Culture of Cape Verde – history, people, clothing, women, beliefs, food, customs, family, social

Cape Verdean.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Social security programs have been implemented, however, their scope is quite narrow. The government offers a certain level of support to the impoverished and the elderly, including free healthcare. Nevertheless, the primary responsibility for social welfare falls upon individual families and communities.

The Arts and Humanities

Books, melodies, and relics are vended at the Cape Verdean Cultural Center in Praia, which presents shows and showcases. Backing for the Arts.

There is a small but growing body of Cape Verdean literature. Most of it is written in Portuguese, but there has been a movement to develop a standardized written form of Creole, which has also resulted in the publication of several books in this language. The literature is strongly influenced by the oral storytelling tradition, which tells the story of its roots in both Europe and Africa. Saudade, a sense of homesickness or longing, is a predominant theme in both the music and literature.

Graphic art production is restricted. Crocheting is popular among women. Nowadays, this is uncommon, but in the past, textiles were traditionally manufactured using time-consuming methods on extensive looms. Fogo, made from hardened lava, is renowned for its small carvings, while Boavista is famous for its clay pottery. Along with basket weaving, embroidery, woodworking, and other craft production, the markets also offer a majority of artifacts imported from Africa.

Each type of music has a specific dance that goes with it, and popular music largely synthesizes the feeling. Another traditional form of music is morna, which is a Portuguese-influenced ballad. Both types of music are very African-influenced and are particular to the island of Santiago. Traditional forms of music include funana, which is played on an iron bar serving as a rhythm instrument, and accordion, and also includes Batuque, which is performed by a circle of women who beat rhythms on plastic sacks held between their legs. Traditional dance and music forms are a focal point of Cape Verdean culture.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Cape Verde lacks any research facilities or laboratories for the physical sciences.

Social Stratification

Those with higher socio-economic backgrounds often tend to think of themselves as more “European” and identify culturally with Europe because they have spent a lot of time abroad. While there is virtually no upper class and the middle class is growing in cities and towns, there is a small class distinction in Cape Verde because the vast majority of the population is poor.

Symbols of social stratification are often clothing gifts that are sent to relatives in the United States by the poorest Cape Verdeans; however, these clothes are often an indicator of class. Among African Americans, American brand names are highly valued attire and Cape Verdeans take pride in their personal appearance and dress.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage is not legally polygamous, although it is customary for married men to have multiple wives. After four years of cohabitation, a relationship acquires the common status of marriage under the marriage law. This often occurs when a woman becomes pregnant. It is not uncommon for a woman to leave her family’s house and move in with her boyfriend (this often happens when she is pregnant). Church weddings and legal weddings are uncommon in Cape Verde.

There are many great single mothers who head households due to polygamy and emigration, especially during the school year when children often stay with other relatives or uncles and aunts; living situations are fluid and childrearing is communal. Traditionally, several generations of a family live together in the same house, forming a domestic unit.


Cape Verdeans strongly identify with the culture of their individual islands. The islands are named after the nearest land formation, which is the Cap Vert peninsula in West Africa. Identification.

Cape Verde consists of ten islands, with nine of them being inhabited, and is situated 375 miles (600 kilometers) away from the coast of Senegal. The total area of all the islands is 1,557 square miles (4,033 square kilometers), approximately equal to the size of Rhode Island. The islands exhibit varying geographical features, with Sal, Boavista, Maio, and São Vicente being flat and resembling deserts, with expanses of sand dunes. On the other hand, Santiago, Santo Antão, Fogo, and São Nicolau are more mountainous and suitable for cultivation, although all the islands have a lengthy history of experiencing droughts. They are all formed from volcanic activity, with Fogo being the sole active volcano, last erupting in 1995. The capital city, Praia, is located on the island of Santiago, which is the largest in terms of both area and population and was the first one to be settled.

The United States has a Cape Verdean population that is estimated to be as large as the population in Cape Verde itself, with a concentration in the New England states. Additionally, there are approximately one million Cape Verdeans living abroad mainly in the United States, western Europe, and Africa, due to the country’s extensive history of emigration. Among these, 85,000 reside in the capital, while the overall population of Cape Verde is 430,000. The demographic composition is noteworthy.

