon, the kestrel, the owl and the hawk. Some of the species considered “useful” are the Cape Verde warbler (which are insectivores), the spectacled warbler, the Barbary warbler, the Cape Verde kingfisher, the crow, herons and the Raso lark.

Reptile varieties include various species of lizards and geckoes, most of which are endemic. The most celebrated of these is the Cape Verde giant skink, which reached up to 50 cm in length, is extremely rare and is in imminent risk of extinction.

Cuisine

Cabo Verde’s cuisine is rich, varied and flavorful, and offers numerous dishes that result from the very distinct influences that made their way to the archipelago over the course of the centuries.

The centerpiece of Cape Verdean culinary tradition is cachupa, a dish made with corn, beans and fish, or, sometimes, just corn and bacon fat. Over the years, locals added different vegetables and meats, giving the cachupa a very specific taste.

The flavors of Cabo Verde are also enriched by the quality and diversity of fish and seafood in the waters around the islands, delighting locals and visitors alike. Cheeses and sweets are also a part of the country’s culinary tradition. And no meal is complete without a glass of wine from the island of Fogo or a shot of grogue, a brandy made of fermented sugarcane juice. And all, of course, is brought to a perfect conclusion with Fogo’s famous, delicious coffee.

Sports and Leisure Activities

Cabo Verde offers various points of interest related to nature, which can be divided into three categories: water, mountain and nightlife/cuisine. With regards to ocean-based points of interest, visitors can enjoy the beautiful white, fine-grain sand beaches, where they can lazily lie under the splendor of the Cabo Verdean sun or take a dive in the warm, blue waters.

Those looking for more action have various different nautical activities available to them, including fishing – including high-seas sport fishing – diving, which can range from simple dives to underwater fishing, photographic safaris among the numerous fish species in the country’s waters, and visits to coral reefs or even to the many shipwrecks scattered along Cabo Verde’s coasts.

There is no need to bring along equipment, as there are many companies operating that rent the materials out. Beginners in these activities can hire instructors who will train them in the aquatic arts. Visitors can also practice or get started in learning windsurfing, bodyboarding or surfing, with the same facilities referred to with regards to diving.

Those who prefer the countryside or would rather alternate between land and sea have various different itineraries available to them, particularly in mountainous zones interspersed with deep valleys, which may be visited with or without a guide. They can also opt for horse or bicycle outings or, on the island of São Vicente, tennis or golf.

Music

Ever since their origin as a people, Cabo Verdeans have recognized the value of music, which has long been their faithful companion and has, indeed, served as their calling card in the world. Cabo Verdeans’ life story is revealed in the morna, which reflects the everyday experiences of the country’s people.

Music has always been important to Cabo Verdeans, having been present in all life circumstances, in times of famine and in times of plenty, to bid farewell or to welcome back those sorely missed, in joy and in sadness, pain and euphoria, when marking death and celebrating life and reality.

Today, the music of Cabo Verde holds a prominent place domestically, as not only are traditional genres sung – in Cabo Verdeans’ baggage we can also find styles such as zouk, reggaeton and hip-hop. Although new musical styles are being adopted in Cabo Verde, there are also young talents such as Mayra Andrade, who, despite her tender age, is already well-known in various countries and has enchanted listeners all over the world, and who is spreading the fame of Cabo Verdean music all over the planet.

Cabo Verdeans are pleased to have their culture known to the outside world, even if mostly on the plane of music. In addition to Mayra, the barefoot diva, Cesária Évora, is one of Cabo Verde’s most important artists internationally, and has taken Cabo Verdean culture to Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.

The music of Cabo Verde comes alive in its melody and rhythms. Morna, coladeira, funaná, batuko and finaçon are the most well-disseminated traditional genres in Cabo Verde’s extremely rich musical heritage.

Handicrafts

Handicrafts are of great importance in Cabo Verdean culture. Weaving and ceramics are art forms that are both very much highly considered in the country. Produced for practical or decorative purposes, Cabo Verde’s handicrafts are singular and constitute a veritable tool for the expression of popular culture. Nowadays, handicrafts also serve as a point of attraction for tourists, and constitute the only source of income for a number of families.

Language

Cabo Verde’s official language is Portuguese, which is used in schools, public administration, the press and publications. Cabo Verde’s national language, which is spoken by its entire population, is Cabo Verdean Crioulo.

Cabo Verde has nine inhabited islands, each of which has a different variety of Crioulo. The language is currently undergoing an official standardization process, and its adoption as a second official language alongside Portuguese is being discussed.

Literature

Poetry lies at the heart of Cabo Verdean culture, reflected in the musical genre morna, in popular story telling and in novels. It soul revolves around “sodade,” a term that derives from the Portuguese word “saudade” and translates, roughly, as nostalgia or longing. Cabo Verde’s first poetic movement arose in 1890 but did not reflect specifically on Cabo Verdean identity, and derived from a taste for Portuguese aesthetics.

The movement was born on the island of São Nicolau, at the time the intellectual epicenter of Cabo Verde. This period, considered the classical period, lasted until 1930. Composer and poet Eugénio Tavares, who innovated and popularized the morna, was one of the illustrious representatives of this literary school. In 1936, a new movement would come to replace it, and was centered on the literary journal Claridade, the reference point of which was Cabo Verdean culture and the living conditions of the population.

Baltazar Lopes, Jorge Barbosa and Manuel Lopes, three fundamental figures in the country’s literature, introduced a new style into poetic work, reflecting upon the paradox that forever torments the Cabo Verdean soul: the desire to leave when one is forced to stay, and the desire to stay when one is obliged to depart..

Religion

Most Cabo Verdeans – more than 90% - are Roman Catholic. Other Christian denominations have also taken root in Cabo Verde, particularly the Protestant Church of the Nazarene and Seventh-Day Adventist Church, as well as the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints (Mormons), the Christian Congregation in Cabo Verde, the Assembly of God, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious groups. There are small Muslim and Baha’i minorities.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God also has a number of followers in Cabo Verde. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution and respected by the government. Relations between the various different religious confessions are generally good.

Economy

Since 1975, Cabo Verde has presented extremely high growth rates, with the annual per capita income currently estimated to stand at approximately US$ 2,000 and inflation at 1.5%.

Political stability, investments in education and remittances from émigrés are the main reasons behind this success. Cabo Verde has always been a land of émigrés, which has resulted in an inflow of foreign currency sent home by its sons and daughters who, despite their physically absence, keep their native land in their souls and dreams.

Cabo Verde is currently considered to have the fourth-highest quality of living of all countries in Africa. The primary sector (agriculture) occupies some 80% of the labor force, but satisfied just 15% of the country’s food needs, which is demonstrative of the major dependence of the archipelago’s economy on imports.

These imports come mostly from European countries, particularly Portugal. Fishing, although not very developed, has the potential to turn into an extremely important productive activity, not only in terms of catches, but also in terms of the derivatives industry. But the engine of Cabo Verde’s economic development is tourism, the growth of which, in recent years, has been notable, leaping from 19,000 tourists in 1991 to 335,000 in 2009.

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