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 “The Big Island”; “The Most African Island”

Santiago was the first island of the Cape Verdean archipelago to be settled by the Portuguese, in the mid-to-late 15th century. Originally centered around what is today known as Cidade Velha (then known as Ribeira Grande), slaves were brought to Santiago from the African mainland to be sold and shipped to Europe and the Americas. Many slaves, however, ended up as the wives or concubines of Portuguese settlers, which is the origin of the mixed-race and creole culture of the country. Other slaves escaped to Santiago’s mountainous interior, where they formed their own maroon communities that last to this day. This is why the island is known as “the most African” – compared to the other islands’ populations, Santiago’s has a much higher proportion of pure west African ancestry, descending from tribes such as Mandinga, Fula, and others. The creole of Santiago is thus the most influenced by African languages as well, though still comprehensible to most other islanders.

In Santiago’s geography you can find a wide range of extremes, from the rugged mountains of the island’s interior, to the serene beaches of Tarrafal on the island’s northern tip.

The national capital Praia offers a respectable amount of nightlife in the form of dance clubs, bars, and music halls. Praia is also where you will find many foreign embassies and consulates, including those of the United States, France, China, and others. Any other official or administrative business will most likely be conducted here as well.

From the story “Avenida Charles Darwin”:

“In a place so overlooked both in Darwin’s time and at present, even these brief comments of his gave me valuable perspective on what would soon be my reality. Reading more about his adventures, my vague wanderlust became more focused. I found that his sense of seeing things as a part of a whole, as a part of the intertwining cosmos of both the organic and inorganic, might very well be constructive notions to hang onto.”

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