Each island has its own distinctive Creole, which takes pride in its inhabitants. Creole is essentially a vernacular language with influences and simplified vocabulary from several Senegambian languages and Mandingo, dating back to the fifteenth-century Portuguese. It is used in schools for written communication and official functions. Portuguese is the official language. Linguistic affiliation is also present.

Political Life

The unicameral national assembly of Cape Verde, consisting of seventy-two elected deputies, including six chosen by the overseas population, is made up through proportional representation in electoral districts. Since gaining independence from Portugal, Cape Verde has had a multi-party democratic government.

Public verbal altercations and processions, lively dancing and melodious tunes accompanied by gatherings for events constitute local elections. The identification of individuals and the general population with either the ruling party or an alternative one is profound. The African Party for Independence of Cape Verde (PAICY) and the Movement for Democracy (MPD) are the two primary political parties. The president is elected for a five-year term and a prime minister is appointed. The government officials and political leaders hold the responsibility of governing.

Control and Social Issues. Predominantly comprises of minor theft and burglary, the amount of crime in Cape Verde is relatively low. Specifically in Praia, this is more prevalent in urban areas. Social pressure subtly reinforces the behavioral norms. Due to this, the court system is flooded with defamation cases as personal reputation is highly valued.

Cape Verde allocates approximately 1 percent of its Gross National Product towards its military endeavors. Out of this portion, 9 percent is dedicated to the air force while the remaining 91 percent is allocated to the army. Cape Verde maintains a modest military force consisting of around 1100 active duty personnel.

History and Ethnic Relations

Prosperity did not return to Cape Verde until after the Second World War, following several devastating famines experienced by the country. However, this prosperity declined once again after World War I. In the late nineteenth century, Cape Verde regained some wealth due to its convenient location on major trade routes between Europe, South America, and Africa, as well as the opening of a coal and submarine cable station in the port city of Mindelo. The effects of drought and famine were worsened by poor government administration and corruption. The decline of the slave trade greatly diminished the economic value of the islands to the Portuguese after 1876. Some Africans who worked as slaves on the plantations or latifundas chose to stay on the island, settling in an area of Santiago called Grande Ribeira, where they created a post-slave trade community between the New World and Africa. Grande Ribeira experienced several pirate attacks and was abandoned in 1712 after a French assault.

In 1975, the islands achieved sovereignty as a separate nation. Guinea-Bissau, another Portuguese colony on the mainland, also engaged in a struggle for independence from 1974 to 1975. In 1961, the Portuguese government extended complete Portuguese citizenship to all Cape Verdeans, and in 1951, they altered Cape Verde’s classification from colony to overseas province.

While the southern, or sotavento islands, lean towards embracing their African roots, the primary reason behind the somewhat fragmented national identity lies in the geographical division of the islands. Cape Verdean culture is distinguished by a distinctive blend of European and African influences. The subject currently under discussion is national identity.

Cape Verde

Cape Verde.

Cape Verdeans in Santiago, particularly on the islands of Sotavento or the southern islands, have a strong sense of pride in their own specific culture. They share a closer cultural connection with Africa.

The population is comprised of 1 percent White individuals and 28 percent African black individuals. The majority, 78 percent, consists of people who have a mixed heritage of European and African ancestry, commonly referred to as Creole. The society in Cape Verde is characterized by its mestizo population. Ethnic relations are an important aspect of the community.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The countryside is dotted with traditional houses that have roofs made of tiled or thatched structures. Many of the islands in the Cape Verde archipelago combine old colonial architecture with newly constructed cinderblock buildings, giving a European feel to the city. Located on the northern island of Sao Vicente, Mindelo is the second largest city with a population of 47,000. In contrast, the capital city of Praia in Cape Verde is experiencing rapid urban growth, with a haphazard spread of new structures and a lack of organization due to unrestricted growth resulting from the absence of zoning laws or regulations.


Several Jewish settlements in history date back to the inquisition, but they are now extinct. The Nazarene church is also present, along with Evangelical Christians, Mormons, and Seventh-day Adventists. Roman Catholicism accounts for ninety-eight percent of Cape’s religious beliefs.

