Cape Verde's first settlers came from Portugal. They Landed on Saġ Tiago in 1462. The islands became important with the development of the transatlantic slave trade. On July 5, 1975, the islands became an independent republic.
The first multiparty elections since Cape Verde gained independence were held in January 1991 when Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro was elected president
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On the the flight I met Christelle, a French girl from Paris coming to visit to her boyfriend Oumar who gave me a lift from the airport to my hotel, the Paraiso.
Praia is a small town of only 65,000 people and Amilcar Cabral Avenue, the biggest street in town, is less than one km long.
The people speak Portuguese and Crioulo. More than 80 percent are Roman Catholic and the Church enjoys considerable secular power and wealth. This is Praia's Cathedral.
The US embassy has also become an important seat of power in Cape Verde since it gained independence from Portugal after one of the longest and most brutal liberation wars of Africa. Cape Verde is basically a poor country with little natural resources and an arid climate but its strategic position off the coast of Africa warrants considerable economic aid from the United States.
Cape Verde is not self-sufficient in food production. It is the largest recipient of U.S. grain grants in Africa. The rate of emigration is high and there are now more people of Cape Verde origin outside of the country that in it. Thanks to this foreign aid and to the remittances of expatriated Cape Verdans, the remaining population enjoys the highest standard of living of West Africa.
Praia Mar beach and Clube Nautica with the capital visible on the plateau in the background.
Cape Verde's islands offer several such beaches exposed to cloudless skies all year-round but development of the tourist industry is just beginning and mostly on Sal island thanks to the international refueling airport located there. Considering the paucity of other resources the sun trade could become the major real income earner of the country if it is developed correctly.
Getting visas is always a pain in the butt so it took advantage of my passage here to get visas for the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Togo from the French embassy which can emit them in places where these countries do not have an embassy.
When that business was done I got on a minibus to Tarrafal on the north shore of the island. It gave me a chance to see how difficult it must be for people to scratch out a living from this arid land. The São António Peak shown here is the highest point of Saġ Tiago island.
The Tarrafal church dominates Tarrafal as it is normal in Roman Catholic countries (knowledge is power and religion is absolute knowledge!).
Tarrafal beach is just one more example of a place where sun starved North Europeans would flock to in winter to expose their bellies to UV radiation in spite of the cancer scare if the price were right and the accommodations comfortable.
The appropriate development of the tourist industry depends upon a delicate balance between optimizing on price or on volume. It is not an easy equation to solve, those who optimize on price often end up with no customers like Bhutan and Botswana and those who optimize on volume risk having such an affluence of strangers that their own identity and values can be threatened. New Zealanders have passed from being good herders of sheep to good herders of tourists and they make a lot of money out of it. Excessive tourism in places like Kenya and the Bahamas have also created the awkward situation where the local population love the tourist's money but hate their presence.
It is a tremendous challenge for Cape Verdans to maintain and develop their presently high standard of living in this arid land independently of foreign aid, which is never disinterested, and of charity from expatriated relatives. I wish them success for all those I met were proud and valiant.