The island of Fogo west of Santiago, is almost round in shape, and looks as if it is just a volcanic mountain. The surface area is 476 Km2 and, although only the fourth biggest island of the Archipelago, it is the highest with the top of the volcano reaching a height of 2829 m. The volcano is in fact the main tourist attraction of the island. The volcanic cone rises from a sort of plateau about 8 km in diameter, called CHÃ DAS CALDEIRAS the walls on the western side reach almost 1000 m and end in a crater 500 meters in diameter and 180 meters deep. This is truly the most spectacular scenery in the whole of the Archipelago. The original volcanic cone must, at one time, have reached a height of 3500 m.
The volcano was active right up to the XVIII century, when the main cone ceased activity and all that remained as testimony to it were the volcanic vapors and deposits of sulphur. There have been sporadic eruptions and the last severe one was in 1951, when the lava poured out of one of the two chimneys on the southern side of the volcano.
FOGO was discovered at the same time as SANTIAGO and MAIO, on May 1st, 1460. At first it was called S.FILIPE but later, and quite appropriately its name was changed to FOGO (Fire). The habitants of Fogo are the only ones to have known only three flags. During Portuguese occupation by Spain between 1530 and 1580, the Spanish flag was raised throughout all Portuguese territories except Fogo. This was due to resistance of the habitants of Fogo.
Fogo is where colonial influence of the Portuguese is most apparent. It is a fact that there are two historical cemeteries in Sao Filipe. One for the rich and white people and another for the poor and black people. The discrimination was so strong that in the 18th century, drunk, rich, white man that was "involved" with a slave was not buried in the white or black cemetery. He was buried on the outside of the white cemetery with his testimony and mausoleum.
Often seen in this island is FUNCO - a primitive, rustic habitation and constructed with rocks forming a circular structure. They are covered by large dried leaves. Fonte Aleixo is a neighborhood which predominantly has these types of homes. FUNCO symbolizes the most poor in contrast to the "sobrados" (large colonial style homes) normally owned by the wealthy.
Other notable aspects of Fogo includes the acclaimed musician Minó di Mama. An excellent accordion player, Minó has a unique form and style that he plays. He has the form of Portuguese musicians and is certainly famous all around Cabo Verde. Over 80 years old, (circa 2005) Minó still commended a youthful spirit that can even make rocks dance as they usually say in Fogo.
Often seen is a bird called Gongon. A black bird that produces a sound similar to sounds of crows, Gongon lives in rocks and fly at night searching for food. The fat and meat of Gongon has a medicinal function that is often used to cure rheumatoid. However, this bird is nearly extinct.
It is important to mention Caetano Dos Santos De Pina also known as "Fatinho - the children factory." At 37 years he had fathered 34 children with 5 women. He resided in Chã das Caldeiras at the foot of the volcano, in a rural zone without many options for passing time. If he continued averaging one child per year, he may enter the book of records. On the other hand is Nha Arminda Lopes Monteiro who at 113 (circa 2005) was the oldest and most known person of the island. Entering the year 2000, she holds the record to have lived in three different centuries.
Famous for holding records, Fogo also holds another record in the construction of Volta-Volta road. Formed by a sequence of three valleys, that separate Mosteiros and Sao Filipe, the first construction attempt was made in the 80's by constructing an iron bridge and tunnel at a cost of $1,250 dollars per meter.
Visiting the island of Fogo
Island of the great volcano, symbol of life and energy, it was initially called Sao Filipe and only later denominated Fogo for housing the highest peak of the archipelago: the imposing volcano, 2829 meters high, main source of attraction for tourists and place of compulsory visit to every visitor.
The island was once inhabited by people from Santiago island, owners of vast lands and slaves brought from the coast of Guinea. The agricultural and industrial activities were always present in the island: cotton, vineyards, the processing and export of such products, etc. Sao Filipe, with more than five thousand habitants, is the capital of the island and there the visitor can observe the dazzling sobrados: colonial houses where the aristocrats used to live.
This type of houses and the symbolism they convey underline the social demarcation felt in the old days. These were houses consisting of two floors with wooden carved balconies. The ground floor was reserved to the slaves and to the house works, while the owners of the house occupied the first floor. Only once every year, on Santa Cruz day, the owners allowed the slaves to visit the first floor. On the high part of the island, the Miradouro da Aguadinha offers the tourist a gratifying view. From there we can admire some beaches with black and white sand and far-off, if the visibility is good, the closest island – Brava.
