We spent a day in Cape Verde on the Island of Sao Vincente off the coast of Senegal. We docked in a town called Mindelo. It had colorful if small buildings and a lazy port. Total population of all islands is 450k.
Our jeep tour guide took us into town. He did not speak English, was 24 years old and showed us a photo of his baby son named Emerson. Another English speaking tour guide explained that Cape Verde was captured by the Portuguese in the 1490s from the local Guanish people. It became a thriving centre of slave trade for hundreds of years. Slavers would drop slaves ‘captured’ in Africa here, clean them up and sell them to traders from the Americas. It was a quicker and safer way to purchase slaves then to venture up the disease infected rivers of Africa proper. I say “captured” because often it was African tribal leaders who sold their people into slavery for trinkets.
After the slave trade was abolished in 1876, the islands suffered economic decline. Supplying ships with supplies and fuel became economical for awhile. But continuous changes in technology soon meant Cape Verde was no longer economically viable. There was severe drought and thousands died in the early 20th century of starvation.
Our tour continued across the island to several deserted beaches a small town and up the mountain to 3500 feet. Nothing but dried out rock and sand greeted our eyes the whole way. There has been no rain here in 2 years!
Despite their poverty (45% unemployment, collapsed housing market, only 1 cruise ship stops/week), the people seem content and happy. Many would stare and smile shyly as we walked thru the town. Ranging in colour from fair to darkest skin, there is no racial discrimination here. It is not uncommon to see dark-skinned people with blond hair and blue eyes and fair skinned with jet black hair. The genetic mixture from centuries of migration is evident.
There was relatively little to purchase in town. There were no conventional stores at all. Marie was able to find a nice present for Michelle for her birthday. Dave found a surprisingly nice sport shirt.
Returning thru the town, we were happy to arrive back on board having glimpsed an old county in an old world divorced from modern day prosperity but, nevertheless prosperous in spirit.
And now 3 sea daze ahead on our way to Brazil. We will be crossing the equator soon.