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Cabo Verde was the first Portuguese colony to have a school for higher education. By the time of independence, a quarter of the population could read, compared to 5% in Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau). This largesse ultimately backfired on the Portuguese, however, as literate Caboverdeans became aware of the pressures for independence building on the mainland and started a joint movement for independence with the natives of Guinea-Bissau. In 1951 Cabo 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 Cabo Verde (PAIGC) was founded in 1956. But the Portuguese dictator Salazar wasn't about to give up his colonies as easily as the British and French had given up theirs. Consequently, from the early 1960s, the people of Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau fought one of the longest African liberation wars. In 1975, Cabo Verde finally gained independence from Portugal. And still the droughts continued, one lasting nearly 20 years.

Despite kinder weather and doubled crop yields in the mid to late 1980s, an extreme and lengthy drought in the 1990s necessitated emergency food aid from abroad. In 1991 the first-ever multiparty elections were held, and the newly formed party Movimento para a Democracia (MPD) won 70% of the vote and formed a new government under the leadership of Dr. Carlos Veiga, prime minister, and António Monteiro, president. Both were returned in elections the following year, the first held under the country's new constitution. There were major setbacks in the 1990s - the slow economic progress in the wake of the drought led to a splintering of the MPD, and one defector established a rival party. However, the MPD prevailed in parliamentary elections in 1995. Crippling drought wiped out over 80% of the islands' grain crops in 1997. Election of January 14th, 2001 gave the power back to PAICV as Jose Maria Neves became Prime Minister. Poverty, war, hunger, desertification, dictators and failed economic and social policies are what most Westerners hear about Africa.

There is an African success story, however, that is virtually unknown. Cabo Verde has a rapidly maturing and working democracy. Cabo Verde changes government by ballots, not guns. One of the most recent presidential election of 2001 was decided by 12 votes. So similar to the United States, the results were challenged, and the Supreme Court decided the incumbent party had lost. During the political drama that led to Pedro Pires assuming the office of the president, schools remained open, the country's army stayed in barracks, shops continued to sell goods and life went on with the nation undisturbed. The election has brought another lesson in democracy – how to deal with a strong opposition. It's something almost unheard of in Africa, and Caboverdeans know it. The country and its inhabitants are proud of its political stability. In an effort to take advantage of its proximity to cross-Atlantic sea and air lanes, the government has embarked on a major expansion of its port and airport capacities. It is also modernizing the fishing fleet and enhancing its fish processing industry. These projects are being partly paid for by the European Community, Millenium Challenge Account and the World Bank, making Cabo Verde one of the largest per capita aid recipients in the world.


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Since the origin of their history, the Caboverdeans have been a largely mestizo: 80 percent of the population is mestizo, 17 percent black and 3 percent white. Little by little, Cabo Verde formed its cultural identity and then began to search for its own political identity.
Cabo Verde finally obtained this with the National Independence, on the 5th of July 1975 after a long fight for the national liberation. On the 13th January, 1991, Cabo Verde finally settled upon the multi-party system with all the institutions of modern democracy.

Today, Cabo Verde is a rapidly developing country that enjoys peace and social stability. As far as health services, education and quality of life are concerned, Cabo Verde is ranked among the top countries in Africa.

Despite being a third world country, Cabo Verde has exemplary sanitary standards, with no contagious or endemic diseases, and with good coverage on all the islands. Its levels place it among the first of African countries and therefore, for this reason, no vaccination is required before entering the country.

Emigration - How it began!!!!
The natural poverty of these islands depending on agricultural economy based on poor goat breeding, the paucity of rainfall and the prevalence of dry and "brown" conditions, made the Caboverdeans emigrate to America first and later to Europe especially to Portugal, in search of a better life. The Caboverdean emigration to the United States began at a time when American fleets, dedicated to whale-fishing, sailed down the Atlantic Ocean surrounding the archipelago.

The need of labor force made the entrance of the Caboverdeans to America easier. Statistics that revealed information about the volume of Caboverdean emigration in the United States are not available. However, some official figures stated that 356 Caboverdeans emigrated to North America from 1887 to 1893. Meanwhile, in 1874, according to an official report about Brava, "boarding the American whalers was the greatest passion of most Caboverdean men looking for a better life. More than hundred people, interested in the whale-fishing, abandoned the island annually". The people of Fogo and San Nicolau also emigrated to United States.

The first Caboverdean emigrants to America did not get in touch with their family for a long time, in particular, those from Brava and Fogo, causing a worry to their wives. Some of them therefore, thinking of the worst situation, were in mourning for their husbands. That was to make them "American's widows". Curiously, it seems that this behavior is associated with a superstition that people do believe. In so doing, they protected their husbands from harmful dangers and contributed to their return.

From seamen to farmers
From seamen Caboverdean emigrants became farmers working for themselves in the cultivation of strawberries and as wage-earners in the marshy areas of Cape Cod and in the cotton plantations. With the expansion of the textile industry in New Bedford characterized by lack of workmanship hundreds or thousands of them were employed in the factories. Some worked as stokers in the trains. This new life of Caboverdeans in America was due to the hard conditions of life aboard the whaling ships.