The Ermida de Nossa Senhora do Socorro is also worth a visit. With a small chapel overtopping the sea, it is a place of pilgrimage and picnics and legend holds it that there once were divine apparitions there. Mosteiros is famous for the production of the well known "Fogo Coffee," that can again be found on sale, even in Portugal, thanks to a toasting plant in neighboring Santiago island. It is also a place of important traditions and cultural manifestations, such as the Festa de Sao Filipe, held on the 1st of May, which gathers people from all over the archipelago and Cabo-verdean emigrants who take this opportunity to visit their homeland.
Alongside with the production of coffee, there is also the grape cultivation associated to the production of "Manecon" wine, highly appreciated in the whole country for being produced with no chemical ingredients and for having a very characteristic flavor. Recently a cooperative association was established in the volcano, bottling this wine with improved quality. The island, where the strength of nature imposes itself through the volcano's grandiosity, registered the most recent volcanic eruption on the 2nd of April 1995.
Cha das Caldeiras, a small village on the foot of the main cone of the volcano, was then almost completely isolated by the lava stream that interrupted the main road at three different points. For those who enjoy an on-foot expedition, it is recommended to reach this village through the lava and ash fields that nowadays cover what were very fertile farming fields and the main source of living of the local population, even though the road has been re-opened.
The isolation and silence felt there and the constant imposing presence of the volcano makes us feel small and helpless compared to the forces of nature. Salina is a breath taking natural pool with warm water throughout the year. Praia Negra is an all black sand beach which originated from multiple volcano eruptions over a long period of time. In Cha das Caldeiras it is also important to highlight the existence of a vast forest area called Monte Velho (Old Mountain), due to the existing humidity, which includes eucalyptus and other large trees.
The contrast with the rest of the inhospitable lava landscape is very beautiful and well worth visiting.
The volcano and the magnetic nature of the island
To the huge volcanic cone was attributed the name Volcano formed inside the caldera which, rising to almost 450 yards from "Chan das Caldeiras", goes up to 100 yards high. According to some reports the major crater of the volcano seems to be continuously active since the onset of the colonization up to the middle of the 18th century. The activity consisted of moderated explosions and smokes with lava flows.
Suddenly, this continuous activity ceased and since then the eruptions have occurred in casual craters, open at the foot of the central cone with lava flows to the eastern side. At the moment, inside the crater of Pico exists about a dozen fumaroles around which a deposit of sulphur can be found, unfortunately in a few quantities..
In its nearly circular shape, the island of Fogo seems to be, at first sight, a simple volcanic mountain. We are led to believe that it results from the superposition to two cones which become obvious for the nature of their component parts and for their different slope. The inferior cone is predominantly made up of basaltic lava flows inter bedded, at times with thin layers of pyroclastics. Consequently its slope is gentler. The second cone is made up of, in its large part, layers of pyroclastics inter bedded with some mantles of lava and densely fractured by veins which are exposed in the inner wall of the caldera..
Other morphologic elements of the island of Fogo are the casual cones of pyroclastics scattered all over the island, particularly on the western side and at the navel of the contact line between the two huge already mentioned cones. These cones are known in the island as mountains (montes) – Monte Barro, Monte Duarte, Monte Boca Larga, etc... They generally have a quite regular configuration, forming a perfect specimen: the "Monte Pertutano", close to Achada Furna. Associated with their characteristics they often present small floods of lava.
In the center of the island of Fogo and at the top of the superior cone of the pyroclastics, one of the most spectacular structures of the island, if not on the whole country, can be found: the caldera with approximately 5 miles in diameter and its walls reach close to 400 yards from the bottom. The rim of the caldera is known as Bordeira. It is thought that it should have been formed by the collapse of the central part of the original superior cone and caused by the contraction of the subjacent magnetic element after the eruption. The collapse originated from the disappearing of the original crater, forming therefore a more or less on ring-shaped wall around the caldera. The Bordeira, which initially should have been circular, was later destroyed in its eastern part by a volcanic explosion centered to this side or, according to many researchers, should have suffered a depression in relation to the western block along a fissure in the N-S direction..
