The Discovery and Colonial History of Cape Verde

Cape Verde is one the only West Africa’s Island Nation. Furthermore its the smallest in the region. Read more about Cape Verde

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An 1598 map showing Cape Verde. Source Wikipedia

The history of Cape Verde is young, since the island making this African nation were not inhabited before their discovery by the Portuguese in 1456. The credit of discovering the islands goes to Antonio de Noli, a nobleman and navigator from Genoa. Additionally he became its first European to administer a sub Saharan colony on behalf of Portuguese as the First Governor of Cape Verde.

The first settlements in the islands of Cape Verde were in 1462 and in Satiago Island known as Cidade Velha, but initially known as Ribeira Grande. Cidade Velha means Old City. Please note that Ribeira Grande is different from the current town by the same name which is located in the Santo Antão Island.

The settlement of Portuguese settlers in Cape Verde in 1462 became the first ever European permanent settlement in the Tropics.

The first commercial activities in the island was Slaves Trade which made the country’s then capital city; Ribeira Grande prosperous. However, the town was vulnerable to pirates and foreign forces. The English under Sir Francis Drake attached the city in 1585 and the French did the same several times and their 1712 made the Cape Verde move its capital to its current location; Praia. It took 58 years before it was recognized as the country’s capital city; that was in 1770.

Since the economy of Cape Verde was based in Slave Trade, when it was abolished, the country lost its economic source. However, its strategic position in the mid-Atlantic shipping lanes, as well as good harbours its quickly became a hub of re-suppling ships. The key port in this new trade was in the island of São Vicente; the city of Mindelo, which grew to become a key commercial center.

Cape Verde attracted many important visitors who included Charles Darwin who on board of HMS Beagle made a stop in 1832. The visitors were not limited to Europeans only. In 1832, the first envoy of United States to Far East, appointed by USA seventh President Andrew Jackson paid a visit. This diplomats name was Edmund Roberts. 

The Islands did not have many resources and Portugal did not support them either despite being a colony. This made the residents nationalism grow becoming a problem for their mother country. In an attempt to stop the growing nationalism, Portugal made Cape Verde an overseas province in 1951.

This political gambit did not work for Portugal and in 5 years’ time an illegal African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde was formed under Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral for both Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. Guinea Bissau was the other Portuguese colony in mainland West Africa.

The new party whose headquarter was in Guinea Conakry since 1961 wanted improved social economic condition for people of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. From 1961, the party initiated series of armed rebellion against the Portuguese which resulted to Guinea Bissau war of Independence.

The war of independence, 10,000 Soviet Union and Cubans fought alongside the PAIGG soldiers against 35,000 Portuguese military backed by African soldiers. It took a lot of resources and soldiers; consequently nicknamed the Portugal’s Vietnam.

Political event back in Portugal helped end the war. on the 25th of April 1974 Portugal’s Carnation Revolution or 25 April a  military coup took place in the country’s capital; Lisbon resulting to the overthrow of dictator’s Estado Novo regime. This was the start of the end of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde’s independence struggle.

On 20th of January 1973 Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral was assassinated and his half-brother; Luís Severino de Almeida Cabral took the helm and eventually became Guinea Bissau’s first president on the 24th of September 1973.

Cape Verde independence was a year later; on the 5th of July 1975 with Aristides Maria Pereira as its first president.

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