Cabo Verde (formerly Cape Verde), officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is a small island nation in the Atlantic Ocean, some 570 km (350 mi) off the western coast of the African continent, near Senegal. This stunning island country is a mesmerizing blend of volcanic landscapes, craggy mountains, green valleys, powdery white beaches, and peaceful seaside villages. Here are some interesting facts about Cape Verde (Cabo Verde).
Facts about Cape Verde (Cabo Verde)
1. Cabo Verde was formerly known as Cape Verde.
In 2013, Cape Verde’s government announced that the country was getting an identity makeover and reverting to its original Portuguese name: the Republic of Cabo Verde (República de Cabo Verde), or simply Cabo Verde. Centuries ago, the country had anglicized its name to Cape Verde.
2. Cabo Verde was named by the Portuguese.
One of the interesting facts about Cabo Verde is that it is named for the westernmost cape of Africa. Portuguese explorers came upon the westernmost peninsula in Africa now called Cap-Vert in the mid-15th century.
The Portuguese christened it Cabo Verde, which means “green cape” then used the same name for the islands to the west, which eventually became the country of Cabo Verde.
3. Cabo Verde is an archipelago consisting of ten islands and five islets.
The nation of Cabo Verde is a horseshoe-shaped cluster of ten islands (nine of which are inhabited) and five islets. Cabo Verde has a total area of 4,033 km² (1,557 sq mi), which makes it slightly smaller than the US state of Rhode Island.
Cabo Verde’s islands are divided into two groups: The Barlavento Islands (Windward islands): Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, and Boa Vista; and The Sotavento Islands (Leeward islands): Maio, Santiago, Fogo, Brava. The island of Santiago is Cabo Verde’s largest island, both in size and population.
4. Cabo Verde has a coastline of 965 km (600 mi).
The islands and islets of Cabo Verde combine to form a total coastline length of 965 km (600 mi). Along Cabo Verde’s Atlantic coastline lie plenty of unspoiled beaches and indigo-blue waters.
5. The highest peak of Cabo Verde Pico do Fogo.
Pico do Fogo, an active stratovolcano lying on the volcanic island of Fogo (“Fire”), is the tallest mountain in Cabo Verde. Pico do Fogo rises to an elevation of 2,829 m (9,281 ft).
6. Cabo Verde was first discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century.
The islands of Cape Verde were uninhabited when they were first discovered by the Portuguese in the mid-15th century.
7. Cabo Verde is home to the first European colonial outpost in the tropics.
This is one of the coolest Cabo Verde facts. In 1462, six years after Portuguese sailors discovered the islands of Cabo Verde, the Portuguese founded a permanent settlement in the town of Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha). It is located on the south of the island of Santiago and was the first European colonial outpost in the tropics.
8. Cabo Verde was an active part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Beginning with the first Portuguese settlement in the town of Ribeira Grande was used as a slave trade post between Africa and the New World. Cabo Verde’s isolated, yet strategic location made it a perfect place for the New World-bound ships to stop here for ship repairs and supplies. The slave trade made the Cabo Verde islands prosperous, and the end of the slave trade led to a decline in economic prosperity.
Plantation agriculture was established by the Portuguese community and worked by African slaves, who were brought in from nearby West Africa. In addition to the cultivation of cotton, cane sugar and rum were produced and exported from Cabo Verde.
9. Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau were formerly politically unified.
Cabo Verde and the country of Guinea-Bissau on the West African mainland were under the joint colonial administration of the Portuguese until 1879 when both became separate Portuguese territories. During the African decolonization movement, their status was modified in 1951 to overseas provinces.
Not content with these changes, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau campaigned together for independence from Portugal, chiefly inspired by the Marxist-inspired African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde—PAIGC).
The party aimed to achieve independence by using peaceful means of protest. However, Portugal’s right-wing dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar, responded with violence and arrests. This led to 11 years of armed struggle in Guinea-Bissau (1963-1974) until this precipitated a military coup in Portugal in April 1974.
This resulted in Portuguese decolonization in Africa, leading to the establishment of the two linked, but independent republics: the Republic of Guinea-Bissau on 24 September 1974 and the Republic of Cape Verde on 5 July 1975.
Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau shared a flag and national anthem and their president—Luís de Almeida Cabral, was a Cape Verdean. They remained unified until a military coup in Guinea-Bissau toppled Cabral in November 1980. The coup was deeply resented in Cape Verde and led to Cape Verde separating from Guinea-Bissau.
10. Cabo Verde was the first country Charles Darwin visited on the survey expedition of HMS Beagle.
One of the lesser-known Cabo Verde facts is that the country was the first place the naturalist Charles Darwin visited on his HMS Beagle voyage. HMS Beagle was the ship in which Darwin sailed around the world from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836.
The rich variety of animal and plant species that Darwin saw on the voyage on the Beagle led him to develop his theory of ‘evolution by natural selection’. Though the Beagle had earlier reached Tenerife in the Canary Islands, it made its first landing at Praia on the volcanic island of St. Jago (now Santiago) in the Cabo Verde Islands on 16 January 1832.
