by Jane E. Spear
The Cape Verde (or Cabo Verde) Islands are known officially as the Republic of Cape Verde. The islands lie approximately 320 miles (515 kilometers) off the west coast of Senegal, the westernmost country on the African continent. The republic consists of ten islands, nine of which are inhabited, and five islets in the Atlantic Ocean. These islands and islets cover an area of 1,557 square miles (4,033 square kilometers) and are also referred to as the Cape Verde Archipelago. The term archipelago indicates a chain of islands within a particular area. The islands form two clusters, the Windward islands and the Leeward Islands, relating to their position to the northeast wind. Windward refers to the islands on the side from which the wind blows. Leeward refers to those opposite the wind. The Windward Islands are: Santa Antao, Sao Vincente, Santa Lluzia, Sao Nicolau, Sal and Boa vista, and the islets of Branco and Razo. The Leeward Islands are Maio, Sao Tiago, Fogo and Brava, and the three Rombo islets. The climate of the Cape Verde islands is mild, and the humidity is low. The clean and beautiful beaches and low crime were factors that promoted increased tourism to the islands by the end of the twentieth century.
The geography of the Republic of Cape Verde is an important key to understanding the Cape Verdean people and their culture. Discovered by the Portuguese around 1455, these volcanic islands have been plagued for centuries by recurrent droughts. The last major drought ended in 1985, following 12 dry years. In a country that relies primarily on agriculture for its livelihood, only ten percent of its land is suitable for growing. Seven percent of its land is used for cattle grazing. With overgrazing and extended droughts, the land resembles the barren coast of New England, rather than an exotic landscape of the Tropics. When droughts occur, the vegetation in the mountainous valleys is supplied with water from underground. But dry winds during these periods leave much of the topsoil washed away and when rain does come, no seeds will have been planted.
In 1990, the Republic of the Cape Verde Islands had an estimated population of 339,000. However, more than half of Cape Verdean citizens lived abroad due to poor working conditions in their homeland. The majority of those inhabited the northeastern United States, primarily Massachusetts and Rhode Island. More than two-thirds of Cape Verdean population ancestry is Creole, descended from the intermarriages between the Portuguese settlers and black Africans. The majority of the population practices Roman Catholicism, although other churches have gained a foothold in the islands. The predominant Protestant group in the Cape Verdean islands is the American Nazarene Church and other large groups include the Baptists and Adventists. Animist customs, which are beliefs rooted in a spiritual presence outside the physical realm, and beliefs in spirits and demons, are not uncommon among Cape Verdeans, even those who practice one of the mainstream religions. The flag of the Republic of Cape Verde contains a circle of ten stars to the left of center, around two colors of stripes on either side—one narrow red stripe in the center between two wider white stripes, all under a deep blue background.
The name Cape Verde means green cape, an ironic description of these dry and mountainous islands. In the middle of the fifteenth century, before Queen Isabel of Spain sent an Italian, Christopher Columbus, to discover a new route to the east, Portugal was engaged in colonial expansion. The dates regarding the exact time that Portuguese explorer Diogo Gomes and Genovese Antonio di Noli (working for the Portuguese king) discovered the Cape Verdean Islands varies. One source suggests that they landed on the unpopulated islands as early as 1455. Other Portuguese historians maintain that they were discovered over the course of two voyages between 1460 and 1462. The navigators reportedly saw the first islands, Sao Tiago, or Santiago, (Portuguese for James) S. Felipe (Portuguese for Philip) and Maio, or Mayo, in honor of the feast of Saints Philip and James, the day of their discovery. Two years later, they were believed to have completed their discovery of the seven other islands. Oral traditions passed down through the centuries among the Portuguese and the Cape Verdeans indicate that the islands were not always uninhabited. According to these stories, Sao Tiago was inhabited by Wolofs, natives of Senegal and Gambia, both west African coastal nations; and that Sal was inhabited by Lebu, Serer, the Felup. These groups were also native to the African continent.
In June of 1466, King Alfonso of Portugal (1432 to 1481) developed a proposal to make settling in the Cape Verde Islands more attractive. He granted a Charter of Privileges and placed his brother Fernando as owner, and gave him jurisdiction over all inhabitants in civil and criminal matters. These inhabitants may have been any of the following groups: Moors, or Mauritanians of mixed Arab and Berber descent who lived in northwest Africa, some of whom had invaded and occupied Spain in the eighth century; Blacks, from the African continent; or Whites, settlers from Europe. This charter allowed the settlers to organize the slave trade off the African coast, providing both for the development of the islands themselves, as well as for the expanding slave markets in Brazil and the West Indies of the Caribbean. The scarcity of European women inhabiting the island ultimately led to the coupling of the Portuguese male settlers with the native Africans, and mixed blood emerged into over 90 percent of the population. This intermingling of bloodlines often set Cape Verdean islanders and their descendants apart from being considered solely African; or, in the instance of emigrants to America, as African-Americans.
