Cape Verde has been a Christian country since it was first settled, and today 95% of the population claim to be Catholic. The faces of its people betray a diverse racial heritage, notably Portuguese and West African, but also including the descendants of traders and sailors from Lebanon, China, Morocco, Europe, Brazil and the USA.

In the late 19th century, this unique mixture became a cause for celebration and an emerging nationalist movement gave rise to the concept of Creole (Crioulo) nationhood. While the official language remains Portuguese, Crioulo is the informal spoken language that everyone understands. As they say, the soul of Cape Verde speaks in Crioulo.

The islands are rich in poetry, folk stories and tradition. One of the most distinctive is represented by the Agadez Cross, which forms the Estrela Santiago logo. Tuareg parents, from West Africa, used to give these exquisite silver crosses to their children when they were about to leave home. Today they are worn as a mark of good luck and protection. The crosses are uniquely shaped and are named after the town of Agadez in Niger.

Other notable handicrafts include the Cape Verdean pano, a cloth made using the classic African narrow strip weaving technique that has been practised on the islands for centuries. There are many types and patterns, the most complex of which can keep two weavers busy for 12 days.

Music is a mainstay of island life and you will hear it everywhere from nightclubs to restaurants to people’s homes. Among the most common styles are the bittersweet morna, played on guitars and violins, the more lively funama, and a host of musical forms influenced by African, European and Latin American rhythms.

Traditional festivals tend to cluster around Catholic saints’ days and all the islands celebrate Christmas and, most passionately, Carnival in February or March.

guitarist asleep

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