Portuguese Empire and Colonialism in Africa

Portugal, a small country that happens to be the western most part of the European continent, lies right next to Spain on the Atlantic Ocean. The Portuguese empire started on its road to colonialism in 1415 with its first colonial capture. The Portuguese first entered Africa in the 15th Century with the capture of Ceuta that is located in Morocco. The Portuguese invaded Africa in search of “quick riches,” as stated in Thomas Henriksen’s book, Portugal in Africa. Quick riches like silver, gold, and slaves.

Portuguese landed on the islands of Cape Verde in the mid 1400’s, and they used the islands as a port for selling and transporting slaves back to Europe, South America, and eventually the “New World” of North America. Most of the citizens today are descendants of Portuguese Slaves. But nevertheless, the Portuguese Empire was a huge supporter of the slave trade and industry, and it was one of the bigger factors that drove them towards exploration and colonialism in Africa. In an article that was featured in London’s The Morning Post in January of 1838, the headline read Encouragement of the Slave Trade by Portugal. In this article, the author talks about how, despite the slave trade being abolished for a few years, there are still slaves being sent to and from Brazil on the black market. It is stated that this issue was driven and supported solely by Portugal. While this document is a sign of its time in the way it talks about race and the slave trade, it does call out Portugal for being awful for supporting the slave trade.

With the abolition of slavery, the industrial revolution, Great Depression, and two world wars; in the early 1900’s things were rocky in the Portuguese government, and a new form of government for Portugal emerged called the New State. The leader of the New State, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, relied on “colonialism as a means to national revival,” as stated in Henricksen’s book. In other words, he used colonialism to hype up nationalism within Portugal, so that the government could gain more support. Also to gain economic benefit from the African colonies. However, this was at a time when the colonies in Africa were starting to get fed up with their colonizers, and within the next 75 years, the New State would be gone, and so would Portugal’s hold on their African “property.”

By the late 1900’s, Portugal was the last great colonial power in Africa. There was a notable war against the Angolans in the 1960’s where it was noted in the Daily Defender that “Portugal should give up.” This war ended with the defeat of Portugal and the independence of Angola. Salazar sent troops to counteract the independence movements in Africa (that ultimately failed) up until there was a military coup in 1974 in Portugal . After construction of a new government, Portugal recognized the independence of all their African colonies except Macau  which was later returned in 1999. This is how Cape Verde came to be from the Portuguese Empire, and how they eventually gained their independence from Portugal.

Works Cited

Henriksen, Thomas. “Portugal in Africa: A Noneconomic Interpretation.” African Studies Review, vol. 16, no. 3, 1973, pp. 405–416. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/523512.


Title: Intriguing History Of West Africa Revealed By Former U. S. Consul

Subhead: W. J. Yerby Begins Series On Romance of ‘Dark Continent’

Reference: Chicago Defender (Dec 15, 1934) p.11, col.1

Author: W J YERBY

Abstract: In so far as the American Negro is concerned Africa is that portion of the great “dark” continent known and spoken of as West Africa, for Negro Africa is in fact the greater part of the two central fourths, or West Africa, Central Africa and East Africa, North and Smith Africa, constituting the other two fourths, are in a large part Europeanized countries in which the white man lives and thrives as well as the black man.

Document Type: article

Dateline: Dec 15, 1934

Section: Chicago Defender Featureshttp://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:bsc:&rft_dat=xri:bsc:rec:newspaper:HNP_68419_19341215_0184

Copyright © 2004-2019 ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.



Title: Portugal Should Give Up

Reference: Daily Defender (Jul 31, 1961) p.11, col.1

Abstract: The outlook for Portugal, the last great, lingering colonial power, is becoming increasingly desperate. Despite the official communiques and the censorship, the Portuguese colonial war against the Angolans is not going in Portugal’s favor.

