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CAPE VERDE ISLANDS


Climate.—The atmosphere of the islands is generally hazy, especially in the direction of Africa. With occasional exceptions during summer and autumn, the north-east trade is the prevailing wind, blowing most strongly from November to May. The rainy season is during August, September and October, when there is thunder and a light variable wind from south-east or south-west. The Harmattan, a very dry east wind from the African continent, occasionally makes itself felt. The heat of summer is high, the thermometer ranging from 80° to 90° Fahr. near the sea. The unhealthy season is the period during and following the rains, when vegetation springs up with surprising rapidity, and there is much stagnant water, poisoning the air on the lower grounds. Remittent fevers are then common. The people of all the islands are also subject in May to an endemic of a bilious nature called locally levadias, but the cases rarely assume a dangerous form, and recovery is usually attained in three or four days without medical aid. On some of the islands rain has occasionally not fallen for three years. The immediate consequence is a failure of the crops, and this is followed by the death of great numbers from starvation, or the epidemics which usually break out afterwards.

Flora.—Owing largely to the widespread destruction of timber for fuel, and to the frequency of drought, the flora of the islands is poor when compared with that of the Canaries, the Azores or Madeira. It is markedly tropical in character; and although some seventy wild-flowers, grasses, ferns, &c., are peculiar to the archipelago, the majority of plants are those found on the neighbouring African littoral. Systematic afforestation has not been attempted, but the Portuguese have introduced a few trees, such as the baobab, eucalyptus and dragon-tree, besides many plants of economic value. Coffee-growing, an industry dating from 1790, is the chief resource of the people of Santo Antão, Fogo and São Thiago; maize, millet, sugar-cane, manioc, excellent oranges, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and, to a less extent, tobacco and cotton are produced. On most of the islands coco-nut and date palms, tamarinds and bananas may be seen; orchil is gathered; and indigo and castor-oil are produced. Of considerable importance is the physic-nut (Jatropha curcas), which is exported.

Fauna.—Quails are found in all the islands; rabbits in Boa Vista, São Thiago and Fogo; wild boars in São Thiago. Both black and grey rats are common. Goats, horses and asses are reared, and goatskins are exported. The neighbouring sea abounds with fish, and coral fisheries are carried on by a colony of Neapolitans in São Thiago. Turtles come from the African coast to lay their eggs on the sandy shores. The Ilheu Branco, or White Islet, between São Nicolao and Santa Luzia, is remarkable as containing a variety of puffin unknown elsewhere, and a species of large lizard (Macroscinctus coctei) which feeds on plants.

Inhabitants.—The first settlers on the islands imported negro slaves from the African coast. Slavery continued in full force until 1854, when the Portuguese government freed the public slaves, and ameliorated the conditions of private ownership. In 1857 arrangements were made for the gradual abolition of slavery, and by 1876 the last slave had been liberated. The transportation of convicts from Portugal, a much-dreaded punishment, was continued until the closing years of the 19th century. It was the coexistence of these two forms of servitude, even more than the climate, which prevented any large influx of Portuguese colonists. Hence the blacks and mulattoes far outnumber the white inhabitants. They are, as a rule, taller than the Portuguese, and are of fine physique, with regular features but woolly hair. Slavery and the enervating climate have left their mark on the habits of the people, whose indolence and fatalism are perhaps their most obvious qualities. Their language is a bastard Portuguese, known as the lingua creoula. Their religion is Roman Catholicism, combined with a number of pagan beliefs and rites, which are fostered by the curandeiros or medicine men. These superstitions tend to disappear gradually before the advance of education, which has progressed considerably since 1867, when the first school, a lyceum, was opened in Ribeira Brava, the capital of São Nicolao. On all the inhabited islands, except Santa Luzia, there are churches and primary schools, conducted by the government or the priests. The children of the wealthier classes are sent to Lisbon for their education.

Government.—The archipelago forms one of the foreign provinces of Portugal, and is under the command of a governor-in-chief appointed by the crown. There are two principal judges, one for the windward and another for the leeward group, the former with his residence at São Nicolao, and the latter at Praia; and each island has a military commandant, a few soldiers, and a number of salaried officials, such as police, magistrates and custom-house directors. There is also an ecclesiastical establishment, with a bishop, dean and canons.