The poor growing conditions on the islands created difficulties for the Portuguese. They were used to harvesting and eating grains that could not grow on the Cape Verdean landscape. The Portuguese brought maize, or corn, from Brazil, and established it as the islands' main crop. Urzela, a natural substance used in dyes, was another imported crop. Many of the African slaves brought to Cape Verde were expert weavers, and wove the cotton into intricately patterned materials for use in clothing and household goods. All of the work done to cultivate the land in the Cape Verde Islands during the centuries of Portuguese occupation was done for Portugal, as produce was returned to the mother country. This was to detriment of the local natives, particularly the slaves who had been imported from mainland Africa.
The Europeans who did stay in the islands settled in the most fertile areas. Sao Tiago, the largest island, was divided into feudal estates, which was the system of land division in Europe. Feudal estates were passed down from one generation to the next, father to son, and were worked by tenant farmers. These tenant farmers often lived grim and bleak existences. Working the land, especially in the difficult soil of the Cape Verde Islands was tedious, at best. Although they were not considered slaves, tenant farmers never gained the right to own the land they farmed. They only subsisted on what was left after they paid taxes to the landlord
Portugal, like the Britain's settlement of Australia with criminals, sent degredados, or convicts, to settle the Cape Verde Islands. This practice continued on a regular basis until 1882. Escaping persecution in Portugal, many Jewish people, especially men, also settled in the Cape Verde Islands. Despite the fact that many Jews had converted to Christianity in Medieval Europe, they were persecuted due to racial discrimination, not simply religion. Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal at the time that exploration to the New World began often left robbed of their money and their possessions. In fact, much of the wealth Queen Isabel of Spain used to finance Christopher Columbus' voyage was confiscated from persecuted Jews. But these were not the only deplorable practices that Portugal engaged in. The slavery that brought good prices in their early trade of Africans and deportation to the Caribbean, and Brazil, brought better prices once the slaves of Cape Verde Islands had learned to speak the common tongue of their captors. Thus, Portugal doubled their profit.
After years of living on the islands, the population began to understand that the droughts occurred in cycles. Two major droughts occurred in the sixteenth century, the first in 1549, and the second from 1580 to 1583. Moreover, a harsh and severe famine occurred during the latter drought. Reports of another drought, from 1609 to 1611, indicated that while the rich had food, the poor, both slave and non-slave, did not and many perished from prolonged periods of starvation. By the middle of the seventeenth century, a significant proportion of the white settlers decided to abandon the islands. This, along with the recurring droughts, brought a decline in the export economy. Eventually, the Portuguese governing monarchy permitted slave ships in transit from Africa to the Americas to pay their customs fees before they left the coast of mainland Africa, instead of stopping by the Cape Verde Islands to do so. Consequently, the city of Ribiera Grande became easy prey for pirates. It was pushed into ruin by neglect and abandonment, and Praia became the new capital. This location afforded a natural fortress to protect it from roving marauders and pirates in search of valuable goods. Illegal trade brought the only consistent source of revenue, as Portuguese trade laws restricted trade with foreigners.
From 1696 to 1785, famines increased, even when the droughts were not as severe, due to mismanagement of the charter companies employed by the monarchy. Managers of the land did not store food during more fertile periods and during the famine of 1773 to 1775, some inhabitants became so desperate to leave the island that they sold themselves into slavery to foreign ships. Other slaves took advantage of the chaos that often occurred during pirate attacks, and escaped to the distant countryside, settling down to farm the land for themselves. Because these people were scattered and isolated from each other, they were unable to unite and attempt to take control of their fate.
Another brutal famine during the early 1830s killed an estimated one third of the population. An uprising in 1835 killed even more people. Soldiers at Praia, most recruited from the Azores, began the uprising. The Azores, a group of islands in the north Atlantic that lie west of Portugal's mainland, were also part of the Portuguese empire. The uprising resulted in the slaughter of many officials. Thwarted in their attempt to take over the government, the insurrectionist leaders were hanged. When another uprising occurred at Achade Falcao, ancestral home of twentieth century political leader, Amilcar Cabral, its attempts also failed, as were many others. The United States was aware of news reports of the famines of 1830 to 1833, and another in 1856. While the Portuguese government and public in Lisbon offered nothing in assistance, the people of Boston and New York sent money and food —11 ships worth of food went out from New York alone in 1856 —to alleviate the suffering of the Cape Verdeans.
