Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde

The Miracle of São Vicente

End of another day
Sun sets behind Monte Cara and orange the Porto Grande Bay and its marina.
miraculous city
The houses of Mindelo arranged around the Bay of Porto Grande, with Monte Cara in the background.
Fleeting Shadow
Motorbike parked in the shadow of a decaying indigo building.
behind the goal
Customer in a bar in Mindelo with football decor.
Benfica Courts
Barbers from the Benfica barbershop (Av. Marginal) in full action.
in good company
Building of the old company Figueira e Cia, Lda, one of the most emblematic on Av. Marginal.
the discoverer
Statue of the discoverer Diogo Afonso above the sand and Av. Marginal.
The Marginal
Marginal do Mindelo closed by one of the ocher peaks that surround the city.
The People's Palace
Cyclists pass in front of the People's Palace, former Governor's Palace.
Shadows & Colors
Passenger passes by a peculiar building in the historic area of ​​Mindelo.
bathing sunset
Prainha lifeguards pack a board with the sun almost falling behind Monte Cara
Street vendors
Mindelenses improvise a sale on a worn street in the city.
São Vicente has always been arid and inhospitable to match. The challenging colonization of the island subjected the settlers to successive hardships. Until, finally, its providential deep-water bay enabled Mindelo, the most cosmopolitan city and the cultural capital of Cape Verde.

The rounded extension of Mindelo, with its pastel and prolific houses wanting to swallow at once the cove that served as its mold, only complicated the mission of finding a privileged point of observation.

We had been told about two, as would be expected, both situated on the slope that squeezes the city, especially to the east.

Two or three requests for directions later, still kind of lost on a second or third line in the João d'Évora neighborhood, explain the beginning of the trail to Monte Alto that we were looking for, we hoped the way to one of the blessed views of the island.

So it was confirmed.

The Panorama of Glorious Mindelo, from the top of Monte Alto

Already at the summit, we can see how its 126 meters and the slope of the hill had transformed it into a strange geological island, a proud resistant ocher surrounded by homes and establishments that, over time, Cape Verdean and foreign peoples made the expansion of the Mindelo.

Downwards, concentric towards the north end of the bay, we could see the most solid buildings in the city, without great logic or architectural corsets.

City of Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde

The houses of Mindelo arranged around the Bay of Porto Grande, with Monte Cara in the background.

Some, one-story villas, or little more. Others, buildings with their four or even five floors. All of them in pastel tones, all embedded in the foothills that, from there, ascend smoothly for 8 km, at 750 m from Monte Verde, the windy zenith of São Vicente.

Once sure of itself, Mindelo was no longer satisfied with the more welcoming and beneficial surroundings of Porto Grande. We enjoyed the panorama in other directions and even behind the hill that supported us.

The houses stretched out right there, in a sea of ​​cement in blocks that, the further away from the sea, the grayer it became, without the splashes of white and other colors typical of the urban core.

Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde, Shadows and colors

Passenger passes by a peculiar building in the historic area of ​​Mindelo.

From that top, we could see the pleasure boats, in the marina, a few ferries.

And some freighters painted the navy blue of the Atlantic, points of stop that highlighted the opposite and rugged grandeur of Monte Cara (490m), further to the sandy and dry west of Lazareto, Monte Sossego, also bordering areas that, except for a few exceptions, Mindelo is yet to be occupied.

We put an end to the elevated contemplation that entertained us. We returned to the base of Monte Alto, to the car and to the Avenida Marginal from which we had started.

The Seaside that Unites Mindelenses to Mindelo

We find the complementary pier of the Pont d'Água again in its leafy oasis of Bohemian Chick. As soon as we cross the road to Praça Dom Luís, we return to secular Mindelo, resplendent with history, life and morabeza that most enchants those who visit it.

Rua Libertad d'África takes us to the elegance and importance of the former Governor's Palace, today, in times of Democracy committed to proving itself exemplary, called the People's Palace.

Pink and white, the mansion appears, to anyone who passes by, like a scene from Alice in Wonderland, fallen, undamaged, from the blue sky above.

Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde, People's Palace

Cyclists pass in front of the People's Palace, former Governor's Palace.

They pass by him, passersby engrossed in their chores. Pedestrians in defensive mode in the face of passing traffic.

Drivers, avoiding the shallow mini-roundabout, made of listed flower beds, that the authorities remembered to install there.

