Old City “Cidade Velha”



Praia is the new capital of Cape Verde. The capital is located in Santiago, the biggest of the 10 islands of Cape Verde. Santiago Island is where the history is most ignited with the suffering diaspora of slavery. Portuguese colonists captured West Africans to be served as slaves and brought them mainly to the inhabited island of Santiago. Although Cape Verde is situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the West Coast of Africa, one can argue that the distance and the Cape Verdean “creolization” have set itself apart from the rest of the continent. However, this argument can be dismissed in the island of Santiago.  The culture of the island has deep West African influence. The creole dialect “badiu” spoken by Santiago natives has many reflections of West African languages.  In the streets you will find people dressed with colorful and rich textile patterns. The strong rays of the sun are penetrated into the skin of the people. One would forget that Santiago is an island but instead a city in one of the West African countries.



During my vacation to Cape Verde in 2012, I visited for the first time the old city of Santiago, “Cidade Velha”. In the middle of the old city plaza, venders were selling their goods to tourist next to the oldest monument that symbolizes the slavery era in Cape Verde.


My family decided to dine at a very urban restaurant where each piece of food on the plate could be tasted individually.


While I waited for my plate to be served, I decided to browse around the area.  I soon stumped upon a group of boys playing soccer in the black sand, contrasting with the clear water of the ocean. There were other boys playing around fishing boats that as soon as they saw a light skin girl with a fancy camera immediately captured my attention by showing their best smiles and heroic-like poses. Their smiles ignited more light than the sun and their eyes were more beautiful than a majestic sunset.




422853_3439695357474_1092390122_nAfter eating we ventured around the “old city” and climbed our way up to an old Portuguese church.


Ruins on the way to the church

Picture taken from inside of the church looking outside.

Picture taken from inside of the church looking outside.

We also visited a war site surround by brick walls and cannons that the Portuguese would fight the pirates off the island.


Santiago is not just where the capital of Cape Verde is situated, it is also the soul our culture and traditions. Although each island offers uniqueness and originality to the country; it is in Santiago that our history began. The suffering of the slaves have influenced our language, food, music, dance and even our flamboyant personality. The Portuguese colonist also played apart of our language and culture but they also brought life and innovation to the island. Creolization began with the thirst of the Portuguese pursue for a prosper world and the suffering and tears of the slaves. The fusion between both of the habitats ignited the spirit of Cape Verde. Eventually the natives of the island that had the fusion between the Portuguese charisma to conquer the world and the African ambition for freedom  began to be identified as “Creolos” and with this new identification came the beginning of Cape Verdean Independence.

2 thoughts on “Old City “Cidade Velha”

  1. Beautiful! I love learning about new places, and the way you described it, I felt like I was there. The warmth of the sun, the smiles, and the food seem so inviting. 🙂


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