Unexpectedly, the houses stand out the most in the panorama revealed by the windy heights of Serra da Malagueta (1063 m).
It spreads out at the bottom of a plain almost level with the sea that we haven't found for a long time, in Santiago, the largest island in Cape Verde.
It appears at the end of a long straight, adjusted to a cove that a promontory protects from the lull of the Atlantic. The headland is known as Ponta Preta.
Under an intermittent beam of light, we see it more ocher than dark, towering over the whiteness of the village.
We descend, by successive zigzags, towards the Contador, towards the geological gentleness of Chão Bom where one of the several fluvial furrows coming from the heights gives rise to vegetation.
The same straight that we saw in the distance reveals the walls and fences of the former Penal Colony of Tarrafal. We would go back there. Before that, we continue towards the fishing village that lent it its name.
We passed the perpendicular road of Colonato. The prison domain gives way to a grid with a suburban profile, already part of the municipality of Tarrafal, the northernmost of Santiago, where almost eighteen thousand Cape Verdeans live. Most of them are concentrated in Chão Bom.
In the village of Tarrafal, there are less than seven thousand.
The Colonial Settlement of the Tarrafal Zone
It is estimated that the settlement in this inhospitable north of Santiago dates back to the XNUMXth century, at least two centuries after the Ribeira Grande, the current Cidade Velha.
In 1747, a small village appeared on the maps of navigators and explorers, even foreigners, as was the case of the one created by the French geographer Jacques-Nicolas Bellin who marked it as Terrafal.
Although, over time, the place was confused with Vila de Mangue, even today, the baptism of one of the historic districts of Tarrafal and the most popular name of the county's football stadium, next to the penal field.
Finally, the big straight gives itself. It leads to Rua Macaco and Praça Tarrafal, the administrative and religious heart of the village.
The Urban Core of Tarrafal
As expected, it is blessed by a church, that of Santo Amaro, laterally facing a landscaped rectangle and equipped with a bandstand.
The city council also asserts itself there.
Your round clock parked at noon or midnight, as you wish. He also points out a fixed “Boas Festivities” that crown the pediment of the turquoise building.
We parked. We wandered over the cobblestones of the square. As always happens in Cape Verde, we immediately find Portuguese expressions.
A kiosk identified as “Super Bar” displays the image of one of the great Portuguese breweries.
Next door, two Tarrafalenses face each other in successive uril matches. One of them, a middle-aged man, wears a Benfica jersey. He plays against a lady of his generation, equipped with a gown, scarf and slippers.
A single spectator watches the duel, composed of dark jeans and a polo shirt, almost the same blue as the facade of the town hall.
We approach. Even knowing that we would impair their concentration, we questioned them. The game was played, however, with beans.
Neither one nor the other seems to bother. We asked the male player about his degree of benfiquismo, shared by many of the villagers, in such a way that one of the “drinkers” of Strela, grog and other drinks, favorites of Tarrafal, is called “Bar Benfica”.
When we notice it, we are talking about the influence of Renato Sanches on the team and his Cape Verdean origins. “His family is from Tarrafal, you know?”
We had no idea. The revelation catches us off guard. And it moves us.
We apologize to the game partner for the interruption. When we do, we notice the color of her eyes. They are a translucent olive green that yellowish around the pupil.
We were surprised again. We praise them and the Creole beauty of the lady.
The remorse comes back to us for interrupting the match, so we thank you for your sympathy and say goodbye. We resumed the ambulation in which we were walking.
Towards the Bay and Port of Tarrafal
We pass by a salon called DilmaKelly, painted to match the town hall.
In front of the Igreja Evangélica do Nazareno, an area to be developed gives us a glimpse of the bay and port of Tarrafal, announced by the golden sand of Praia do Mangue which, in fact, a small rocky ledge divides into distinct coves.
To the north, the foothills of Monte Graciosa (642m) appear full of vegetation. Part of it, could even be of tarrafes, the bushes tamarix senegalensis that abound there and inspired the baptism of the village.
When we walk along the pier that breaks the bay, we see it as rounded as ever.
The emerald, crystal-clear Atlantic water caresses the sand gently enough to stir an iris of darker volcanic sand.
We stop at a kind of small square-viewpoint, elevated overlooking the bay and the pier.
There, a white and red mini-kiosk shelters in the sparse shade of two twin acacia trees.
It serves drinks, but above all, that same shade, the view and the relaxed conviviality that a group of residents known to the maid enjoy, divided by genre, at opposite tables, with impeccable views.
We salute you. We leaned over the benches nestled in the wall.
Fishermen in Time of Rest and Conversation in Day
And from there, we continue to enjoy the privileged cove of Tarrafal.
We admired fishing boats of all colors, side by side, almost at the top of the beach. They remain in dry dock, safe from the rising tide and waves.
They act as a landing and abutment to a group of fishermen, given over to a conversation so heated that it even sounds like an argument.
Without warning, a young woman appears from among the boats. She passes before them to display, without complexes, the voluptuous forms that God has given her.
In a flash, the men give truce to the matter. They turn their heads to the north and follow his elegant steps, as if nothing else was worth it.
As the author(s) were inspired by, a triptych mural painted on the pier wall, just above the sea of Baxu, defines the gender split of Tarrafal.
One of its sections reveals a man holding a fish, next to a boat.
On the opposite side, several women hold bowls with coconuts. In the middle, a duo of musicians sings.
The painting that portrays them, in particular, announces with “We are” the remaining two “omiss of the sea"and "coconut mudjeris".
The Footballers and the Enchanted Outsiders of Tarrafal
Between the boats and the sea, taking advantage of the falling tide, young people from Tarrafal in good shape compete in a naked game on the wet sand.
The match proves to be so fierce that not even the maiden's passage moves them away from the orange ball.
The technical excellence and dedication to the game of the people from Santiago have long produced unavoidable stars.
Even though he was born in Portugal, Renato Sanches proved to be just one of many heirs of Cape Verde's aptitude and passion for football.
Despite the apparent predominance of Tarrafalenses, the Bay of Tarrafal attracts more and more outsiders.
We cross paths with French, Italians and Germans, white women with fragile skins that the tropical sun punishes without mercy.
Some indulge in snorkeling among the trawlers moored offshore.
Others play beach volleyball, on the edge of the coconut forest below the tarrafal vegetation on the slope.
The Challenging Subsistence of the People of Tarrafal
In recent times, these visitors have guaranteed additional income from remittances from the Cape Verdean diaspora and from agriculture.
Much easier than fishing, especially in the winter months, December, January, when the trade winds blow vigorously and turn the Atlantic off into a stormy turn.
Even arduous, fishing is reliable. Agriculture, on the other hand, has long struggled with the arid climate of the north of the island and the growing scarcity of water.
This same aridity shaped the wavering, long dubious fame of northern Santiago.
As people from other parts of the island saw it, Tarrafal was located in the confines of dry and thorny land, difficult to cultivate and even more difficult to colonize.
As if that were not enough, the establishment, in 1936, of the Concentration Camp, called Campo da Morta Lenta, only came to dramatize the imaginary associated with the place, cursed by the colonial imposition of the Salazar regime.
Place of torture, abandonment and death. This may have been the reality of the prison colony to which we will soon dedicate its own article.
The real Tarrafal, the one with the coves at the foot of Monte Graciosa, not only has little to do with it, but we retain it in memory as a Cape Verdean shelter and macaronesian blessed.