Art, also in the form of installations, abounds in the People's Palace.

Overcoming, since 1975, the housing logic of colonial governors, in addition to beautifying the mansion, Mindelo dedicated it to the already prolific artistic expression in the city, a unique case of creativity in the archipelago, a serious case in the, wider, Macaronesia.

Mindelo and its Inescapable Artistic Aptitude

We wander south on the urban grid. We passed the city hall of island of São Vicente.

We find ourselves in Pracinha da Igreja, facing the church of Nª Srª da Luz, the navel of Mindelo, around which its pioneer houses and streets prostrate, starting with Rua da Luz that we were walking.

In the absence of premeditated and signed art, Mindelo reveals, right next door, a casual version that leaves us surrendered.

Set back from the temple's façade, an old building that used to be a pale blue equal to the sky, peeled away under the relentless dryness of São Vicente.

In front of its own facade, a stray acacia rose just above the ground floor.

Determined to prevent the motorcycle's paintwork from ending up like the building's, a resident kept it in the fleeting shade of the tree.

Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde, Acacia shade

Motorbike parked in the shadow of a decaying indigo building.

Summer heat, lack of water and shade, difficulty in sowing and harvesting, as well as raising animals were the main obstacles faced by pioneer settlers.

Others would emerge.

According to the royal charter of D. Afonso V, it was Diogo Afonso, squire of Infante D. Fernando, who discovered São Vicente, as well as the Brava, São Nicolau, Saint Vincent, Santo Antão and two other islets, Branco and Raso.

For this feat of 1462, the navigator also keeps a bronze statue above the waterfront.

Among the fishermen's boats and the one that, when the sea beach enters in full, the Atlantic reaches almost to the feet, paying it due allegiance.

Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde, statue of Diogo Afonso

Statue of the discoverer Diogo Afonso above the sand and Av. Marginal.

The Busy Life of Avenida Marginal

The middle of the avenue is marked by large palm trees. We see its graceful shadows projected on the multicolored facades that enclose it, houses of the most distinguished established and itinerant businesses.

Here and there, the almost umbilical relationship between Cape Verde and Portugal it jumps into view.

Nearby, the replica of the Belém Tower. It was inaugurated in 2010 with the presence of the then President Cavaco Silva, visiting Cape Verde, to celebrate the 550 years that have passed since the arrival of Portuguese navigators.

In a picturesque barbershop, the national flag coexists with an array of Benfica calendars, emblems and photographs.

Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde, barbershop

Barbers from the Benfica barbershop (Av. Marginal) in full action.

There are several Grandioso players, their rivals and called up to the Portuguese national team, born in Cape Verde or children of Cape Verdean parents who maintain dual nationality.

One of the many times we walked along Av. On the sidelines, we cross paths with Vânia and Riseli, young fruit and vegetable sellers.

Conversation leads to conversation, we enter a non-sports perspective on the subject of fatherhood. His resigned confession leaves us astonished: “here in Cape Verde, a man is only good for making children.

Afterwards, he even avoids going through us so we don’t demand anything.” "Then you're just left with the fun part, how can that be?" we retort.

"That's right. This, over here, has nothing to do with Portugal! I have a son. Only me and my parents take care of him. She already has two, it's the same thing…”

Some Mindelenses fans of the cards, lean against the bronze of Diogo Afonso, in the interval of the games played under four sheds.

The Long Historical Gap between Discovery and Settlement

Today, Mindelenses number more than seventy thousand. They are entitled to these intense playful breaks, animated by the discussions around the football events of the former metropolis.

In the many decades that followed Diogo Afonso's discovery, the rare settlement attempts failed, some more damaging than others.

The pirates and corsairs, these, got used to using the Porto Grande Bay as a lair for their attacks on the ships of the colonizing powers.

The central position of São Vicente, as a providential stepping stone in navigation to South America, also led to the Dutch regrouping their fleet there in 1624, with the aim of taking the Bay of All Saints from the Portuguese ( Salvador) and, from there, what they could get from Brazil.

Only a century and a half later, already saturated with so much and continued abuse of the archipelago (especially by pirates) did the Portuguese authorities dictate that São Vicente would have to be populated.

Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde, Marginal

Marginal do Mindelo closed by one of the ocher peaks that surround the city.