The Portuguese did not outlaw the trading of slaves until 1836, long after the rest of the European states denounced the practice. The practice continued due to loopholes in the laws and unscrupulous officials and business people. The Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1842 brought the first serious admonitions against it and prevented slaves from coming on to the islands. Laws abolishing slavery continued being passed during the 1850s, yet the trade continued until 1878.
The cruel vagaries of both the landowners and the land itself continued for the tenant farmers who remained on the islands. Outrageous practices, such as arbitrary rent raises, resulted in the sudden eviction of the tenants and there was little mercy for the struggling residents. Although government ruled against it, these practices continued until the 1970s. When a famine from 1863 until 1866 killed a third of the population for the second time in only 30 years, forced emigration began under governmentsponsored recruitment. The government sent people to the equatorial islands of Sao Tome and Principe, where cocoa production was emerging as a major operation. The survivors of these famines chose to endure contract labor rather than another harsh famine. Some islanders settled in Senegal; some went to Guine-Bissau, which eventually fell under Portuguese control. Cape Verdean had established themselves in Guine-Bissau in independent businesses, often trading their distilled spirits, made from sugar cane, and other imported goods. When the Portuguese took over, they resented that these spirits competed with their brandy. They subsequently forced the re-settled Cape Verdeans out of business, and the Cape Verdeans took on low-paying government jobs.
Through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, droughts and famines in the Cape Verde islands continued. A law enacted by the Portuguese government in 1899 allowed authorities to force any kind of work, no matter how low the wage or undesirable the situation, upon any unemployed males. This enabled the government to maintain the work force on the cocoa plantations during another grave famine in 1902 to 1903. When Portugal became a republic in 1910, the harsh law remained intact. World War I created further havoc for the Cape Verdean shipping industry, as did the famine of 1920 to 1922. An estimated 30,000 people died of starvation.
In 1917, the United States began to prohibit the immigration of illiterate people. This law was the precedent for harsher immigration laws later enacted in the 1920s designed to stem the flow of immigrants into America. Cape Verdeans who had left the islands for America by the hundreds in the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century, were now leaving only by the dozens. Other reforms, such as the birth of a free press and school reforms, did result from the establishment of the Republic. Even as the rule of Salazar had begun to hamper freedoms again after gaining control in Portugal in 1926, the small minority of Cape Verdeans who were educated struggled to raise its voice. In 1936, a group of the few intellectuals and educated people founded a review known as Claridade. Publication continued until 1960. World War II created further problems for the islands due to restricted travel and shipping, even though Portugal remained neutral. Famines from 1941 to 1943, and again from 1947 to 1949, killed yet another estimated 45,000 people from starvation.
By the 1950s, the islanders, as well as other subjects of the Portuguese colonization, began a new escape route. This time they escaped into postwar western Europe, which needed workers for the booming recovery and rebuilding of a devastated Europe, including Portugal. Many natives of Portugal left their impoverished homeland and were replaced by Cape Verdeans eager to take on the most menial of jobs to escape of the hardships of more famines. The largest group of them settled in the Netherlands. Thus, not only Cape Verdean-Americans could send money back to the homeland. Those settling in Europe sent so much money back home that it became the major source of income and exchange.
Also in the 1950s, protest was mounting throughout Portuguese Africa. A group of Cape Verdeans and people from the mainland colony of Guine-Bissau, led by Amilcar Cabral, joined forces to organize the Patrido Africano de Independencia de Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC). The freedom fighters moved through the forests rather than the open mountainous country, to avoid air attacks air attack. Those who resisted politically, were subject to the terrors of the Portuguese secret police, and sometimes imprisoned in the concentration camp at Tarrafal, on Sao Tiago. This place was the sad fate for political prisoners from all over the Portuguese empire. The government provided famine relief in 1959 in an attempt to win the people's support. Other public projects, such as roads, a desalination plant, and irrigation works were constructed, only to fail in a few short years. On April 25, 1974, the government in Portugal was overthrown. The new Portuguese government was prepared to destroy their old colonies, but reconsidered, believing that they could still control the colonies with puppet governments. The Cape Verdeans resisted, supporting the PAIGC, and in September and December of that same year, general strikes were called. The government surrendered when all services and production stopped. In June of 1975, following elections, the independent Republic of Cabo Verde was proclaimed. Independence Day was established on July 5, 1975, and it is celebrated by Cape Verdeans throughout the world.