In Cape Town, each town or neighborhood typically celebrates the charge of a particular saint, usually with a family-oriented event. These saints’ days often involve community-wide parties that include food, drinks, and dancing. However, most people in Cape Town are non-practicing Catholics, even though the town has its own church. Holy sites and religious customs play a significant role in these celebrations.

Death surrounding rituals are observed with strict adherence, despite its relatively secular atmosphere. Funerals are attended by a large portion of the community. The procession is accompanied by mourners who perform highly stylized wailing music. Playing music or dancing is prohibited, and the deceased family members dress in black for a full year after the death.

Food and Economy

In Cape Verde, grog, which is a type of sugar cane liquor, is a well-liked beverage, especially among the men. The islands are also known for producing grog. Cape Verdeans typically have a light dinner, usually eaten late in the evening. For breakfast, a traditional dish called cuscus, which is a steamed cornbread, is commonly enjoyed with honey, milk, or coffee. Rice, beans, fish, potatoes, and manioc are among the usual food items found in Cape Verde. The national dish, cachupa, is a stew made with hominy, beans, and whatever meat or vegetables are available. Corn is the main staple food in Cape Verde.

Xerem is frequently served, with women typically spending a few days prior to the corn pounding feast preparing meat and cutting and cleaning vegetables for cachupa. Food preparation plays a significant role in these celebrations, which also involve observing many Catholic saints’ days throughout the year. Food customs are observed during ceremonial occasions.

The economy of Cape Verde also receives a significant contribution from remittances sent by Cape Verdeans living abroad in other Western European countries such as Holland and Portugal, as well as the United States. Although it supplies less than one-fifth of the country’s needs, the islands produce some vegetables, fruits, coffee, sugarcane, beans, corn, and bananas. Even though only 10% of the land is suitable for farming, agriculture is the primary basis of the economy, with farmers making up roughly one-third of the population.

Cape Verdeans have a communal attitude towards property and land tenure. Generally, farm land is privately owned, but many farming communities form organizations to oversee its use and distribute funds pooled in the development of things such as nurseries, plantations, or corrals. Cape Verdeans possess a mindset of freely lending and borrowing possessions.

Most towns in Cape Verde have small markets where fish, meat, vegetables, and fruits are sold. The majority of goods produced in Cape Verde are agricultural. These are commercial activities.

The population grows as the nation continues to urbanize and building makes up almost one-fourth of the GNP. Numerous islands have witnessed the establishment of upscale hotels and resorts, which has promoted the development of tourism. Services and transportation make up half of the GNP, while agriculture constitutes one-third. Key sectors of the economy.

Textiles and machinery, building materials, and construction are imported, along with large quantities of food. Pharmaceutical products and shoes, bananas, lobster, salt, and fish are exported, but in small amounts. Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland, France, and Portugal, which are European Union countries, are Cape Verde’s main trading partners.

It is not uncommon to see men and women working at construction sites, hauling rocks or harvesting beans in their seventies. They are able to continue working as long as they are able to handle the strenuous tasks. Especially if they come from fishing or farming families, they may start working at a very young age. Often, children follow in their parents’ footsteps in the same trade. However, domestic work is predominantly done by women, while both men and women engage in heavy physical labor. Labor is not strictly divided along gender lines. There is no strict division of labor.

Gender Roles and Statuses

The division of labor based on gender involves women being responsible for domestic tasks like cooking, cleaning, and raising children. Furthermore, women also make significant contributions in various other industries like farming, construction, and commerce. Many families rely solely on the economic support provided by women. However, women are underrepresented in white-collar professions and the political system compared to their proportion in the population.

People, dressed in Western clothing, stand in front of a mural depicting the importance of safe sex, another Western import.

Individuals, adorned in Western attire, stand before a wall painting illustrating the significance of practicing safe sex, another Western import.

While genders are legally recognized as equal, there are broad de facto disparities in power and rights, particularly when it comes to women (mothers) who are often respected for shouldering immense workload, while men are often expected to defer.


Cape Verdeans are extremely hospitable and generous individuals. Even the poorest take great pride in presenting a meal to their guests. It is considered rude to eat in front of others without sharing. That’s why one does not eat in a public setting, such as a bus or on the street.