For many, the working conditions aboard approached those of slave ships and therefore many of the whaling crew set out to escape from those unpleasant situations and joined the American harbors to look for jobs on land. With the ever increasing number of Caboverdean emigrants to United States, the government enacted in 1917 a law forbidding the entrance of illiterate Negroes aged more than 16. This law became effective in 1918 and constituted an obstacle to the entrance of Caboverdeans. However, this was surmounted with other methods that allowed the clandestine entrance to the United States. Since the discriminatory restrictions, there were still many "secret" departures from the islands, which made obviously the trips expensive. Consequently, only a small number of people could make the trip.

When the United States government re-enforced more restrictive measures, Caboverdeans tried other ways to enter the United States. A new wave of Caboverdeans emigrated to America by marrying American citizens and therefore was entitled to the USA. The main harbor in Brava "Furna", today sporadically frequented by ships, was a main stop for boats that sailed down the Caboverdean seas. It was said that the island of Brava had a school in Cova Rodela where some sea captains were trained. Meanwhile, early in 1893, the Nellie May made another round trip, this time with Captain José Godinho in command.

The passage to Cabo Verde Islands took ninety days - one of the most terrible on record for its length and for the suffering endured by passengers and its crew. It is worth mentioning that António Coelho, the owner of "Nellie May" was the first Caboverdean American that purchased a vessel.

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The history of Cabo Verde is dominated by three overriding facts: there were no people of any sort on the islands when the Portuguese first arrived; the environment has become increasingly fragile over the centuries, largely due to the impact of people and overgrazing; and it's further from the African mainland and closer to the Americas than any other African country. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that Cabo Verde developed along lines somewhat different from the rest of Africa.

When Portuguese mariners first landed in Cabo Verde in 1456, the islands were barren of people but not of vegetation. Seeing the islands today, you find it hard to imagine that they were once sufficiently verde (green) to entice the Portuguese to return six years later to the island of Santiago to found Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha). The Portuguese soon brought slaves from the West African coast to do the hard labor. The islands also became a convenient base for ships transporting slaves to Europe and the Americas. Cabo Verde islands became part of the Portuguese empire in 1495.

The islands' prosperity brought them unwanted attention in the form of a sacking at the hands of England's Sir Francis Drake in 1586. Cabo Verde remained in Portuguese hands and continued to prosper, but in 1747 the islands were hit with the first of the many droughts that have plagued them ever since. The situation was made worse by deforestation and overgrazing, which destroyed the ground vegetation that provided moisture. Three major droughts in the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in well over 100,000 people starving to death. The Portuguese government sent almost no relief during any of the droughts.

The 19th-century decline of the lucrative slave trade was another blow. Cabo Verde's heyday was over. It was then, in 1832, that Charles Darwin passed by, finding dry and barren islands. It was also around this time that Caboverdeans started emigrating to New England. This was a popular destination because of the whales that abounded in the waters around Cabo Verde, and as early as 1810 whaling ships from Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the US recruited crews from the islands of Brava and Fogo.

At the end of the 19th century, with the advent of the ocean liner, the islands' position astride Atlantic shipping lanes made Cabo Verde an ideal locale for re-supplying ships with fuel (imported coal), water and livestock. Still, the droughts continued and the Portuguese government did nothing. Many more thousands died of starvation during the first half of the 20th century. Although the Caboverdeans were treated badly by their colonial masters, they fared slightly better than Africans in other Portuguese colonies because of their lighter skin. A small minority received an education.

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The national dish, "catchupa", is a stew of hominy and beans with fish or meat. It means home to Caboverdeans everywhere. Catchupa is a slow boiled stew of hominy corn, beans, vegetables, spices and marinated pork or tuna. It is often described as the staple food of the Cabo Verde Islands.

At any given moment an inventory of the ingredients in a kettle of catchupa may even be a pretty good index of the economic health of family in Cabo Verde.

What's in the catchupa might depend more on whether someone in the household has a reliable job and can afford to supply the kitchen from the village market place or store. Most Caboverdeans who reside in the countryside maintain gardens to grow a little mandioca, beans and perhaps some greens to fatten a pig for their catchupa. If it's to be a wedding or other very special occasion, folks somehow manage to get together and make sure that the kettle overflows with sausage, marinated meats, and vegetables. We call this a "Catchupa Rica".

Cooking catchupa from dry ingredients may require as much as four hours over a slow but steady flame. Years of drought have made firewood scarce. Locally produced charcoal is seldom in adequate supply. In rural area, women and children spend many hours each day gathering firewood (lenha). Despite government subsidies to make bottled gas easily available to all the cost to many poor families is prohibitive. Gradually the effects of drought and its continuing impact on agricultural production and the availability of affordable fuel have combined to transform the culinary tradition of Cabo Verde.

Catchupa rica has become expensive in Cabo Verde Islands and something a family can only hope to serve on special occasions. Years ago imported rice was served on these special occasions. "Canja de galinha", the thick chicken and rice soup is one such dish, and is still served for weddings, funerals or First Night celebration or perhaps to nurse a sick relative to health.