When Ana Maria Cabral, widow of Amilcar, spoke at the 1995 Festival of American Folklife at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., she focused on her husband's and her country's struggle for independence and cultural resistance. Amilcar Cabral had written into Cape Verde's new Constitution provisions for dual-citizenship and voting, consequently formalizing the close ties that Cape Verdeans who emigrated elsewhere maintained to their homeland. An interdependence between the diaspora (the term used for members of a culture who spread out and settle away from their original homeland) and those who lived on the islands became a legally-recognized status. Cabral's widow noted that, "Cape Verde [had] undergone a very interesting historical process. Originally a group of uninhabited islands, the archipelago's population resulted mostly from Portuguese exiles' intermarrying with black African slaves and their descendants. Cultural colonization progressively diluted itself in a biological and social mixing that, joined with factors less than favorable to the establishment of a strong metropolitan ruling class, soon imposed on Cape Verdean society a characteristic personality. These are evident everywhere: in linguistic re-creation, musical re-harmonization, ancestral traces in culinary customs, and the more common manifestations of everyday life."
Massachusetts colonist Jonathan Winthrop was the first to record any contact with Cape Verdeans. In 1643, he recorded in his journal that a shipment of boat slaves were sent from Boston to England. These slaves were sold to finance the further purchase of Africans from the island of Mayo as well as sold to Barbados to buy molasses. The molasses was returned to Boston to produce rum. The first Cape Verdean islanders settled in the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century. Most of these early settlers had boarded the New England whaling ships that often stopped by the Cape Verde coast. Into the early twentieth century, before the decline of the whaling industry, Cape Verdeans were prominent on the Whalers, serving in every capacity from ship captains to harpooners to shipmates. The long hours and years at sea spawned the particular crafts of scrimshaw—t he intricate carving of whale teeth and jawbones—ship modeling, and other forms of carvings.
The cranberry industry centered south of Boston, on the Cape Cod peninsula, required numerous workers to harvest the bogs. Cape Verdeans who had settled in New England to work in the whaling and shipping industry, were joined by fellow islanders who arrived to work in the bogs. At the end of the twentieth century, the majority of Cape Verdeans remained clustered in the New England area, particularly Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Population estimates vary for that region, with figures of 13,000 to 21,000 people. U.S. Census figures for 1990 counted over 400,000 persons of Cape Verdean ancestry throughout the United States.
Following World War I, a significant number of New England's Cape Verdeans headed to Ohio and Michigan to fill the many positions opening up in the auto, steel and manufacturing industry. With most families remaining in New England, it was not unusual for Cape Verdeans to travel back and forth from their midwestern homes to Massachusetts and Rhode Island. During the lengthy factory strikes of the late 1950s and 1960s, some Cape Verdeans returned east to find comfort in family, and to find work in the cranberry bogs, or other migrant farms.
Cape Verdean Americans carry with them a history of hardship and devastation into the United States. The strength that they developed fortify them as they face obstacles life in a new country. Cape Verdean immigrants keep watch not only for themselves in a new country, but continue to work for the betterment and survival of their fellow Cape Verdeans who remain in the islands.
The distinction between "black" and "white" in the America to which the Cape Verdeans arrived was defined and the Cape Verdeans faced prejudice. Dr. Dwayne Williams, the executive director of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, spoke about Cape Verdeans to a group at Brown University in Providence in February of 1997. He explained that even when Americans attempted to classify Cape Verdeans as black, and often dismissed them because of that, "Cape Verdeans [still] refused to fit within this framework. That differentiates them." Those Cape Verdeans born in the nineteenth century, and before World War I in the islands and in America, created a distinct identity, separate from their African ancestors. They did not think of themselves as "African Americans" in the same way that the descendants of America's slaves did. For them, their European blood was as much a part of their ancestry as was their African blood. That was true especially for those who settled away from the concentrated Cape Verdean environments of New England, and moved into the Midwest. Because a majority of them were Roman Catholics in a country where few African Americans shared in that faith, Cape Verdean Americans more often found themselves in the company of other white Catholics. Many of these white Catholics were immigrants from Eastern Europe, also struggling to blend into their new country. The Cape Verdeans considered themselves Portuguese and usually expressed that distinction when their identity was questioned.
Cape Verdean immigrants, like their fellow white parishioners and factory coworkers in ethnic neighborhoods, spoke a different language. Although many of them were forced into black neighborhoods because of their skin color, earlier generations of Cape Verdean Americans maintained a society separate from other African Americans surrounding them. Their customs, their language, and their religion kept them together in closely-knit extended families. Cape Verdeans, into the middle of the twentieth century, often had large immediate families, with five or more children. For Catholics, practicing a faith that banned birth control and abortion, children were accepted as a natural consequence of marriage. For Cape Verdean Catholics endured a past marked by great uncertainty because of droughts and famines, and children were accepted not only as a matter of their faith. They were also received with joy at the prospect of continuing on and surviving for generations to come.
