II Edition: Cabo Verde na Corason, 2014
Cape Verde in Your Heart – 2014
The Project ‘Cabo Verde na Corason’ is on its second edition and this year I was one of the lucky 10 young people selected from the Diaspora to participate.
‘Cabo Verde na Corason’ is a project launched by the Ministry for the Capeverdean Communities. It aims to take young Capeverdeans and descendants from across the world back to Cabo Verde for a visit in order to expose them to progresses and challenges that Cabo Verde has gone through over the last years.
Aims and Objectives
The initiative, which translates as ‘Cabo Verde in your Heart’, encourages a closer connection with our country of origin and seeks to build up a willingness to look at possible ways that Capeverdeans in the diaspora, can contribute to Cabo Verde’s continued development, be it through developing and implementing business and/or charitable initiatives, or by continued promotion of Cabo Verde in a positive light in respective countries of residence.
In addition, other key aims of the project include: promoting better understanding of the realities of Cabo Verde, its social and economic developments as well as challenges. It also aims to create a greater awareness of social projects in different regions of Cabo Verde, strengthen family connections between young people in the diaspora and their family in Cabo Verde and promote interchange of experiences among young Capeverdean (and descendants).
This year’s edition of ‘Cabo Verde na Corason’ took place between 17-21 November 2014 with the participation of ten young people from the following countries: Angola (3), Brasil (2), Italy (1), Spain (1) and United Kingdom (3).
The Focus Geographical area
The programme for the II edition of ‘Cabo verde na Corason’ centered in Santiago Island, the largest of the 9 inhabited islands of Cabo Verde and home to the Capital. Over half of Cabo Verde’s habitants live in the island of Santiago . The programme included guided visits to several places of interest, such as iconic monuments, government buildings, historic sites and natural parks. It also included meetings with HE the President and HE the Prime Minister. Furthermore, we were hosted by the Minister of the communities who welcomed us on 17 November.
Some Facts About Cabo Verde:
- Discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1460, populated from 1462 onwards by António de Noli.
- Its people are a mixture of European and Africans resulting in a fusion – often referred to as ‘creoles’
- The archipelago of Cabo Verde lies around 500 kms off the west coast of Africa
- Over the years severe droughts have caused the deaths of 200,000 people and prompted heavy emigration
- Today, more people with origins in Cabo Verde live outside the country than inside it (BBC)
- From the mid-1990s, droughts cut the islands’ grain crop by 80% (BBC).
‘Cabo Verde na Corason’ 2014
Day 0, Sunday 16 November
First of all, for those of us who arrived in Cabo Verde before the start of the official visits to national and local authorities, we had the opportunity to visit our families in Santiago as well as in other islands.
Visiting Family and Rediscovering the Interior of Santiago Island
Day 1 – Monday 17 November
Meeting The Hon Minister of the Communities
Day 2, Tuesday 18 November
Then we had the opportunity to visit entities within the main sectors driving some of the biggest inwards foreign investment to the country.
Visiting School of Hospitality and Tourism (EHTCV)
Visiting Cidade Velha
Another important stop was Ribeira Grande de Santiago – Cidade Velha, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The first European colonial town built in the tropics, it is located in the south of the island of Santiago, it features some of the original street layout as well as remains old colonial building, including two churches, a royal fortress and the Pillory Square with its ornate 16th century marble pillar.
It is noteworthy that in the 16th and 17th centuries, Ribeira Grande was a key port of call for Portuguese colonisation and its administration. Furthermore, it was an strategic point in the routes for international maritime trade, included in the routes between Africa and the Cape, Brazil and the Caribbean. Isolated but close to the coasts of Africa, it was an essential platform for the Atlantic slave trade.
Thus, a place of concentration of enslaved persons and the inhuman practices of the trade of slave trade, Ribeira Grande was also exceptional in terms of the intercultural encounters from which stemmed the first developed Creole society.
Day 3, Wednesday 19 November
Visiting Ribeirao Manuel – Learning about ‘Raboita di Rubon Manel’
The ‘Rebellion of Rubon Manel’ is an important mark in the social history of Cabo Verde and its progress to independence. In summary: farmers lived in poor conditions, worked in land owned by a small number of Portuguese landowners (the then colonial powers) and paid increasingly high rent. In most cases farmers had no choice but to sell their harvest to the landowners themselves at very low prices. In addition when a farmer passed away any debt would be passed on to the family.
The lack of harvest and the increase in famine led to discontentment and consequently to the Rebellion of ‘Rubon Manel’, known for the strong role played by women, mainly because women were the ones that mostly harvested in the region and therefore they were at the forefront of organising the rebellion.
‘Rabelados’ – a religious community found most in the interior of Santiago. This community grew out of a rebellion against the Reforms of the Catholic church introduced by the Portuguese government over 40 years ago. The long term isolation from the rest of the Caboverdean community allowed them to develop their own religious and cultural practices therefore distancing themselves from the Catholic dogmas.
We visited the village of ‘Rabelados’ in the mountainous region of ‘Espinho Branco’ close to Tarrafal. They live in a simple way, close to nature and produce arts and crafts which is exposed for sale at ‘Rabelart’. The funds go towards maintaining their way of life and building infrastructures such as nurseries, schools and houses.
Tarrafal is well known for its beautiful beaches, but, in is also a very important place in terms of historic significance. Tarrafal is home to the infamous prison known as Tarrafal’s Ex-Concentration Camp. The camp was created in 1936 during Portuguese’s dictatorial regime period and it housed political prisoners from around Portugal as well as the Portuguese speaking world. Because of its historical significance, in 2004 it was submitted to the tentative list to become a World Heritage Site.
Day 4, Thursday 20 November
Visiting University of Cabo Verde
The visit to the University of Cabo Verde was an important stop where we had the opportunity to share experiences with Caboverdean students and learn more about each others’s experiences. Rather than looking at differences between us and them, most of the exchanges focused on how much we have common aims and aspirations.
Day 5, Friday 21 November
Meeting HE the Prime Minister & HE the President
Day 6, Saturday 22 November
Visiting SOS Villages in Sao Domingos, INIDA (National Institute of Agricultural Research and Development), Ecological Walk, Museum ‘Tabanka’ and the Polião’s Dam.
The SOS Village
Supports local children that face hard conditions. The village not only takes in orphaned children and cares for them in the ‘foster homes’ where they are looked after by a ‘mum’ supported by an ‘aunt’, but they also, whenever possible/best, opt for supporting children within their own family environment.
The Poilao Dam
Importantly, this is a very good example of developments built to counter-act the sometimes devastating effects of Cabo Verde’s dry climate. The dam is a structure that collects water during rainy periods and stores it to be used in periods of droughts. Therefore helping counter act negative effects if the lack of rain for long periods of time. In the words of the Hon Minister, ‘in a country marked by droughts, building a structure that can collect and store natural water for re-use, is a great achievement’.
A research and development centre that studies Cabo Verde’s natural world. It keeps records, as well as samples, of native plants. The institute researches natural plagues and diseases, to find solutions and looks at better practices to increase agricultural production. Noteworthy was the fact passed on to us that every single sample of each of Cabo Verde’s plant is also held at a research centre in Germany. This is an important back up for reintroducing rare species in case of natural disaster.