Cabo Verdeans


Cabo Verde in 2007. Image by Ulrika via Flickr (cc)

From Words Without Borders:

We shared a Creole language and the open, relaxed customs, known as morabeza, that are unique to Cabo Verde; only we knew how to compose and sing morna music; and even our grogue and cachupa stew would never be confused with African palm wine or funge. But as “Africans” of an Africa we did not know, an Africa that, for us, was “without history” and without heroes, because Gungunhana was nothing more than a rebellious Black man and a bloodthirsty member of the Vátua peoples of Mozambique imprisoned not a moment too soon by the glorious Portuguese cavalry officer Mouzinho de Albuquerque, we came to find ourselves in a very perplexing, disorienting situation with regard to all the heroic Portuguese whom we had been required to learn about at school.

Of course by the mid-1960s we already had African heroes. Amílcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, Sekou Touré, Kwame Nkrumah, and others were formidable African names that enraptured our imaginations, though much more by inverse association than by familiarity: the more Europeans hated them, the more heroic they became. But not even this filled the void of our emptiness, because, among other reasons, “our brothers” spoke languages that we didn’t understand.

Meanwhile, it was almost certainly Ovídio Martins who resolved this serious problem of identity for us with the publication of his poem “Those Whipped by the East Wind.” Because with this work our national specificity was once again made clear: we were those whipped by the east wind, those whom the she-goats had taught to eat stones in order not to perish. Hence our struggle was not so much against exploitation but above all against the abandonment into which we had been cast, against the droughts and famines that at each occurrence finished off close to one-third of our population. And, in this way, we were part of the wretched of the earth, because if others were oppressed by actions, we were victims of a crime of omission.

As it happened, by mid-1967, Baltasar Lopes da Silva had laid out the problem in a clear, convincing manner: we were neither Africans nor Europeans, merely Cabo Verdeans.

“A Form of African Identity”, Germano Almeida, Words Without Borders