If you even meet the same people again, it is usually done twice each time. Greetings are usually somewhat lengthy and include inquiring about each other’s family and health, as well as shaking hands (or kissing for women). Cape Verdeans often hold and touch hands, as well as stand close together and demonstrate physical affection when talking.

Medicine and Health Care

In West Africa, there are frequently individuals sent to hospitals in both Mindelo and Praia. Although there are more advanced resources and facilities in many places, the resources and facilities are poor. Cape Verde provides free healthcare to its citizens through small hospitals on each island.

Fogo Islanders in a truck loaded with firewood.

Fogo Islanders in a vehicle filled with firewood.

In West Africa, the infant mortality rate is the lowest, while the average life expectancy stands at 62 years. These infectious and parasitic diseases, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, bronchitis, and gastrointestinal ailments, are predominantly caused by inadequate sanitation and malnutrition, constituting the primary health issues in terms of treatment.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Several foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are also present in Cape Verde. The Portuguese government sends volunteers from the U.S. Peace Corps to work in the local government and education system. The German organization Dywidag has assisted in developing the ports.

Secular Celebrations

New Year’s Day is observed on 1 January. Amilcar Cabral Day (24 January) commemorates the birthday of the liberator of Cape Verde, who played a crucial role in the war of independence. Independence Day is celebrated on 5 July.


Mothers often work to carry small babies on their backs. Infants are held and nurtured. As a protection against evil spirits, it is customary to sing to the baby in the nursery room, while guests file in at midnight. It is like any other party, an occasion for drinking and dancing. Sete is the name of the big party thrown by the parents after the baby is born for seven days. Infant care.

It is not uncommon for an adult to ask a child to run errands and grab something on the street. Deference and obedience to elders are instilled early on. Even if the parents are professionals, children are expected to contribute to the household chores and work in the family business. Corporal punishment is not uncommon. Children are strictly reprimanded for misbehavior but also treated with affection. Education and child rearing.

High school students are required to pay an education levy that varies depending on their parents’ income. Every island has a high school that caters to at least eleventh-grade students. Approximately 90 percent of youngsters enroll in school. Education is compulsory and provided free of charge for individuals aged seven to fourteen.

Higher Education. Cape Verde is still in the process of establishing a higher education institution.

Old colonial style architecture is reminiscent of the past European influence in Cape Verde.

The architecture in Cape Verde, with its old colonial style, brings to mind the historical European influence of the past.

It is necessary to go abroad in order to obtain a higher degree, as there is little use of a higher degree in the Cape Verdean job market, where the majority of people study to leave. There are certification teacher schools in Mindelo and Praia, apart from high school to obtain any other degree.


Bratton, Michael. “Decoding Africa’s Different Transitions.” Political Science Quarterly, Spring 1997.

Carreira, Antonio. Individuals of the Cape Verde Islands: Exploitation and Emigration. Translated and edited by Christopher Fyfe, 1982.

Davidson, Basil. Fortunate Isles: A Study in African Transformation, 1989.

Davidson, Basil. No Fist Is Big Enough to Conceal the Sky: the Emancipation of Guinea and Cape Verde, 1981.

Hills, C. A. R. “Portugal and Its Empire, 1497-1997.” Contemporary Review, July 1997.

Irwin, Aisling and Colum Wilson. Cape Verde Islands: The Bradt Travel Guide, 1998.

Khouri-Dagher, Nadia. “Educators Facing Stress.” UNESCO Sources, April 1998.

Lobban, Richard A. Cape Verde: Crioulo Colony to Independent Nation, 1998.

Meintel, Deirdre. Ethnicity, Heritage, and Portuguese Colonialism in Cabo Verde, 1984.

Mozer, Gerald M. “Overlooked or Remembered Authors of Portuguese-speaking Africa.” Global Literature Today, Winter 1999.

Shaw, Caroline S., Editor. Cape Verde, 1991.

Teixeira, Erin. “Investigating a Racial Mystery in Cape Verde.” Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2000.

Web Sites

Cape Verde Resource Website. Http://www.Users.Erols.Com/kauberdi/.

Homepage of the Cape Verde Embassy to the United States and Canada. Http://www.Capeverdeusembassy.Org.


Additionally, you can read an article about Cape Verde on Wikipedia.