When the children and grandchildren of the first immigrant waves became involved in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, a new sense of solidarity with other African Americans emerged. Cape Verdean Americans of the post World War II generation in particular saw the similarities between their own struggles and the struggles of other African Americans. While older Cape Verdean Americans frowned upon these ties, the fight for independence from Portuguese rule back in the islands was headed toward victory. Cape Verdeans moved to places all over the world, from Macau to Haiti to Argentina to northern Europe
By the end of the twentieth century, the Cape Verdean community in America had grown in its self-awareness as well as its opportunities to express its identity. Cape Verdean Americans who were scattered throughout the United States, from well-established communities in New England and Southern California to newer clusters in metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, began to renew their heritage with the younger generations.
Roman Catholicism provides much of the Cape Verde's religious heritage, but animist customs and beliefs linger in the practices of Cape Verdeans in America as well as the islands. The superstitions born of their African ancestry included a belief in witches, the powers of healers and non-traditional medicine. Nuno Miranda, a healer and spiritualist recognized by all Cape Verdeans in the twentieth century, was responsible for passing down many such customs. Many pagan beliefs were eventually interwoven into the celebration of Roman Catholic holidays.
Many proverbs continue to be passed down from the older generations born in the islands to the younger generations born in America. These proverbs reflected the often troubled lives of the Cape Verdean people, for example: Who stays will not go away. Who never went away will not come back anymore; Without leaving there is no coming back; If we die in the departure, God will give us life in the return; Cover just as your cloth permit it (do not bite off more than you can chew); A pretty girl is like a ship with all its flags windwards; Who does not want to be a wolf should not its pelt wear; Who mix himself up with pigs will eat bran; A poor foreigner eats the raw and the undercooked; There is no better mirror than an old friend; Good calf sucks milk from all the cows; Who does not take the risk, do not taste (life); The fool is sly people's bread; What is good ends soon. What is bad never ends.
The food that most Cape Verdean Americans eat is the dish Katxupa, or Cachupa. Cape Verdeans offer many slight variations of this, but the two main versions are Cachupa rica, indicating the inclusion of meat for the rica, or rich people; and Cachupa povera, for the povera, or poor, who cannot afford meat. The main ingredients of the dish are beaten corn, ground beef, bacon, sausages, pigs' feet, potatoes, dry beans, cabbage, garlic, onions, laurel (bay) leaves and salt and pepper to taste. All of these ingredients are cooked slowly together in a big pot for several hours. It is sometimes made with fish in America's New England community and in the islands, where fish is plentiful.
Another favorite dish is Canja de galinha, which includes chicken, rice and tomatoes, and is cooked with onions, garlic, sage, and bay leaves. This dish is always included at funerals, or in times of big family celebrations and parties. Jagacida is cooked with lima or kidney beans, salt, pepper and fresh parsley, and served with meat or poultry . Caldo de peixe is a fish soup, and a favorite among an island culture that relies on fish as a major food source. Lagaropa, a red grouper fish, native to the sea surrounding the islands, is used when available. Custom dictates that when someone is suffering from too much alcohol consumption, a spicy version of the soup is necessary to recover. For something sweet, Pudim de Leite, a simple milk pudding is served. Whenever food is served among Cape Verdean Americans, the important factor is the coming together of family and friends, celebrating the gift of food, and sharing it with love.
The hardships and trials of the Cape Verdean homeland, and their struggles in the lands to which they immigrated, has resulted in a music full of melancholy, or morna, as the traditional ballads are known. Cape Verdeans enjoy tunes from the beautiful mixture of guitar, violin, and vocals. Song lyrics often reflect the separations endured throughout the waves of immigration, particularly between the islands and America. John Cho wrote in his article, "The Sands of Cape Verde," that, "Given such a history filled with loss and departures, plus having the Portuguese (themselves known for their pensive nature) as their European component, it is not a surprise that the popular music of Cape Verde are steeped in melancholy. Alienation and a forced abandonment of roots have also played a role, as the bulk of the population is composed of the descendants of African slaves from various ethnic backgrounds who were cut off from their histories and had to develop a Creole language and culture under a particularly ruthless colonial regime. An obvious analogy is the development of another great music of melancholia, the blues, also by slaves and their progeny in the United States." In America, Cape Verdeans have continued their devotion to their music. In addition, their heritage led to an interest and participation in the distinctly American music, jazz.
The major holidays of Cape Verdean Americans are rooted primarily in their Christian beliefs, and include Christmas, the Feast of St. John the Baptist and the celebration of Carnival, the weeklong period preceding Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the season of Lent. The celebration of saints constitutes many of the other celebrations among Cape Verdeans. Most of the holidays in the islands and abroad occur during the months of May, June, and July, with some, such as the Feast of All Saints, and All Souls' Day, occurring in early November. In addition to celebrating the July 4 as Independence Day for the United States, their adopted country, Cape Verdean Americans share the worldwide recognition of the islands' own day of independence from Portuguese colonial rule on July 5th. The Cape Verdean Americans of the New England area celebrate St. John's feast with traditional parades, dancing the kola, and favorite foods.
