Cabo Verde

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Cabo Verde

About 1000 km west of the „green cape“ in Senegal lies a chain of islands in the Atlantic, all of them of volcanic origin. Depending on the age of the islands, their topography varies from almost flat to steep mountains. The youngest island, Fogo, consists of just one volcano with the remarkable height of 2829m. The oldest islands like Sal are nothing more than stones, the remnants of volcanoes and plenty of sand, brought from mainland Africa by the trade winds. The islands are situated right in the dreaded Sahel zone. That means a VERY dry climate. Only on the islands with higher mountains as Fogo, Santo Antao and on some parts of Santiago the summits manage to milk some rain out of the rare clouds. These islands are relatively green, the others are bleak, resembling to deserts very much like the west African coast in southern Morocco and Mauritania. All islands have in common that they don´t have a continental shelf. The surrounding Atlantic Ocean is pretty rich of sea life at the archipelago.

Until the discovery in the 15th century by the Portuguese, the islands were uninhabited. Once the Portuguese started settling the islands, they quickly became an important trading base, especially for transporting slaves to South America. The situation of the islands close to the West African “human resource” areas and on the narrowest part of the Atlantic, resulting in a relatively quick journey to South America, was ideal for that nasty business. But also sailing vessels with less condemnable goods took advantage of that geographic ideal position. They could sail down in relative safeness in close proximity to the West African coast, fill up their water and food supplies at Cabo Verde and than use the trade winds for a quick cross of the Atlantic Ocean over to South America. Even the first steam ships in the 19th century used the islands as stopover.

The islands stayed a Portuguese colony until 1975 and were not treated very well by them during this time. In 1975 a completely unprepared independence came and left the republic alone with plenty of problems. The dry climate had always been a problem for the population and the islands have always been plagued by heavy droughts.  The Sahel crisis in the mid seventies of the past century changed the climate for even worse. Even the islands high enough to catch the few passing clouds lost a big part of their agricultural area. Nowadays about 90% of food needed on the islands has to be imported and the country is dependent form international help.

Local fishing is threatened by bad equipment and scrupulous foreign fishing fleets that plunder the waters in this area big time. Tourism starts to become an important source for local income and seems to be the only possibility to better the economic situation.

Since 1991 the country is one of the few real democracies in Africa. Its fast growing population of now about 500.000 is an ethnical mixture of West African and Portuguese, mixed with the odd pirate from the British Isles. So don’t be astonished to meet dark skinned beauties with bright blue eyes! About a third of the population lives outside the country, mainly in New York, Amsterdam and Hamburg.

Despite the harsh history and the difficult geographic situation, the locals are one of the most relaxed and friendly people on the planet. Crime almost doesn’t exist, music and parties have a great importance and the ration women to men lies by 3 to 1 (this might be the cause of the relaxed mood of the islanders). Very sad, that AIDS / HIV is spreading fast.

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