Saturday, August 30, 2008
Where I've Been: Cape Verde
Cape Verde is an archipelago of ten teeny-tiny volcanic islands off the coast of Senegal in the North Atlantic. Yes, most hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and the southeast USA start off over Cape Verde as typical summer rainstorms. The uninhabited islands were discovered and populated by the Portuguese in 1460, who brought over Africans as slaves. As was typical of Luso-Hispanic colonialism, blood boiled, races mixed, and Cape Verde was left with a variation of skin tones and hair textures reminiscent of its big brother Brazil. After a brief, shining turn as a major refueling stop for ocean-going vessels and a source of skilled mariners for 19th century American whaling ships, Cape Verde fell into long-term drought-induced economic despair, launching a diaspora now numbering over a million Cape Verdeans in North America and Europe, with less than 500,000 on the islands themselves. Cape Verde's best-known export: soulful morna singer Cesária Évora.
I was invited to accompany my good friend José, Cape Verdean historian and intellectual playboy, to visit his homeland in August of 2004. For two weeks we swatted flies, battled dust and heat, watched Brazilian soap operas, met (literally) boatloads of folks from the States and Europe visiting family for the summer, and relaxing on beaches in the absolute middle of the ocean. Yes, everybody thought I was Cape Verdean ("Hey, why dudn't that kid speak Kriolu?"). No, I'm not Cape Verdean. Would be very proud if I was, though. And yes, I know going there's like going to Hawaii and saying you've been to the USA - technically it's true, so technically, I've been to Africa.
Cape Verde on Wikipedia - basic overview
Cape Verde Unabridged - news, politics, and culture
caboverde.com - tourist and cultural information
Cape Verde Home Page - portal to other sites
Governo de Cabo Verde - official government site (in Portuguese)