Americans of Cape Verdean ancestry do not suffer any recognizable disease or illness specific to them. However, they do have an increased risk for high blood pressure and diabetes that is common among African Americans.
Due to the unique role of Cape Verdeans as an isolated cultural group in America, social services addressing problems such as domestic abuse and youth violence and delinquency were not readily available until the end of the 1990s. Until then women and men suffered in silence in deference to the family and to the Catholic church. This situation began to change when people like Jose Barros and his Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston's Roxbury section, and Noemia Montero with the Log School Family Education Center in Dorchester, another Boston-area neighborhood, developed programs for the betterment of Cape Verdean immigrants, some of them not yet American citizens, who struggled with identity, poverty, and poor education.
Cape Verdean Americans speak English, Portuguese, and Kriolu (or Crioulo ), the Creole language developed as a mixture of the European languages of explorers and the native African tongues spoken by slaves. Much of the vocabulary stems from Portuguese, although many of these words are no longer used in twentieth century Portugal. The African tongues, mostly Mande, influenced Kriolu chiefly in the way that grammar is used. Since the Republic of Cape Verde was established in 1975 when it became independent of Portugal, Kriolu, not Portuguese has become the dominant language among the islanders.
When Cape Verdeans came to the United States to work in the cranberry bogs on Cape Cod and the nearby vicinity in the early twentieth century, the school system of Massachusetts did not recognize Kriolu as an acceptable language. Consequently, children and students studied Portuguese in order to take the bilingual classes in which they learned English. Many Cape Verdean-American children had a difficult time in school due to the length of time they needed learn English. In 1971, Cape Verdeans in the Boston area urged that their Creole language be recognized by the Transitional Bilingual Education Act. In the years following, significant improvements among Cape Verdean students were made. The Cape Verdean Creole Institute was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1996, with the goal of promoting the Cape Verdean language.
Common Kriolu expressions and greetings include: Sin —Yes; Nau —No; Kon Lisensa —Excuse me; N ka ta konprende —I do not understand; Spera un momentu —Wait a minute; Pur favor, papia dibagar —please speak slowly; Dja Txiga, Dimas —Enough, too much; Gosi li, Gosin li, Gurinha sin —Right now; Kumo ki bu ta txoma-l na Kriolu? —What is that called in Kriolu; Bu ta papia Ingles? —Do you speak English?
Families are central to Cape Verdean Americans. It is the social structure around which everything else in their lives revolves. Until the latter part of the twentieth century, Cape Verdean American families were often large, with at least four or more children. As they assimilated into American culture, and as education levels rose among them their families became smaller. Baby boomers often had only two or three children as compared to their parents' average of seven or eight. Smaller families did not mean the lessening of family ties. Instead, it marked the period when affluence, education, and mobility led newer generations of Cape Verdean Americans back to their heritage.
According to 1990 U.S. Census Bureau figure samples, at least 23.6 percent of the Cape Verdean American population had at least some level of college education. Overall, education has received an increasing status among Cape Verdean Americans
Weddings are an important festivity in the islands and are influenced by Cape Verdeans' African roots. The custom of batuque, composed of solo dancing and responsorials from a women's chorus, is a common wedding tradition. The most traditional practitioners are on the island of Sao Tiago. Among some islanders, the performance involves a ritual mockery of advice to the newly-married couple, sometimes composed by the male family elder. Variations include the lead singer who takes command of the group, slowly dancing the rhythmic beat of the batukadieras, or drums. In the first part, the txabeta, the dancer in the middle of the circle, keeps time to the accelerating music with her hips. The finacon involves the improvisational singing about the events of importance to the Cape Verdeans, such as the devastating famines. In his article, "Traditional Festivities in Cape Verde," writer Gabriel Moacyr Rodrigues, placed this custom into the context of the community. "The elder leader can be understood as a matron, the most experienced woman, who executes the hip movements that suggest the sexual act and provoke the libido." He further noted that, "Young girls—the Batxudas dance afterward, and their agile, sensual bodies awaken feelings in the old men around that remind them of their own love and marriage. For the young who watch, the dancer represents the desire for love. As she dances, the young girl closes her eyes and holds her hands in front of her face in a gesture of wanting to be seen and appreciated while still intending to preserve her chastity and bashfulness."