Document Type: editorial article

Dateline: Jul 31, 1961http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:bsc:&rft_dat=xri:bsc:rec:newspaper:HNP_68423_19610731_0079

Copyright © 2004-2019 ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Independence and Cape Verde

This week, I thought we could dive into the history of the Cape Verde islands; home to Cesaria Evora. About 650km off the west coast of Africa, specifically Senegal, lies the 10 volcanic islands named Cape Verde. Coming in just above 4,000 square kilometers, Cape Verde is one of Africa’s smallest nations physically. Population wise, this country is also very small with an estimated 500,000 inhabitants. About 80 percent of these people have been historically classified as Creoles. Creoles are people who are descendants of both Portuguese and west Africans.

Prior to 1462, the islands of Cape Verde were uninhabited by humans. The Portuguese settlers were the first to arrive on the islands that year. Post-exploration of West Africa, the Portuguese turned Cape Verde into the backbone of their slave trade. Capturing people from Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and other west African countries, the Portuguese brought them to Cape Verde as they got ready to transport their newly captured slaves over to Europe and eventually the Americas. As years passed under Portuguese control, and as the slave trade became abolished in the late 19th century, the people who called Cape Verde their home started to identify more as Africans rather than Portuguese. Despite the Portuguese being the first to inhabit the islands, they brought in so much West African heritage and co-reproduced to a point where the race line became so blurry, the question of identity became up for discussion. The people of Cape Verde spoke in the early 1970’s when they pushed for independence with the creation of the African Party for Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

With the year 1973 came Cape Verde’s declaration of independence from Portugal’s rule. However, it wasn’t until the Portugal Revolution where the fascist  Portuguese dictatorship fell that Cape Verde achieved true independence. The PAIGC had the intent to create unity between Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. Nothing really became of that in the terms of creating a union between the two countries, however, one of the leaders became the leader of the African Independence Party of Cape Verde; a one party political system that was Marxist-oriented. This system lasted for about fifteen years before 1990 when article 4 of Cape Verde’s constitution was revoked. Making way for a peaceful transition into democracy with their first multi-party elections happening in 1991.

After gaining independence from Portugal and putting together their own constitution, it became evident that the people living in Cape Verde didn’t shake all of the Portuguese identity. The Cape Verde Constitution is set up in a very western way, and a lot of the laws closely reflect those of Portugal. While almost everyone on the islands speaks a form of Kriolu, the national language is still Portuguese, and all information taught in schools is still through Portuguese. Also, even though a lot of the heritage on Cape Verde is West African, the Portuguese were the first people on the island. So, even though Cape Verde is currently independent and doing well, it is hard not to also think about and consider the Portuguese legacy of Cape Verde when talking about the islands’ history and independence.

Works cited:

Bogdan, Michael. “The Law of the Republic of Cape Verde after 25 Years of Independence.” Journal of African Law, vol. 44, no. 1, 2000, pp. 86–95. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1587440.

Mark, Peter. “The Evolution of ‘Portuguese’ Identity: Luso-Africans on the Upper Guinea Coast from the Sixteenth to the Early Nineteenth Century.” The Journal of African History, vol. 40, no. 2, 1999, pp. 173–191. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/183545.

Cesaria Evora; Her Music and Brief History

      For this week’s post, I thought it would be a good idea to start talking about the woman in question; Cesaria Evora. Stomae dedicated his song Ave Cesaria to Cesaria Evora two years after the singer’s death in December of 2011.  Cesaria Evora  was born on the Island of Sao Vicente of Cape Verde, off the coast of west Africa on August 27, 1941. She was raised on Sao Vicente by her single mother and grandmother after her father (who was a violinist) died when she was the age of seven.
     Cesaria Evora was born to times of struggle. While her hometown Mindelo was  a cultural hub and port city of Cape Verde, the island was recovering from the after- affects of the Great Depression, and neglect from the Portuguese government since at this time Cape Verde was still under their rule.  With her mother struggling to bring in income as a cook with times of extreme poverty, Ceseria’s family had little means to give her an education. She received a brief education before she was encouraged to try and take up singing as a teenager. It was quickly noted that she had an extraordinary talent, and was encouraged by her boyfriend and family to stick with it. She played around Mindelo at bars and clubs and gained a following as a performer.

