Pirates, gorgeous 17th and 18th century architecture, and one of the most important ports of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Cidade Velha is the historic capital of Cape Verde.
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Originally Founded in 1462 as Ribeira Grande (meaning Large River) by the Portugese, Cidade Velha was the first colonial settlement in the tropics. Located on the Island of Santiago and meaning old city, Cidade Velha was an incredibly important historic port city. A stopping point for Vasco de Gama in 1497 and Christopher Columbus in 1498, the port was an important point of departure for other European explorers venturing to Africa, Asia and the New World.
Coming to prominence as a transatlantic slave port, the city became very wealthy for its trade of people from the nearby West African nations, to the colonies of the new world in Brazil and the Caribbean.
To commemorate the cities heritage of slavery and serve as a lesson to future generations, the Pelourinho still stands in the Central Square of Cidade Velha. Erected in 1520 as a whipping post for slaves, vendors now sell their wares around the square the Pillar is placed in, it is close to the beach and the other monuments of town, the Pelourinho is a breathtaking monument to the horrors of the past, and the promise of a brighter future.
Developing one of the world’s first creole societies, Cidade Velha was more than just a slavers bay, it was a place of intercultural interaction, and was a platform for the distribution of plant species across the world due to its location, temperate/tropical climate and prominence as a trading post.
Due to its strategic location, Christian Missionaries saw the city as an ideal jumping off point to the new world and Africa to spread to message of Christianity. As a result of this desire and the Portuguese religious heritage of Christianity, the oldest colonial church in the world, Nossa Senhora do Rosario Church was constructed. Built between 1493 and 1495 in the Manueline Gothic style, the Nossa Senhora do Rosario church is simple and austere.
As the predominant religion of the Portuguese, Christianity played a large role in the colonization of regions and people by the Portuguese, although there were no people indigenous to Cape Verde when the chain of Islands were discovered.
Still in use today, the Nossa Senhora do Rosario Congregation holds mass every Sunday, and adds a musical flare which makes the services lively and fun to attend!
A living example of the atrocities of the Transatlantic slave trade, and one of the oldest European Colonies in the World, Cidade Velha is a small gem off the coast of the Atlantic, just waiting to be discovered.
With a 2010 population of just 1,214, the city is accessible from the capital of Cape Verde, Praia, but at a fairly expensive cost. Well worth the trek and expense, Cidade Velha is a must see port when visiting Cape Verde.
Credit: Sebastian Moriset