Funerals among Cape Verdean Americans of Catholic and Protestant denominations follow their churches' standard rituals. The Catholic church highlights the Mass of Christian Burial, also known as the Mass of Resurrection, in keeping with the belief that death is a victory over life, not a sad end. Cape Verdean Americans follow the custom of showing the body in funeral homes the day or two before the Mass, or service, and burial. Following the funeral is the celebration with special foods, particularly the Canja, a dish of chicken, rice, and tomatoes.
By the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans gained full strength, Cape Verdean Americans began to interact more frequently as a community. As Cape Verdean Americans intermarried with African Americans of a different background, many of whom were descendants of African slaves and American slave-holders, the cultures began to share traditions and find common sympathies.
The majority of Cape Verdean Americans are Roman Catholics. Some Protestant denominations such as the United Methodist and the Church of the Nazarene are also practiced by Cape Verdeans in America, particularly in the New England communities south of Boston, on Cape Cod.
The first Cape Verdean immigrants to the United States were primarily men, and they were employed with the whaling industry and in shipbuilding. By the early twentieth century, Cape Verdeans were also frequently employed in the cranberry bogs. As education levels climbed, Cape Verdeans began taking jobs as professional fields like medicine, law, education, and business. Many Cape Verdeans arrived in America at the rise of the auto and steel industries and took jobs in those factories. By the end of the twentieth century, Cape Verdean Americans were also visible as sports figures, musicians, and politicians.
Cape Verdeans were prominent as judges and state representatives in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for much of the twentieth century. In 1998, the first Republican Cape Verdean, Vinny Macedo, the representative from Plymouth, was elected to the Massachusetts State Legislature.
Cape Verdean Americans served in both World Wars, in Korea, and in Vietnam. The Verdean Veterans Association remained active in many areas of the United States, but particularly in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Due to the Constitution of the Republic of Cape Verde in 1975, all people of Cape Verdean ancestry, whether in the islands or abroad, were able to realize dual citizenship, and partake actively in elections in their home nation. Even Cape Verdeans who are born in United States feel a strong tie to their ancestral country. One organization, the Foundation of Cabo Verde, Inc. helped native islanders with financial assistance, economic development, and disaster relief aid. The 1995 Congress of CaboVerdeanos included more than 225 Cape Verdean Americans, who took a charter flight over to the islands to attend the event. The organization, along with other Cape Verdean Americans, provided assistance in 1995 when a volcano erupted on the island of Foga and destroyed over 2,000 homes. As the Republic of Cape Verde continued to develop economically and socially, Cape Verdean Americans remained at the forefront, working cooperatively with the islanders and government.
Best-known for his photography for Time and National Geographic, Anthony Barboza became celebrated for his work, even outside of the Cape Verdean community. The earliest Cape Verdean American artists were known only to those who frequented the local museums of New England, such as the Kendall Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The seafaring Cape Verdean whaler and scrimshaw artist Joao da Lomba, sailing out of New Bedford in the early 1900s, was also well-known for his expert craft.
Alfred J. Gomes, born on June 14, 1897, was a Cape Verdean American Judge of prominence in the Boston area for much of the twentieth century. He graduated from Boston University Law School in 1923 at a time when few Cape Verdeans completed elementary school. Through his leadership, he helped to establish various scholarships and awards, such as the Verdean Veterans Achievement Awards, the Memorial Scholarship Fund/The Seamen's Memorial Scholarship, to benefit Cape Verdean American youth.
Michael Costa, a Hollywood producer, headed the UPN (United Pictures Network) network into the late 1990s. Well-known as a producer of television commercials, Ricardo Lopes headed Kelly, Denham Productions.
The music group Tavares, enjoyed fame in the late 1970s with their hit song, "More Than A Woman," featured in the Hollywood movie hit, Saturday Night Fever. Famous jazz musicians, Horace Silva and Paul Gonsalves were Cape Verdean Americans who became internationally famous. In his 1956 appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival with Duke Ellington, Gonsalves went down in history with a 27-chorus solo in the song, "Diminuendo." That recording, re-released in 1999, was considered one of the all-time
In 1999, the best-known Cape Verdean American sports figure was Dana Barros, a professional basketball player for the Boston Celtics. Another well-known sports figure was Wayne Fontes, a New England native who was raised in the nation's football capital of Canton, Ohio, first a professional football player, who then went on to coach the Detroit Lions NFL team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Also, Henry Andrade attended the Olympics in Atlanta in 1992 as a dual citizen of the United States and the Cape Verde Islands. He was representing Cape Verde.