Industries.—The principal industries, apart from agriculture, are the manufacture of sugar, spirits, salt, cottons and straw hats and fish-curing. The average yearly value of the exports is about £60,000; that of the imports (including £200,000 for coal), about £350,000. The most important of the exports are coffee, physic-nuts, millet, sugar, spirits, salt, live animals, skins and fish. This trade is principally carried on with Lisbon and the Portuguese possessions on the west coast of Africa, and with passing vessels. The imports consist principally of coal, textiles, food-stuffs, wine, metals, tobacco, machinery, pottery and vegetables. Over 3000 vessels, with a total tonnage exceeding 3,500,000, annually enter the ports of the archipelago; the majority call at Mindello, on São Vicente, for coal, and do not receive or discharge any large quantities of cargo.

Santo Antão (pop. 25,000), at the extreme north-west of the archipelago, has an area of 265 sq. m. Its surface is very rugged and mountainous, abounding in volcanic craters, of which the chief is the Topoda Coroa (7300 ft.), also known as the Sugar-loaf. Mineral springs exist in many places. The island is the most picturesque, the healthiest, and, on its north-western slope, the best watered and most fertile of the archipelago. The south-eastern slope, shut out by lofty mountains from the fertilizing moisture of the trade-winds, has an entirely different appearance, black rocks, white pumice and red clay being its most characteristic features. Santo Antão produces large quantities of excellent coffee, besides sugar and fruit. It has several small ports, of which the chief are the sheltered and spacious Tarrafal Bay, on the south-west coast, and the more frequented Ponta do Sol, on the north-east, 8 m. from the capital, Ribeira Grande, a town of 4500 inhabitants. Cinchona is cultivated in the neighbourhood. In 1780 the slaves on Santo Antão were declared free, but this decree was not carried out. About the same time many white settlers, chiefly from the Canaries, entered the island, and introduced the cultivation of wheat.

São Vicente, or St Vincent (8000), lies near Santo Antão, on the south-east, and has an area of 75 sq. m. Its highest point is Monte Verde (2400 ft.). The whole island is as arid and sterile as the south-eastern half of Santo Antão, and for the same reason. It was practically uninhabited until 1795; in 1829 its population numbered about 100. Its harbour, an extinct crater on the north coast, with an entrance eroded by the sea, affords complete shelter from every wind. An English speculator founded a coaling station here in 1851, and the town of Mindello, also known as Porto Grande or St Vincent, grew up rapidly, and became the commercial centre of the archipelago. Most of the business is in English hands, and nine-tenths of the inhabitants understand English. Foodstuffs, wood and water are imported from Santo Antão, and the water is stored in a large reservoir at Mindello. São Vicente has a station for the submarine cable from Lisbon to Pernambuco in Brazil.

Santa Luzia, about 5 m. south-east, has an area of 18 sq. m., and forms a single estate, occupied only by the servants or the family of the proprietor. Its highest point is 885 ft. above sea-level. On the south-west it has a good harbour, visited by whaling and fishing boats. Much orchil was formerly gathered, and there is good pasturage for the numerous herds of cattle. A little to the south are the uninhabited islets of Branco and Razo.

São Nicolao, or Nicolau (12,000), a long, narrow, crescent-shaped island with an area of 126 sq. m., lies farther east, near the middle of the archipelago. Its climate is not very healthy. Maize, kidney-beans, manioc, sugar-cane and vines are cultivated; and in ordinary years grain is exported to the other islands. The interior is mountainous, and culminates in two peaks which can be seen for many leagues; one has the shape of a sugar-loaf, and is near the middle of the island; the other, Monte Gordo, is near the west end, and has a height of 4280 ft. All the other islands of the group can be seen from São Nicolao in clear weather. Vessels frequently enter Preguiça, or Freshwater Bay, near the south-east extremity of the island, for water and fresh provisions; and the custom-house is here. The island was one of the first colonized; in 1774 its inhabitants numbered 13,500, but famine subsequently caused a great decrease. The first capital, Lapa, at the end of a promontory on the south,