It is difficult to prove that a part of the Bordeira has been destroyed by a violent explosion because traces resulting from this activity were not found. However, it is always a strange fact seeing that the oceanic territory between the islands of the archipelago is still hardly studied and the bathymetric charts existing are not special. The second alternative is the thesis we can be most certain about. Due to the fact that many of the spots from the recent eruptions existing along the outline of N-S that have pass through Pico. It was recently suggested that the eastern rim of the caldera may have existed along the island, and that the eruptive material which accompanied the formation of the caldera will have exploded laterally to the East accompanied by a gravitational flow from the eastern part of the volcano into the sea. On the contrary of the remaining islands, only in Fogo, in historic times, has a volcanic activity occurred and a new superficial recovering can be seen..
Finally, the re-activity of the volcano had caused the formation of Pico and the disappearing of the eastern wall of the Bordeira. Recently, the volcanic activity besides other factors, such as erosion and the man work, continues to shape the aspect of the island, specially its eastern side and in Chan das Caldeiras where recent eruptions have occurred.
ST. FILIPE - the oldest village in Cabo Verde
St. Filipe should have been the first center of the physiognomy of the island. It is, today, the oldest village of the archipelago without the town of Ribeira Grande being taken into consideration. Its foundation coincides with the first time of the occupation of the island due to economic reasons because it is situated in the littoral. Its urbane layout and the architectural style of the dwellings present its rural and urban nature owing to the role it played: intermediary between an agricultural island and the foreign trade.
The original urban center of the present town of St. Filipe is located in the inferior part of the town, in the zone previously known as "Meia Laranja" today called "Largo Pedro Cardoso". A native of Fogo, Pedro Cardoso is a famous Cabo-verdean poet. Subsequently, the village moved to the interior, having a square known as "Me di Rua", an important spot which was transformed to a central square with beautiful flower-beds, a kiosk and bandstand. Joao Pais is the name attributed to this central square that became later on to be called "4th of September".
Taking into account the importance of the island, especially of the "Vila" in the socio – economic context of the archipelago, the "Conselho Legislativo Colonial" (Colonial Legislative Council) approved on the 12th of July 1922 a legal diploma which elevated the "Vila" to the category of Town. In conformity with its physiognomy, the "Bila" (so called by the inhabitants of Fogo) has a low part and a high one which are denominated "Bila Baxu" and Bila Riba", respectively. This natural division caused a politico-social connotation during a period in which their inhabitants divided themselves into parts in order to, along the years; dispute the hegemony of the island.
From this center, the town of St. Filipe becomes larger because of the building of new neighborhoods around the ancient part of the town which is considered a historical center of great urbanites interest that UNESCO later on regarded as a Cultural Heritage of the Humanity.
Sobrados of St. Filipe
Two brooks called St. Joao and Trindade and the sea determined the limit of the Historical Center of the town. At the back, erects the high mountain. It is an animated place, as all main public services and a great number of commercial buildings are standing there. Still alive is all historic past represented by the architectonic samples of the colonial houses "sobrados", ruins of a proslavery society characterized by a remarkable hierarchy and segregation. The rich people, European in origin and landowners, lived in the "sobrados" (two-story house, adapted to the ancient colonial style). Each "sobrados" in "Bila" had its replica in the countryside to where the wealthy families moved during the "azaguas" (rain season).
Besides this historic value, the "sobrados", with a peculiar configuration and great architectural style, embellish the town of St. Filipe. Their facades awaken the attention because of their varied colors, changing therefore the urban landscape into a multicolored and beautiful one. A veranda, with particular covering and beautiful drawing of wood handrail, occupies the entire front of the "sobrado". The covering serves for protecting the front against the sun and constitutes one of the most characteristic architectonic images of the town.
It is fabulous to see, from any high spot of the town, the similarity of the red tile and the authentic incandescent lavas running into the sea. The historical center certainly distinguishes itself not only by the "sobrados" but also by many central squares and these little central squares are the succession of which makes us believe that they are functioning as the vertebrate of the urbane structure. Each central square is a local point where meetings and rendezvous take place. Young people, adults and children can also spend their leisure-time there. No visitor can resist the temptation to walk the streets which lead them to a black sandy zone bordering on the sea, a long way for someone who has to leave.
The wandering from place to place must begin at the "Alto da Aguadinha" from where one can enjoy on the most beautiful landscapes of St. Filipe, opinion of most people while touring the town. Teixeira de Sousa known as a doctor, essayist and novelist described this fascinating sightseeing: "from the top of "Aguadinha", apart from the rough channel, one can see the cascade of rowing houses as if they pay us homage and implore, at the same time, our attention to the peculiarity of the buildings, squares, streets and lanes which constitute the urbanity network of St. Filipe.