Tom Riordan, writing for The CVN, in February of 1999, said that, "Cape Verdeans and the Internet are made for each other," since they were "so far-flung" around the world and around the United States. Each of the islands in the Republic of Cape Verde is separated from the others and two-thirds of people who defined themselves as Cape Verdeans live overseas. Half of those overseas are scattered throughout the United States, with half throughout Europe, Africa, and Brazil. A quick tour of the Internet in 1999 called up hundreds of Cape Verdean-related sites or links, including:
"Cape Verde Home Page" at http://www.umassd.edu/SpecialPrograms/caboverde/capeverdean.html
"Cape Verdean.com" at http://www.capeverdean.com
The CVN, a Cape Verdean-American Newspaper.
Publishes local Cape Verdean-Massachusetts news, and information regarding the American, International and Republic of Cabo Verde communities.
Contact: Thomas D. Lopes, Publisher; or, Dr. Norman Araujo, Chief Advisor.
Address: 417 Purchase Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts 02741.
Mailing address: P.O. Box 3063, New Bedford, Massachusetts 02741.
Telephone: (508) 997-2300.
CABO VIDEO, Cape Verdean Television.
Broadcast in approximately 50 cities and towns in Massachusetts and Rhode Island from Channel 20, New Bedford, Massachusetts; Cuencavision Channel 26, cable; and, Channel 19 UHF, Boston. Founded in 1989, this station provides a source of information regarding events occurring in Cabo Verde, and supports Cabo Verde in the United States. Independent video production company, solely-owned. Weekly 90-minute Cape Verdean program televised in Portuguese and Crioulo. Covers news from Republic of Cabo Verde, and events in the United States, including medical information, legal information, historical footage, and music videos.
Contact: Edward Andrade.
Address: 1147 Main Street, Brockton, Massachusetts 02301.
Telephone: (508) 588-8843.
Fax: (508) 588-8843.
Atlanta, Georgia Area Cape Verdeans.
Annual picnic for Cape Verdeans living in the Atlanta area.
Contact: Michael Rose.
Address: 4716 Halliford Way, Marietta, Georgia 30066.
Telephone: (770) 925-8331.
Cape Verdean American Veterans Association and Auxiliary.
Contact: Stephen Cabral.
Address: Verdean Vets Hall. 561 Purchase Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts 02741.
Telephone: (508) 993-7320.
Cape Verdean Civic Club.
Organizers of the 4th of July Cape Verdean Festival in Boston. Meeting location is the Ideal Club.
Contact: Omar Oliveria, (781) 892-6627; Noemia Monteiro, (617) 442-7656; Ze Preto, (617) 427-1896; or Toni Silva, (508) 583-8960.
Address: 14 West Union St., West Bridewater, Massachusetts.
Cape Verdean Creole Institute, Inc.
Founded in 1996. A nonprofit organization whose goal is to promote the Capeverdean language.
Contact: Manuel DaLuz Goncalves, President.
Address: 308 Columbus Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02116.
Cape Verdean Cultural Conferences, Inc.
Contact: Jose Ramos.
Cape Verdean Student Association.
Social and service organization of college students in the Massachusetts and Rhode Island area seeking to affirm their Cape Verdean identity; service projects include assistance to children and students in Cape Verde, with food, school supplies, and clothing.
Chapters include: University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Massachusetts; Boston College; Boston University; Northeastern University (Boston); University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and the University of Rhode Island in Providence, Rhode Island.
Clube Cabo Verde.
A Cape Verdean-American social organization, planning the Festival of St. John the Baptist in June, on the island of Brava.
Contact: Kevin Spry.
Address: 88 Wales Street, Taunton, Massachusetts 02780.
Kendall Whaling Museum.
Dedicated to the history of whaling off the New England coast. Includes the history of Cape Verdean natives who served on the whaling ships as harpooners, captains, and shipmates.
Address: 27 Everett Street, Sharon, Massachusetts 02067.
Telephone: (781) 784-5642.
New Bedford Whaling Museum.
The history of the Cape Verdeans who served out of the New Bedford whaling ships, among other historical-related exhibits.
Contact: Anthony Zave, Director.
Address: 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740.
Telephone: (508) 997-0046.
Aisling, Irwin, and Wilson, Colum. "Cape Verde Islands." The Bradt Travel Guide. United Kingdom and Old Saybrook, Connecticut: Bradt Publications, 1998.
Beck, Sam. Manny Almeida's Ringside Lounge: The Cape Verdeans' Struggle for their Neighborhood. Providence, Rhode Island: Gavea-Brown Publications, 1992.
Belmira Nunes Lopes, Maria Luisa. The Autobiography of a Cape Verdean-American. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Latin American Literary Review Press, 1982.
Hayden, Robert C. African Americans and Cape Verdean-Americans in New Bedford. A History of Community and Achievement. Pernambuco, Brazil: Federal University, 1993.