The islands of Cape Verde are a bewitching blend of Portuguese and African influences, as seen in the many European –style buildings dotted amongst the ever-changing landscape, the unique musical styles, and the fascinating mixture of African and European custom and conduct. It’s most obvious in the foods on offer, with Portuguese foods (such as fish- and seafood-based dishes, olive oil, garlic, lemon and sausage) and African foods (stews, beans, maize and tropical crops) comfortably combined on most menus.
Many visitors’ first impression of Cape Verde comes through the mournful songs of Cesaria Evoria, the island’s best known singer. The ‘barefoot diva’ is the best exponent of morna, a lovelorn type of folk music similar to Portuguese fado. Music is a key component of life on Cape Verde, and several islands stage exuberant carnivals, with the best known being the Baia das Gatas Festival.
Uninhabited on their discovery in 1456, the Cape Verde islands became part of the Portuguese empire in 1495. A majority of today’s inhabitants are of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry.
Positioned on the great trade routes between Africa, Europe, and the New World, the islands became a prosperous center for the slave trade but suffered economic decline after the slave trade was abolished in 1876. In the 20th century, Cape Verde served as a shipping port.
In 1951, Cape Verde’s status changed from a Portuguese colony to an overseas province, and in 1961 the inhabitants became full Portuguese citizens. An independence movement led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau (another former Portuguese colony) and Cape Verde (PAIGC) was founded in 1956. Following the 1974 coup in Portugal, after which Portugal began abandoning its colonial empire, the islands became independent (July 5, 1975).