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Cape Verde History, Language and Culture

History of Cape Verde

The Portuguese discovered and colonised the archipelago of 10 volcanic islands that now constitute Cape Verde in 1462. The settlement on São Tiago (Santiago) was the first European toehold in the tropics and was ideally located as a supply point for slaves traded to Brazil and the West Indies.

The end of the slave trade in the 19th century marked the beginning of a lengthy period of economic decline. However, in time Cape Verde recovered and re-established itself as an important commercial center and stopover point for fleets shipping British coal to the Americas.

In 1951, Cape Verde’s status was redefined from that of a Portuguese Guinea colony, to an overseas province. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the islands were used as a garrison by the Portuguese army, while many members of the growing independence movement fled to Guinea-Bissau, to form the Partido Africano de Independência do Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC) under revolutionary leader Amilcar Cabral.

Cape Verde achieved independence peacefully in 1975, following Portugal’s 1974 revolution shortly after the granting of independence to Guinea-Bissau, with whom Cape Verde had close political associations. The PAIGC took control of the political activities of both countries and full unification was discussed. This proposal was shelved after the 1980 coup in Guinea-Bissau, after which the Cape Verdean branch of PAIGC was renamed the Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde (PAICV).

At the turn of the 1990s, the Government held elections in February 1991. The Movimento para Democracia (MPD) won both the legislature and the race for the Presidency. The MPD held onto both Presidency and national assembly in 1995, but lost both to the PAICV in 2001, when José Maria Pereira Neves was named prime minister and Pedro Pires elected president by a mere 12 votes.

Although lacking natural resources Cape Verde is considered one of the most developed and democratic countries in Africa with its economy largely focused on tourism and foreign investment. In 2013 the government decided the Portuguese designation ‘Cabo Verde’ would be used for all official purposes.

Did you know?

Pico de Fogo is the region’s largest active volcano and last erupted in 2014.

The Tavares brothers, who formed the international hit-making group of that name in 1973, are of Cape Verdean descent. Their hits include It Only Takes a Minute and More Than A Woman.

Although Portuguese is the official language of government, the native tongue is Cape Verdean Creole.

Cape Verde Culture

Religion in Cape Verde

80% of Cape Verdeans practice Catholicism. Of the remaining, 10% are Protestant and the others belong to smaller religious denominations. The Catholic majority comes from Portuguese influence.

Social Conventions in Cape Verde

The usual European social courtesies should be observed.

Language in Cape Verde

The official language is Portuguese. Creole is spoken by most of the inhabitants. Some English, French, German and Spanish are widely spoken.