São Vicente Island
Cape Verde is…
Synonymous with rich cuisine, with the traditional Cachupa, the well-known tuna steak, the Xerém, or even the typical Modjo from S. Nicolau.
The art of Morabeza, reflecting the warm welcome of the people, the symbol of Sodade, brought to us by the voice of Cesaria Evora, and of Cretcheu, the sweet and romantic side of a country.
A slow and tender melody like Morna and the hot rhythms of the Funaná.
An example of democracy, stability and prosperity, proof of which was the attribution of the Mo Ibrahim award to former president Pedro Pires, as a recognition of his achievements in matters of human rights and good governance. As a result, Cape Verde was the second African Country to graduate from the United Nations list of Least Developed Countries.
São Vicente Island
São Vicente is the second most populated island of Cape Verde and belongs to the “Barlavento” Group (“windward”), located in the north-east of the archipelago. The São Vicente channel separates it from the neighbouring island of Santo Antão. The Airport of São Pedro is located to the south of the city of Mindelo, the main urban centre of the island and the second largest city of Cape Verde, home to a great part of the 74.136 inhabitants of the island.
Discovered on Saint Valentine’s day, in 1462, by Portuguese navigator Diogo Gomes, the island was uninhabited for many years due to lack of water. It was not until 1838, with the setting up on the Bay of Porto Grande of a coal deposit to supply ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean, that the population began to settle and the city of Mindelo was founded. The island became an important stop in the middle of the Atlantic for ships from all over the world. Many sailors of different nationalities socialized in Mindelo’s taverns and cafés. By then, the city had become an important cultural and cosmopolitan centre, where music, literature and sports were encouraged. At the time, the possibility of transferring the capital of Cabo Verde to Mindelo was considered.
This cycle lasted only a few decades, as when, in the beginning of the 20th century, ships began to substitute coal with diesel fuel, the preponderance of this important port was lost. Later in time, the Island regained stamina as a transatlantic connection point for submarine telegraph cables. Dating from this golden period, the city of Mindelo retains a relatively well-preserved historic centre, dominated by colonial-style architecture (an example being the Governor's Palace). The National High School Infante Dom Henrique (currently Jorge Barbosa School), played an enormous part in the development of Cape Verdean national consciousness, as many of the architects of national independence, such as Amilcar Cabral and the former President Pedro Pires, studied there.
Despite its volcanic origin, the island is relatively flat, especially in the centre, the eastern region of Calhau and the northern region of Baia das Gatas. The island's highest point is Monte Verde. Another important peak is Monte Cara – it is thus called because it reminds us of a human face looking at the sky. Despite strong erosion, there are still a few clearly visible volcano craters, such as the volcano Viana, in the east of the island, or Porto Grande bay itself. The urban area of Mindelo is located in the northwest. The white sandy beaches of Baia das Gatas, Calhau and São Pedro are much appreciated for their beauty. The island finds in fishing, tourism and in the operation of its busy seaport - the Porto Grande - its main sources of revenue.
São Vicente has many typical dishes, many of them seafood based. Examples are the famous “Cachupa”, “Arroz de Cabidela de Marisco à Dadal” (seafood cabidela rice) and “Guisado de Percebes” (Barnacle Stew).
Culturally speaking, São Vicente has always been a fertile island and is considered, informally, to be the cultural capital of Cape Verde. Its nightlife is famous for its animated bars with live music. It was in these bars that Cesária Évora began her career. Besides music, the island’s culture is displayed in theatre and literature. There are also some prominent annual events such as Carnival, Baía das Gatas Music Festival in August and New Year’s Eve festivities.The climate is tropical and the average temperature is 24 °C. In addition to Portuguese, the official language, Cape Verdean Creole, is used in everyday life by the vast majority of the population of São Vicente.
PLACES TO VISIT
Baía das Gatas
Baía das Gatas (Bay of Cats) is the name given to a beautiful natural bay and its small town, where each year an internationally famous music festival takes place. It is situated 8 km east of the city of Mindelo, the island's capital. The bay takes its name from the abundance of a certain species of shark, the cat-shark, in its waters. As the mouth of the bay is closed off by rocks, forming a barrier, Baia das Gatas is a huge natural pool. To the east of Baia das Gatas we find Praia Grande, or Praia do Norte, with a sandy stretch of beach as far as your eyes can see. Since 1984, the Baía das Gatas Music Festival is held annually on the first full moon weekend of August.
In the city of Mindelo we find a level of growth and prosperity that are rarely found in the other islands. This is mainly due to its deep sea port, Porto Grande, which serves as a transatlantic stop-over for ships of all nationalities. A walk along the bay promenade to Praia da Laginha allows you to observe the outline of the underwater volcanic crater.
Mindelo is the outcome of two strong influences, the colonial Portuguese and the British, displayed at every corner, in the streets and architecture of its beautiful buildings. Noteworthy are the Governor's Palace, a very well preserved two-storey building built in the colonial style, the Town Hall, the Pracinha da Igreja, cradle of the city, from which the first houses were built and the first streets were laid out, Avenida Marginal with the replica of the Belém Tower of Lisbon, Fortim d'el-Rei, the oldest building in Mindelo and with a superb panoramic view over the city and bay, the Municipal Market where, as well as vegetables, meat and fish, you can also find other items such as handicraft, music, beauty products and clothing, the Fish Market, and the Old Customs House, now the National Handicraft Centre, the only institution entrusted to safe keep the rich testimonies of Cape Verdean art, namely paintings and works in ceramics, basketry, batik fabrics and woodwork.
The city has a buzzing nightlife. Praça Nova is the meeting point for bar and nightclub hopping. From there you can discover the rich and diverse Cape Verdean music, with its “mornas”, “coladeras” and “funaná”
São Pedro is a fishing village located 10km southwest of the city of Mindelo. São Pedro has an extensive beach with turquoise waters. The landscape is arid and majestic, while constant winds make it an internationally renowned windsurfing beach. The village is small and picturesque, with colourful houses, and is practically only inhabited by fishermen. 2km to the west is Dona Amelia's lighthouse.
The region of São Pedro includes the part of the mountainous range where Monte Cara is situated, as well as its highest point (Pateixa Peak, at 571m). At an altitude of 490m, Monte Cara is one of the high points of the island. It is located to the west of the bay of Porto Grande and in front of the city of Mindelo. Monte Cara owes its name to the fact that its outline resembles a human face looking at the sky. It is the city's icon and has also been called Mount Washington or Washington Head.
Calhau is a small fishing village on the east coast of the island, 22 km from the city of Mindelo. It belongs to the Ribeira de Calhau region and has a beach for sea bathing and a small fishing port on the Calhau bay. On clear days, you can see the uninhabited island of Santa Luzia. 4km to the south of Calhau is the crater of the extinct Viana volcano. To the north of the village you can find the volcanic cones of other extinct volcanoes.
Praia Grande is situated between Calhau and Baía das Gatas. It is a beach with white sand and crystal-clear waters. Here the waves predominate, as does the wildest nature of the Atlantic. It is one of the prime beaches for turtle spawning.
Between Mindelo and Baía das Gatas, we find Monte Verde, the highest point of the island. At an altitude of 700 meters, it is a natural viewpoint overlooking the island. In times of “azagua” (rainy season) it is covered in green and you can observe endemic species as well as other species introduced by humans. The peak is sometimes covered by clouds, obscuring the panoramic view but allowing for a true “walk in the clouds”.The climb up the hill can be done by car, along the hillside road or, for the more adventurous, by foot. The road conditions are good.