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Cape Verde Islands History

Cape Verde Islands History

The first islands formed were the eastern islands, including Sal, about 40-50 million years ago! The western part of the islands formed 8-12 million years ago and these included Sao Nicolau. The most recent islands of Santiago, Fogo and Brava were formed 2-4 million years ago. This created the extensive group of 10 islands otherwise known as the Cape Verde archipelago.

Portuguese mariners under the order of Henry the Navigator, Alvise Cadamosto and Antoniotto Usodimare discovered these islands in 1456. The name “Cape Verde” came from a place called Cap-Vert off the Senegalese coast that Portuguese explorers discovered in 1444 and named Cabo Verde.

Cape Verde’s oldest city is Cidade Velho. It was once the capital and called Ribeira Grande. It was here in Cape Verde where the economy first started to thrive in the 16th century due to the demand of the transatlantic slave trade. Cape Verde was ideally located off the west coast of Africa and between America and Europe. During this time there were many raids from other nations as well as pirates leaving a number of ship wrecks around the islands. The abolition of the slave trade in the 19th century was a massive blow to the economy and prosperity quickly disappeared.

In the early 19th century emigration was popular as crews for American whaling ships were found from the islands of Brava and Fogo. Whales were abundant around the waters of Cape Verde. The next major source of income for the economy was the refuelling and resupplying of the ships and ocean liners passing by the Cape Verde islands. Once again this was due to its location in relation to the Atlantic shipping lanes.

The harbour at Mindelo was developed by the British and was used to store coal which was bound for the Americas. In the 1980’s the British coal dried up and thus they abandoned their Cape Verde interests causing a major blow to the economy.

Since the Portuguese had discovered the islands back in 1456 they governed the islands as a colony of the Portuguese empire from 1462 until the independence of Cape Verde in 1975. The Africa Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) was founded in 1956 by Amilcar Cabral. The people of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau fought one of the longest African Liberation wars for independence. In April 1974 the Portuguese regime was over and in July 1975 Cape Verde gained independence from Portugal.

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