Cesaria Evora sang in the Portuguese creole language, Kriolu, and she sang and performed mornas and coladeiras. Mornas, as described in Carla Matin’s article Cesaria Evora, are normally set in a minor key and touch on feelings of “longing, nostalgia, homesickness, or regret.” In her song Isolada (isolated), Evora sings of a girl “who lives locked up, isolated into a silver-plated cage. All she has for company is the night and the daylight.” She sings of loneliness like a classic morna song. 

Coladeiras song style is more upbeat and celebratory in nature and are often satirical. These songs often take on political topics including those of gender and sex. In Cesaria Evora’s song Nutridinha (Chubby Little Girl), she sings,

“Here comes this young girl with her chubby little body, but you shouldn’t look at her too much otherwise her mother will punish her.  She deserves what she’s getting, you shouldn’t bother her because she is old enough motherhood is round the corner.” This song comments on how girls are being raised, and what their values are compared to what they “should” be which is something a coladeira would talk about.

Cesaria Evora was nicknamed “the Barefoot Diva” due to her performing without shoes. As she grew older, her career took off on the islands, and during the tumultuous times of new independence in the 70’s, Evora stopped performing in public and eventually left the island to continue making music elsewhere. Over the course of her lifetime she had children and became a single mother. It was when she was in her 40’s when her international career began to take off. She traveled the world, and performed with other artists after that. Cesaria Evora made music, up until the year before she died in December of 2011.

Works sited:

Martin, Carla. “Cesária Évora: ‘The Barefoot Diva’ and Other Stories.” Transition, no. 103, 2010, pp. 82–97. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/trs.2010.-.103.82.


Creole: it’s Uses and Background

Hey everyone! I thought, for the first week of diving into the music video of Ave Cesaria by Stromae, I could give some background on the language that Cesaria Evora originally sings in. Evora is the woman that Stomae tribute’s the song to; she is one of his favorite artists. Cesaria Evora comes from an island named Sao Vicente within the greater island nation of Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa where people speak Kriolu.
The Cape Verdean islands were essentially uninhabited until the Portuguese came over and ‘discovered’ them. They brought with them their slave business, and they used their slaves to grow cotton and indigo on the islands. Now the Portuguese came in with the agenda of using Portuguese as the islands’ official language, however, that language clashed with the language of the slaves that were brought to Cape Verde. This then created the pidgin language that eventually turned into the creole language called Kriolu on the islands. For a little explanation as to what pidgin and creole languages are; a pidgin language is a language that forms as the result of two languages clashing and mixing, like Spanglish for example, and they are normally used amongst traders. A creole language is formed when the pidgin language gains a group of people that identify with the language.
In Cape Verde, Kriolu is essential to know if one were to integrate into the life on the islands. While Portuguese is the “language of business, education, government, and literature,” Kriolu is the language of Cape Verde’s culture. It is used amongst families, in informal situations, and for song, stories, feelings, proverbs (short sayings) and expressing emotions. So you can see how knowing Portuguese alone is not enough to fully understand the living experience of those is Cape Verde.
Because Cesaria Evora is from Cape Verde, she sings in Kriolu. In her song “Cabo Verde Terra Estimada” she sings, “such ten little pieces of land that God scattered across the sea belong to us, they were not stolen in wars. This is Cape Verde, my beloved land.” This song is a great example of what Kriolu is used for. In that one section of the song, one can see emotions about the island being communicated. The feelings about the land and the people are in song and sung in Kriolu because it is the language of the culture, and the song is very culturally specific to the land.
Having these two different languages at play at the same time also creates a power struggle amongst the people. Since Portuguese is used for government related things, schools are taught in that language as well. However, since Kriolu is used at home, this made getting an education harder for those living on the islands that did not originally speak Portuguese because they now had to learn another language in order to get their education. This also sets up those in government, and those who speak mostly Portuguese, to have a higher status on Cape Verde because they speak the language of education/educated people. Therefore, leading those that speak Kriolu more to be seen as lesser than those who speak Portuguese. Colonialism dug its roots into Cape Verde, and can still be seen today through the languages on the island and through the lyrics of Cesaria Evora.




Carter, Katherine, and Judy Aulette. “Creole in Cape Verde: Language, Identity and Power.” Ethnography 10, no. 2 (2009): 213-36. http://www.jstor.org.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/stable/24047951.