Cape Verdeans - Orientation

Identification. Most Cape Verdeans dwell in their native Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa. Diaspora settlements, however, are located around the world. "Cape Verde" refers to the green color of the islands that sailors first saw after traveling south from European shores. "Black Portuguese" refers to the Cape Verdeans who settled in New England; they are distinct from other black Portuguese-speaking people from the islands of the Portuguese empire (principally Azoreans) who often settled in the same New England Neighborhoods where Cape Verdeans lived. "Crioul" refers to the language the Cape Verdeans speak. In New England the term "Crioulo" also refers to their distinctive life-style.

Location. The archipelagoes of ten larger islands of Cape Verde, of which nine are inhabited, and numerous uninhabited islets are located between 17°13′ and 14°48′ N and 22°40′ and 25°22′ W, about 455 kilometers from the West African coast. Good tradewinds, desirable natural resources of fresh water and salt, and good currents helped make Cape Verde a port of trade in the sixteenth century. Its strategic geopolitical and military position continues to make it a desirable base of operations between Europe and Africa. Its climate is tied to that of the Sahel region of Africa and therefore is dry, with low average rainfall, at 25-30 centimeters annually. Drought is common.

Demography. In 1988 the population estimate for Cape Verde was 357,478 (295,703 in the 1980 census). Population density is 89 persons per square kilometer, with a population growth of 0.92 percent (urbanites were 31.5 percent of the total population in 1988). In 1985 the total labor force was 81,700, and life expectancy was 63 years. In 1988 infant mortality was estimated at 65 per 1,000. The majority ethnic group is mestico, or people of mixed racial heritage, whose skin color ranges from white to black. Cape Verdean settlements of up to 50,000 people can be found in New England, especially in and around Boston (Massachusetts), New Bedford (Massachusetts), and Providence (Rhode Island). There are also settlements in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; in France; in the West African states that formerly were Portuguese colonies (Sao Tome, Principe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, and Senegal); and in Portugal.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Cape Verdeans speak Portuguese, the official language, as their contact language. Crioulo, however, is their everyday language. It has a Portuguese morphology and an African phonetic system; lexical items derive from both.

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