Finally, the Settlement that Urged

Almost another fifteen years passed. There the first unfortunates finally disembarked: twenty colonists served by fifty slaves who Santiago's Old Town had long trafficked, taken from Fire Island.

The captain-major of São Vicente, a wealthy Tavira native, made them settle in a few huts and tents, in the place of the current square of the Nª Srª da Luz Church, at that time, the village of Nª Srª da Luz.

In 1819, there were still less than 120 inhabitants of the island.

Faith in the potential of Porto Grande, the new governor recruited another fifty-six families, at the time, from the much more fertile island of Santo Antão.

A dreamer, easily impressed by pomp, António Pusich decided to pay homage to the Empress of Austria. He renamed the village Leopoldina.

São Vicente, did not yet have water to ensure the survival of its people, let alone sophistication.

Or even the diversity of vegetables, fruits and other goods of the land that now fill the municipal market, the fish market, the vegetable market and the street furniture, which extend around the clothing and handicrafts predominant. at Star Square.

Two more years later, most of the 295 residents who encouraged Leopoldina's Pusichian dream had already left.

The Entrance to the Scene of the British and Coal

The colonization of São Vicente only gained traction again when the English arrived, determined to extract and sell the hitherto ignored coal from the island to steam ships, a business boosted by the various English shipping companies that roamed the Atlantic.

Coal quickly proved to be the civilizational fuel of São Vicente, as the salt turned out to be that of the island of Sal.

With slavery abolished and the city increasingly open to progress and the world, an outbreak of yellow fever reduced the city's inhabitants once again. From 1400 to half.

During the 30s of the 40th century, the sudden decline in the sale of coal and the mooring of boats in Porto Grande, aggravated by the droughts and famine of the XNUMXs, led to many deaths, an intense diaspora and the new decadence of the city.

Life on the other islands, however, proved to be as precarious or more precarious.

The belief that Porto Grande was home to inexhaustible jobs instigated the migration to Mindelo. There they continue to abound.

The sun wraps itself around the peak of Monte Cara. Laginha beach is also getting ready for the night.

Eliseu Santos, sculptural lifeguard, firefighter, security guard and physical education teacher descends from the observation tower and picks up a board from the water's edge.

At this hour, he and the colleague who helps him become silhouettes in motion against the silvery bay.

Soon, a group gives music to the street of Libertad d'Africa, on a stage set up with its back to the People's Palace.

Mindelo indulges once and for all in its delicious hedonic mode.

Cesária Évora, Queen of Morna, Mindelo's most famous daughter

Mindelo saw the birth and death, in 2011, of its Queen of Morna, Cesária Évora.

And it doesn't take long for hits from the "barefoot diva" to sound, starting with the “Longing” from San Niclau, all of them coming from Casa da Morna, right next to the emblematic building of Figueira & Cia, Lda.

Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde, Figueira and Cia

Building of the old company Figueira e Cia, Lda, one of the most emblematic on Av. Marginal.

The Decisive Contribution of Migration and Emigration

The fact that, at a certain point, Mindelo had the only high school in the Barlavento made the most of the archipelago's intellectuals, including Amílcar Cabral, concentrate there. Its presence was at the origin of the emerging Cape Verdean national consciousness.

From 1968 onwards, the funds sent by emigrants from the diaspora, especially in Europe and the USA, greatly improved Cape Verdean life.

Six years later, the 25th of April Revolution opened the doors to independence and the return to the city of many cadres and politicians who previously lived in emigrants or in other former Portuguese colonies.

Mindelo reorganized itself politically and economically. Around Porto Grande, of course.

The Portuguese, English, North American and European cultural legacy sent there by successive generations of the Cape Verdean diaspora generated an energetic, creative and shining capital of São Vicente, who knows, if the Atlantic warehouse that Governor António Pusich dared to to fantasize.

Mindelo is, nowadays, the second city of the archipelago, the most dynamic and traveled.

And, if we consider the desolation baked by the sun and blown by the Alísios that Diogo Afonso encountered, a luxury like no other in Cape Verde.

Prainha lifeguards pack a board with the sun almost falling behind Monte Cara

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Cape Verde Brave Island

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Porto Novo to Ribeira Grande the Seaside Way

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The Salt of the Island of Sal

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Ribeira Grande, Santo AntãoCape Verde

Santo Antão, Up the Ribeira Grande

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