Puneet Varma (Editor)

Portuguese Cape Verde

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1588–91 (first)
Duarte Lôbo da Gama

4,033 km²


Afonso V, King

1974–75 (last)
Vicente Almeida d'Eça


Date dissolved

Portuguese Cape Verde

Political structure
Colony; Overseas province of the Portuguese Empire

Francisco da Costa Gomes, President

Cape Verdean real (?–1914), Cape Verdean escudo (1914–)

Cape Verde was a colony of the Portuguese Empire from the initial settlement of the Cape Verde Islands in 1462 until the independence of Cape Verde in 1975.



Prior to its settlement by the Portuguese, Cape Verde was uninhabited.

The first islands including Boa Vista were discovered in 1456 by Vicente Dias along with Alvise Cadamosto and Antoniotto Usodimare, several more including Santiago and Fogo were discovered in 1460 by Diogo Gomes and the remainder of the Barlavento Islands in 1462 by Diogo Afonso and Antonio Noli.

In 1462, the town of Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha) was founded on the south of the island of Santiago, its first settlers arrived from Madeira. Later the first colonial church, Nossa Senhora do Rosário was built in 1495, the first street in the Portuguese ruled tropics named Rua Banana was built. Around 1500, the slave trade began in the island of Santiago in which the island had 13,000 slaves in 1513, the first slaves were Balanta, Papel, Bijagó (sometimes as Bidyogo) and Mendé peoples, the slaves were divided into two groups, the boçais ("stupid") slaves, those who spoke the African languages, the ladino ("Latins", also as "Latinized" for those that spoke Portuguese Creole) and naturals ("native", slaves that were born in Cape Verde). Settlements started to appear on other islands, São Filipe was founded in 1500, Ponta do Sol, Ribeira Grande was founded in the mid 16th century, its first settllers also arrived in Madeira, Ribeira Brava on São Nicolau, Povoação Velho on Boa Vista was later founded, Furna, Nova Sintra on Brava and Palmeira on Sal. After the Philippine Dynasty began, Sir Francis Drake captured the island in 1585 and raided Cidade Velha, Praia and São Domingos, soonafter they left. A year later in 1586, Cape Verde became a unified crown colony of Portugal. Praia was later founded in 1613 on the plateau of the previous settlement. The Pico of Fogo erupted in 1680 which resulted in the move of the population to Brava and other parts including Brazil, for a few years, the volcano was its natural lighthouse that sailors called and ships used it within the volcanic mountain. As a result of the Cassard expedition in 1712 in which Ribeira Grande was destroyed, the capital was partly moved to Praia in the east. By 1740, the island was a supply point for American slave ships and whalers, this started an all male immigration to the American colonies (now the United States). As deforestation, overgrazing occurred in some islands along with desertification, drought problems increased and the first of several famines began around 1747. The Pico do Fogo again erupted in 1769 and was the last time it erupted from the top, further eruptions occurred in 1785 and 1799. Another famine started 1774 which 20,000 people starved, as Brava and Fogo were affected, Fogo's population dropped from 5,700 to 4,200 in around 1777. The first wave of emigration began from the islands of Brava and Fogo as American whaling ships visited these islands and took some residents for better life in the United States. In 1770, Praia became colonial capital which remained up to Cape Verdean independence. The last pirate raids including one in Sal Rei in 1815 led to building a couple of more forts across Cape Verde. Other settlements on some islands were founded later including Mindelo (first as Nossa Senhora da Luz) in 1795, Pedra de Lume on Sal in 1799 and Santa Maria at the start of 1830 on the same island. The colonial capital Praia underwent modernization in 1822 which expanded the plateau towards the north. After Portugal lost Brazil, the British used Mindelo for coal refueling for ships and the city flourished in 1838, an attempt on moving the colonial capital from Praia were made, first a plan to move to Picos in 1831 at the time another famine struck Cape Verde, then in 1838, Mindelo, many people do not want to move the colonial capital, the capital stayed in Praia. Fogo erupted for the last times in the 19th century in 1847, 1852 and 1857. Mindelo grew as a result of ship refueling, two submarine telegraph cables were linked in 1874 to Pernambuco, Brazil, Cory Brothers later opened, another connected to Cameroon via Bathurst (now Banjul), the Gambia in 1885, Mindelo became the most used Transatlantic telegraph station for some time in 1912. A total of 669 ships were refueled each year at the port, it reached to 1,927 ships a decade later and then when gasoline fuel was started to be used especially boats, it never rivaled with the ports of Las Palmas of the Grand Canary or nearby Dakar in Senegal. The usage of coal dropped which lead to a coal strike in 1912 due to insufficient work, when the Great Depression began in 1930, ship activity ended. Slavery was disappearing in Cape Verde, the first was São Vicente, then São Nicolau, Santo Antão, Boa Vista in 1867, the same time slave trade ended, later slavery ended throughout Cape Verde. The famine in the nation worsened and struck when World War II was happening outside the Portuguese Empire between 1941 and 1942 and a second one from 1946 to 1948, it led to emigration of tens of thousands to Europe, some left to Senegal and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Late colonial era and towards independence

Espargos in the middle of the island was founded in the mid 20th century, it was founded in the late 1940s as an airport town, the last in the Portuguese era, in 1950, a number of flights rose, first Alitalia, then the Portuguese-Brazilian Friendship flight and South Africa Airways (SAA) in 1967 with the flights in London, the airline had to use the airport due to the international boycott of Apartheid at the time. The last eruption in the colonial era was at Pico do Fogo in 1951 and was a small one.

In 1952, the Portuguese government planned to transfer over 10,000 settlers to the island of São Tomé in São Tomé and Príncipe, that time another Portuguese colony to work in plantations instead of the Forros. Africans would come mainly from the islands of São Nicolau, Santiago, Santo Antão, Fogo and Brava. During the time that the two colonies became independent, many left to Europe and the United States, a few returned to Cape Verde, after, the Cape Verdean population would be moved to the nearby island of Príncipe, many Cape Verdean descendants, some with another descendant became elemented into the Príncipe Creole society.

In the lead-up to and during the Portuguese Colonial War, those planning and fighting in the armed conflict in Portuguese Guinea often linked the goal of liberation of Guinea-Bissau to the goal of liberation in Cape Verde. (For instance, in 1956, Amílcar and Luís Cabral founded the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde.)

As with other colonies in 1972, autonomy was granted and held its own elections in 1973, only those that were Portuguese citizens could vote. After the Carnation Revolution on April 25, 1974, Cape Verde became more autonomous but continued to have a governor from overseas, later that post would become high commissioner. Agreements for an independent Cape Verde were on the table. Pedro Pires returned to Praia on October 13 after being exiled for over a decade. After his return, Portugal signed the Algiers Agreement. On July 5, at Praia, Portugal's Prime Minister Vasco Goncalves turning over power to National Assembly President Abilio Duarte, thus the colonial history of Cape Verde ended when Cape Verde become independent . However, there was no armed conflict in Cape Verde and ultimately independence for Cape Verde resulted from negotiation with Portugal.


Portuguese Cape Verde Wikipedia

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