Today rice which cooks under twenty minutes is fast replacing corn as the staple of Cabo Verde. For Caboverdeans scattered in immigrant communities around the world, it's always a special occasion when friends gather to share a well-made kettle of catchupa. These festive occasions are called catchupada. In spite of the amount of time it takes and the rising costs of making a catchupa rica in the United States or Europe, Caboverdeans everywhere will still make an effort to bring added significance to a social gathering by setting a pot of catchupa on the table.

Caboverdeans trust in the "power" of catchupa to transform a simple meal into an occasion for storytelling and sharing memories. Catchupa can teach a lot about Caboverdean culture. Recipes for catchupa vary from island to island and from household to household. On Brava island catchupa is called muntchupa. What's in a kettle of catchupa may also depend on whether it has been a year of rain or a year of drought. In a good year there will always be greens, mandioca, potatoes, maybe squash, yams, and plenty of pork meat. In a dry year you might have to make due with corn, a handful of beans and a piece of salt pork. Catchupa recipes can be easily adjusted to accommodate household preferences. Marinated chicken, beef or fresh tuna can substitute for pork. And for a vegetarian offering corn, beans and greens are one of nature's healthiest combinations.

But the best is yet to come - leftover catchupa for breakfast! To really prepare yourself for a day's work on a fishing boat or a night on the town, nothing sticks to your ribs quite like catchupa guisada. Fry up a few ladles of catchupa on top of some browned onions and let it heat up slowly until it begins to dry out. Some folks let it cook up until it is almost crispy on the bottom. Serve it with a fried egg on top "catchupa ku ovo strelado" and you're ready for anything life has to offer.

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The vestiges of Portuguese culture are much more evident than those of African culture, although this is less true on Santiago Island, which has a significant number of people of African ancestry. Most people in Cabo Verde are creole; about a quarter are of African descent. Portuguese is the official language. People also speak Crioulo, an Africanised Creole Portuguese. For its tiny size, Cabo Verde has produced a wealth of literature. The works written prior to independence focused on liberation and were mainly in Crioulo. Post independence, the themes expanded to include the mass emigration from the islands by the American immigrants and racial discrimination. Some writers continue to write in Crioulo (Kriolu), while others write in Portuguese, the dominant literary tongue.

Cabo Verde is home to a variety of musical styles. One of the most popular is the foot-stomping funana, a dance beat popular in Praia and other cities and towns; morna, the national songform, typically slow, moody and in a minor key; and coladeira, a fast-moving, fluffy style of dance music. The country's best-known musician was Cesaria Evora, the 'barefoot diva', who sang in the traditional Cabo styles. Caboverdean food is basically Portuguese, but some dishes are unique to the islands. One of the most unusual and delicious is pastel (pastry with content inside) - a mix of fresh tuna, onions and tomatoes, wrapped in a pastry blended from boiled potatoes and corn flour, deep fried and served hot. Soups are also popular. One of the most common is caldo de peixe (fish stew), which is loaded with vegetables and spices and thickened with manioc flour. Other specialties include bananas enroladas (bananas wrapped in pastry and deep fried) and manga de conserva (an unsweetened chutney-like concoction). About 80% of the people are Roman Catholic.

At the time of independence in 1975, the Church was the single largest landowner in the country. Subsequent land reform has reduced these holdings, but the Church remains powerful in the country.

Arts and Crafts
Why is culture important to society and to life in general? Perhaps because it fulfills that special role of establishing and reinforcing bonds of union between the groups who make up humanity. Historically, artistic and cultural activity in Cabo Verde was and still is always conducted with some practical, useful end in view. The etruscan vase, for example was originally used for holding olive oil, the pano (woven cloth), colcha (quilt), or the pote (water jug) all had a practical use. This is true both in the archipelago and of the people living on the west coast of Africa, where narrow lengths of woven cloth called panos served as the currency until the end of the 19th century.

Cabo Verde was represented in the exibition of London during 1862 with some examples of weaving. Today there are two areas of handicraft in Cabo Verde, serving two different purposes. The ornamental and the practical. One area is concerned with establishing contact with the public. These decorative arts and craft include the making of attractive objects in turtleshell, clay dolls, as well as various objects made from bulls horn and coconut shell. Some of the practical objects still produced in every village, city or town in Cabo Verde are the elegant straw hats, balaio (baskets made from straw), lamps and rope made from coconut palm trees.

Other practical object still done today is ceramic. Pottery in Cabo Verde began with the colonization of the Islands when men and women from west Africa introduced the methods still used today. Pottery is done when women/men old or young shape the clay. Then it is fired in open kilns, a large hole in the ground that is sometimes accompanied with rituals. The pieces to be fired are placed together with fuel, which usually consist of straw, leaves, twigs, or animal manure.

Today, as with any technological advance, a lot of the old ways of doing things are disappearing, but articles of cloth or ceramic arts can still be found in the local communities. Most of the arts and craft are now being marketed towards tourists and foreigners.

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