Category: Why Cape Verde Published on Sunday, 23 October 2011 17:08 Written by Super User Hits: 926
Santiago was the first island to be settled on, and has the largest population of all the Cape Verdean islands. It is also home to Praia, the bustling capital of Cape Verde. Santiago belongs to the ‘Sotavento' or Leeward islands.
Geography and Climate
Santiago is the largest island on the archipelago of Cape Verde, measuring 991 square km. It is approximately 55km long and 28km wide. The highest peak is Pico Da Antonia at 1394 meters.
Most of the 240,000 population of the island reside in the city of Praia. The other main town is Ribeira Grande, also known as the Old City or ‘Cidade Velha'.
Santiago is one of the ‘younger' islands, and therefore the landscape is more rugged than other Cape Verdean islands like Sal, which is very flat. Santiago receives more rainfall than the flatter islands. The average yearly temperature is between 20 and 35°C.
The Old Town (Cidade Velha) of Ribeira Grande was founded by the Portuguese in 1460, and was once the most prosperous city of the Portuguese sea-borne empire, owing to the transatlantic slave trade.
In the 14th century António, the Prior of Crato, made a claim to the Portuguese throne which was rejected by the ruling monarch, King Henry. However, King Henry himself was a Catholic Cardinal and had produced no heirs. There was also an increasing threat from the Kingdom of Castille, and after Henry's death in 1580, Antonio was crowned king of Portugal. It was the briefest of reigns, lasting only one month, until Antonio was defeated by the Castillians in August of the same year.
However, in the following years, supporters of Antonio attacked the Cape Verde islands, targeting Ribeira Grande which was weakened significantly. In 1712, Ribeira Grande was virtually destroyed, during battles between the French and the Portuguese, and subsequently the capital moved to the port town of Praia.
In 1819, Portugal abolished slave trading North of the equator. It was not until 1858 that Portugal fully abolished slavery. However, in the beginning, slaves were not totally free. There was a transitional period of apprenticeship for 20 years.
After the abolition of slavery, the importance of Ribeira Grande diminished further. So did the wealth and status of the local Creoles, who had grown wealthy on the slave trade. As the years went by, they came to resent the influence of Portuguese colonialism and their declining importance.
Like many dissatisfied Cape Verdeans in the mid-20th century, the Crioulos turned to a young revolutionary Amilcar Cabral to solve their problems. Amilcar Cabral was born in Guinea Bissau (Portuguese Guinea), but his parents were from Cape Verde where he later attended school.
He placed strong emphasis on the links between the two countries. Amilcar Cabral had been influenced by the revolutionary rhetoric of other Africans such as the Senegalese Leopold Senghor whilst studying in Lisbon. He had joined the MPLA, the Popular Movement for the Freedom of Angola. In 1960, Amilcar Cabral founded the PAIGC – The African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, which went on to secure the liberation of both colonies.
Infrastructure and Development
Santiago is more developed than the other islands, as it has a larger population. There are roads, water and electricity.
A major new international airport on Santiago island opened in October 2005. It is now operating direct flights to Lisbon, Amsterdam, Paris and Boston and will soon commence flights to the UK.
There are domestic flights to and from the other islands of the archipelago of Cape Verde.
There are also boat connections to the other islands and to the West coast of Africa. The main port is at Praia.
Property Investment and Developments
Santiago has seen significant property investment centred in a small number of large resort style developments. These have mainly been around San Francisco Bay and the Southern coast West of Praia. There has also been some development in Tarrafal.
We believe that Santiago will have substantially more developments in the future as the road infrastructure improves and as the airport expands the number of flights.
There are a few high profile developers that operate in Santiago. These include UK based property developers as well as established Cape Verdean companies. The builders on the island are generally local.
Economy and Agriculture
Santiago is one of the agricultural centres of Cape Verde. The main crops are sugar cane, bananas, corn, coffee and mangoes.
Alongside agriculture, the main industries are fishing and tourism.
Praia has a very deep port like Mindelo in Sao Vicente. This is fundamental to the island's economy. It is a refuelling port for transatlantic traffic.
It is very likely that Santiago will become a popular tourist hub for European holidaymakers seeking the island's unspoilt beaches and mountainous landscape.
The green interior of the island is very rugged and is great for hiking. The countryside is dotted with small villages, offering an insight into daily life on the island. This is the ‘real' Cape Verde.
Praia offers the visitor a varied and lively nightlife, with many bars, restaurants and clubs. It is also a pleasant place to walk around, with the markets offering a variety of goods.
Cidade Velha, Ribeira Grande, is the oldest town in Cape Verde, and has plenty of old-world charm. Visitors should see the ‘Pelourinho' or whipping post, which is where slaves were publicly punished. Tourists should visit the fortress at Sao Filipe, the Cathedral and the Maritime Museum with relics from old shipwrecks.
There are some spectacular beaches on Santiago, most notably at Tarrafal.
Culture and People
The local Creole population, or Crioulos, are the oldest African-European Creole community in the world. They speak an African-Portuguese Creole known as Crioulo de Santiago, or Bádiu, which is particular to this Cape Verdean island.
The cultural life of Santiago is profoundly influenced by Africa. The island is the birthplace of some of Cape Verde's best known literary and musical figures, including Jorge Barbosa, Mayra Andrade, Ymez Silva and Manuel de Candinho.
Nature and Wildlife
Santiago has a unique climate, and is home to some endangered animals and birds. The Cape Verde warbler bird is only found here, and the island is also home to several rare species of lizard and bat.
There are also trees and shrubs which do not occur on other islands, as well as some which are particular to Cape Verde.