Spending nearly three weeks in Cabo Verde, Darwin was fascinated by the diverse volcanic and sandy landscape, and it was here that he realized his own skills and ability in geology. Darwin was also smitten with Cabo Verde’s oranges, bananas, and tamarinds — all luxuries back then on English soil.
11. The capital of Cabo Verde is Praia.
Located on the southern coast of Santiago Island, Praia is the largest city in Cabo Verde and is the nation’s cultural and economic hub.
12. The currency of Cabo Verde is the Cabo Verdean escudo (CVE).
The Cabo Verdean escudo (CVE) became the currency of Cabo Verde in 1914 when it replaced the Cape Verdean real. Today, the Cabo Verde escudo is pegged to the euro.
Interestingly, the escudo uses the dollar symbol ($) instead of a decimal point. Hence, 10 escudos is written as 10$00.
13. Throughout its history, Cabo Verde has suffered a series of calamitous droughts and famines.
From the late-16th century, the islands of Cabo Verde have been plagued by a cavalcade of disastrous droughts and famines. Only 10% of Cabo Verde’s territory is classified as arable land. Cabo Verde has few natural resources and suffers from scarce rainfall and limited freshwater.
In the first half of the 20th century alone, droughts in Cabo Verde caused severe famines in 1901-04, 1920-21, 1941-43, and 1947-48. Tens of thousands of Cabo Verdeans tragically perished of starvation during the first half of this century as a result of the famines.
14. Cabo Verde is highly vulnerable to climate change.
According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Cabo Verde is one of the countries that is most vulnerable to climate change, with a low capacity to adapt.
Models of future climate change suggest that temperature increases of up to 4ºC (39ºF) and decreases in rainfall by up to 20% can be expected by 2100.
15. Cabo Verde is the only country in West Africa with a population of primarily mixed European and African descent.
An overwhelming majority of the population of Cabo Verde (≈70-75%) descends from the mixture of European settlers and African slaves who were brought to the country to work on plantations. Most Cape Verdeans are therefore creole or mulattoes.
Approximately 25-30% of the Cabo Verdean population is entirely of black African descent. There is a small minority (1–2%) of Europeans on the islands.
16. Portuguese is the official language of Cabo Verde.
Portuguese is the sole official language of Cabo Verde and is used in print, in the media, in higher education, in the judicial system, and in public services. However, virtually all Cabo Verdeans speak Cabo Verdean Creole or Kriolu, a Portuguese-based creole with African influences.
17. Christianity is the most popular religion in Cabo Verde.
The vast majority (≈75-80%) of Cabo Verdeans are Roman Catholic, while approximately 5-10% identify as Protestant. The remainder of the Cabo Verdean population is either irreligious or belongs to other religions. However, tinctures of traditional African beliefs remain in even the most devout Christians.
18. Football is the most popular sport in Cabo Verde.
Like in most of Africa, football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Cabo Verde. Unfortunately, the Cabo Verde men’s national football team has tasted very little success at the international level and has never even qualified for the FIFA World Cup.
19. More Cabo Verdeans are living outside of Cabo Verde than in Cabo Verde.
One of the most fascinating facts about Cabo Verde is that more Cabo Verdeans live abroad than in Cabo Verde itself. The causes of emigration of Cabo Verdeans are diverse and include climatic conditions exacerbated by drought and famine, and socioeconomic reasons brought on by structural deficiencies
More than a century of emigration has created a large Cabo Verdean diaspora in many countries across Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Estimating the exact size of the Cabo Verdean diaspora populations is complicated, but the United States is thought to be home to the largest number of Cabo Verdeans living abroad. Portugal is also home to a significant Cabo Verdean minority.
Some famous people of Cabo Verdean descent include footballers Henrik Larsson, Nani, Patrick Vieira, and actor Michael Beach.
20. Cabo Verde has never won a medal at the Olympics.
Despite having participated in the Summer Olympics since 1996, Cabo has never won a medal. The nation has never participated in the Winter Olympic Games.
21. Cabo Verde is home to one UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The one and only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cabo Verde is the Cidade Velha, Historic Center of Ribeira Grande.
22. The gray long-eared bat is the only animal native to Cabo Verde.
The gray long-eared bat (Plecotus austriacus) is the only indigenous animal of Cabo Verde and accounts for about 20% of the country’s mammal population. The bat is known for its distinctive long ears.
23. The national dish of Cabo Verde is Cachupa.
Similar to the cassoulet of France and feijoada of Brazil, cachupa is a slow-cooked, hearty stew principally made of hominy (coarsely ground corn), beans, cassava, sweet potato, and fish or meat (pork, blood sausage, beef, goat, or chicken). Several variations of Cachupa can be found across the different islands.
24. The national liquor of Cabo Verde is Grogue.
Grogue is Cabo Verde’s favorite tipple that is made entirely from sugarcane and has an alcohol content of more than 40%. Similar in taste to rum, grogue is often served neat, but it is also used in cocktails and long drinks.
25. There are no railways in Cabo Verde.
As Cabo Verde doesn’t have any railways, most of the transportation in the country is done by air or road.
26. Cabo Verde doesn’t observe daylight-saving time.
Daylight saving hasn’t been observed in Cabo Verde since 1946.