At a gentle slope divided into two planes by a wall-support folded in Z, appear scarlet roofs, whitewashed walls, exterior and interior verandas, bougainvilleas in bloom overspreading the edges of the backyards and old tamarind-trees tops which are the speechless trustees of unbelievable events. From the top of the slope to the edge of the cliff, we get great pleasure with an ensemble of dwellings that brings back many memories, such as a history, a colonial structure, a mini-culture, which has developed throughout the centuries."
From the "Alto da Aguadinha" one comes down to the "Largo da Cruz dos Passos" located to the east of the historical center through which passes the main thoroughfare that limits the center. There erects a cross-shaped monument surmounting a kind of altar where are placed the coffins of the defunct before being buried. Continuing our visits we arrive at the "Alto de St. Pedro" limited by the most beautiful "sobrados" existing in "Bila" and by a huge thick wall that forms the boundary between "Bila Baixu" and "Bila Riba".
Paved and covered with trees, "Alto de St. Pedro" is a track serving for the carrying out of the "Cavalhadas" of the "Bandeiras". Going further, one reaches the "Largo Pato Moniz" where is located a beautiful central square with colored flower-beds in bloom, wood and cement benches. The "Presidio" (so called because a prison existed there) is not far from this square. It is today a wonderful central square full of trees, with many flower-beds where Graveiro Lopes' bust erects, one of and the Governors during the colony. A very old waterspout marks also its presence. The "Presidio" is an excellent spot for watching - points that someone described as follows: "we are, in that square, continuing to look out over the town as far as we reach the silhouettes of the island of Brava and those of the islets of Rombos. On the left and on the right of the silhouettes, the look becomes wrapped in the wideness of the horizon".
Meanwhile, during the festivities of the "Bandeira" of St. Filipe the central square is crowded and became afterwards an animated popular fair where took place balls and various feasts. On the North side stands the "Padrao". It is a small ring shaped place with, in the center, a "Padrao" conceived in the style of the 16th century Portuguese discoveries. It is a delightful place from where the sea disappearing little by little up to the horizon can be appreciated. At the opposite extreme there is a wide and fine stair which leads to the "Largo Pedro Cardoso". This square constitutes a significantly narration the pertaining to the town of St. Filipe, seeing that the first nucleus of population had been there settled after the discovery of the island.
From the square, onward passing through the oldest street in town, along with old and small dwellings, this street brings the transient to the "Largo da Cadeia Civil", a two hundred years old building, being built in homage of the Queen Carlota Joaquina and for this very reason, its first forename was Fortim Carlota. Initially, it was the bulwark of the island serving for the defense against the corsairs using at that time cannons. On a map of the town dated back in 1888, the building was identified as a custom house becoming later on a hospital known by all as "Botica". From the central square full of trees, cement with benches situated in the "Largo da Cadeia Civil", one arrives at the nearest beach, coming down a wide and fine stair which is perpendicular to the carriage able access: the beach of "Fonte de Vila". From this square, it is worth visiting one of the historical centers in Achada St. Filipe. Very old, it is known as "cemiterio de broncos" (graveyards for the whites) because only wealthy people were buried there. It is characterized by its artistic and historical valor with monuments dated of the past century, which do not only evoke the origins of the past families of Fogo but also possess a great architectural style.
Inversely, the visitor begins by the most difficult: walking the town by climbing, always an upward climb. The Matriz church is also of obligatory visit after the "Largo". Its main door takes the visitor to a wide church yard full of trees and encircled by a small concrete wall. The church, painted in blue and white, is a building dated by the end of the 19th century. Its interior has been suffered changes, losing therefore a part of its beauty. Its front, very beautiful, is surmounted by two campaniles; on the left side, the bell rings at the beginning of the work, on the right one is a still clock waiting for announcing the outset of the restoration of the church. From the main street which formerly led to the harbor and to the center of the town, appears the "Praca 4 de Setembro".
The visit is a must here because the visitor has the sensation of occupy a uterine space, closed and full of vivid life and that which is still to be lived. In a square where is held the first "cavalhadas" was sketched, by the beginning of this century, a central square which was being improved by the then Mayor, Engineer Joaquim Monteiro Macedo. A paved bandstand and a kiosk were therefore built. The central square is encircled by the "sobrados" whose owners were the rich families of the island. On the North side is standing the building of the Town-Hall built by the beginning of the century.
Here, the visit comes to an end, leaving the visitor half-lost between the remote past and the far-away future to be prepared.