A Rich and Fascinating History
Discovered in 1456 by Portuguese seafarers, the Cape Verde Islands tell a story that weaves its rich African and European influences together.
Recorded history began in the 15th century, when Portuguese explorers stumbled across the collection of 10 islands in 1456 and lay claim to the archipelago. They returned six years later and built Ribeira Grande, which is now known as Cidade Velha – the oldest city on Cape Verde and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Islands were seen as an important base between Africa and the Americas, which left it, and Ribeira Grande in particular, open to frequent attacks from the English, Dutch, French and pirates from around the world. This ultimately led to the capital city being moved in Praia in 1770, where it remains today.
The prosperity of the Islands was short-lived and there was little investment in Cape Verde over a lengthy period lasting well into the 20th century. This meant that many local men had to find work on American whaling ships and even today, Cape Verdean communities along the New England coast rival the population of Cape Verde itself.
Facing increasing national pressure, Portuguese Prime Minister Salazar, installed his dictatorship on Cape Verde from Lisbon and declared it an overseas province in 1951. Although it fared better in many ways than other colonies, for example Cape Verde was the first African-Portuguese colony to have a school for higher education, it took a great deal of time for conditions to improve on the Islands. This was the catalyst for national hero Amilcar Cabral setting up the PAIGC or the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and the Cape Verdes along with other pan-Africanists in 1956.
Independence from Portugal came in 1975 and today Cape Verde enjoys a very stable political structure with a growing economy. As tourism and on-island development flourishes, the Islands’ underlying vibrant and traditional culture remains true to its origins, with colourful Mardi Gras celebrations and the local fishing industry ensuring the unique character and soul of this emerging paradise is preserved.
In the end, it was the ocean liner that sparked the revival of Cape Verde and in particular the Island of Sal. Its location made it the perfect stop-over for the transportation of coal, water and livestock. When the aeroplane replaced the ocean liner, Cape Verde capitalised on this and opened an international airport on Sal in 1948. Sal airport is now truly international with visitors arriving from all over the world.