I’m guessing that ignorance is something that Amilcar Cabral would have probably not been in favor of. Cabral, father of Cape Verdean independence, not only fought a war of guns but, more importantly, of the mind. He felt it important enough to assure that Cape Verdean records were preserved for later generations to understand not just the struggle for independance but, in essence, the core of what it was to be Cape Verdean. Rather than having our history written for us, preserving the actual records allows those of us of Cape Verdean ancestry to understand our history and self identify as Caboverdeanos.
I don’t think it was right for the Portuguese government to dictate our identity based on political manipulations and untruths in an effort to squash independent thinking and I certainly don’t think that it’s for anyone to try to do the same thing now.
I began this journey to trace my personal family tree and genealogy and along the way learned a great deal about Cape Verde’s history as a colony and as an independent nation. These are just some of the truths I have learned more about through fact based research;
1. Cape Verde was “discovered” by Italian sailors under the Portuguese Flag. There is literature that state that there were Wolof as Fula peoples present in Santiago but not other islands. The Portuguese also found the Gaunches (Aboriginal Berbers) on the Canary islands and wiped them out as an ethnic group, killing them or selling them off into the Atlantic Slave Trade to the Americas.
2. It’s initial European population was made up of a significant number of “conversos” or converted Jews during the Inquisitions.
3. Slaves were brought to the islands to work its plantations as well as by way of Cape Verde being a seasoning point through which Africans were captured, baptized and given Christian names and then sold off to be traded in the Caribean, Central and South America, including Brazil.
4. Africans that were kept in Cape verde were used for particular skills the had, ie weaving,etc.
5. The Portuguese and other European settlers rarely traveled with women and such had relations, forced and otherwise, with African women, even marrying them. There are plenty of letters written to the King complaining of these relationships taking place and in response the Portuguese began exhaling more Portuguese women to offset this phenomenon.
6. Within the first century of its existence, Cape Verde recorded a large number of “mulatto” or mixed peoples.
7. On the island of Santiago, that had the largest number of African slaves that far outnumbered the Europeans, there were uprisings and many of them fled to areas outside the major settlements. This group of people remained mostly ethno-genetically pure African. They were called ‘badius (vagabonds in Portuguese).
8. The other islands contupinued to have growing numbers of mixed peoples, with some areas having larger European descendants or new immigrants from places like Madeira and the Azores; some as voluntary immigrants but most were criminal, political and religious exiles. I have found and studied records of their sentences of time spent in Cape Verde for various crimes committed. Many never went back to Portugal.
9. The Africans who made up much of the slave population were Wolof, Fula, Mandike, and Yoruba to name just a few. Many were previously captured by other African kingdoms and used to trade with the Europeans for guns to use in other wars and battles.
10. Kriolu, as a language, is the culmination of various linguistic influences. A creole language by definition, is a culmination of two or more languages that emerges (by the off spring) with a it’s own distinct linguistic features, using the vocabulary and phonology (sound system) of those languages. Birkerton (University of Hawaii) states that the linguistic features of creole languages mirror the innate language sense that we’re all born with. So, Capeverdean kriolo could not have existed if it wasn’t for the mixing in the islands.
11. Lancados, people of mixed portuguese and african ancestry and usually son’s of european slave owners, were used capture Africans in the mainland or to, at times,negotiate in the trade of Africans with other African leaders.
12. In 1849, a commission was created in Boa Vista whose mission was the abolishment of slavery in Cape Verde. I have copies of the original documents.
13. Cape Verde had as many as 3000 slaves traded per year in the early 1600’s. The English signed their treaty abolishing the English slave trade while the Portuguese half-heatedly signed theirs in 1810. By 1851, it was illegal to transport slaves to Santo Antaõ and Sao Nicolão but I have passport records of people who traveled with their “escravos”, slaves well into the 1860’s and 1870’s. Slavery was officially abolished in 1878 in Cape Verde and the term “criada” or caretaker was used to classify servants who lived and worked for families (presumably with no pay).
14. AND because of a half Guinean and half Cape Verdean man who dared to stand against political oppression and colonialism that led to the liberation of two countries from the shackles of colonialism, I am free to sing a morna, dance funana and write all about it all day, if I wanted to – in English and Kriolu!