About Santiago

Santiago is the largest island of Cape Verde with 75 km in length. It was the first island to be discovered and populated by Portuguese navigators thus giving home to the people of the Islands. Since its beggining it played an important role in the Commerce and navigation between Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. Geographicaly its highest point is the ‘Pico de Antonia’ about 1394 m in altitude and the ‘Serra da Malagueta’. Santiago is mainly and agricultural island because unlike the other islands there is plenty of water. There is also a lot of vegetation on higher areas with large plantations of fruit trees such as coconut palms, ‘papaieiras’, banana trees or palms while in low areas of the island, the scenery is more deserted.

Pico D´Ántónia Créditos: Elysa Pico D´Antónia Créditos: Elysa

The first city founded by the Portuguese in Africa was the city of ‘Ribeira Grande’ named at the time as the first capital of Cape Vert. Today is better known as ‘Cidade Velha’ and it’s only 15 km away from the city of ‘Praia’ today’s the Country Capital and is a major touristic centre. It’s fame as an historical city, arises from the many memories left by its discoverers caused it to be considered in 2009 Unesco World Heritage site. The ‘Forte de São Filipe’ with a cannon pointing out to sea, was built by the Portuguese after several attacks of famous pirates such as ‘Sir Francis Drake’ in 1585. The Pillory where the sale of slaves where held is ‘Manuelino’ Architectural style dating back to 1520, the ‘Sé Catedral’ now in ruins and the Church of ‘Nossa Senhora do Rosário’ (Mary Lady of the Rosary) still with the original tombs and well-preserved tiles are some of the monuments that bear witness to its historical heritage.

Forte de São Filipe - Cidade Velha Forte de São Filipe – Cidade Velha

In 1858 the ‘Vila da Praia’ was elevated to the category of City and today is the capital of the archipelago. Located just 3 km from the international Airport of the city of ‘Praia’ and is undoubtedly the Centre of attraction for daily actvity. The ‘Plateau’ is the historic centre of the city where many shops are concentrated, cafes, banks, health services, education or tourism. A place not to be missed is the market where the local sellers ‘vendedeiras’ arrive early in the morning to sell their farming products such as vegetables, fruits, from the island inland and the famous typical ‘Sucupira’ market where you will find everything from shoes to clothing.

Cidade da Praia Cidade da Praia

Wlaking down from the ‘Plateau’ area (City’s wealthiest area), there is the famous beach of ‘Gamboa’, the scene of an annual festival of music with the same name, usually from 19 to 22 May, drawns most of the important artists in the country and from around the world, further down we find ‘Prainha’, where mosts of the Embassies are, this is the district wealthiest and where the best-known hotels of the island are located. Other places to visit are the ‘Farol de Dona Maria Pia’ or the ‘Cruz do Papa’ a large cross that sits on top and with a beautiful view over the beach of ‘Quebra Canela’. Also ‘Palmarejo’, worth a visit, where upper-middle-class people reside with modern buildings with elevators and large terraces and air conditioning .

Praia da Gamboa e o Farol de D. Maria Pia Praia da Gamboa e o Farol de D. Maria Pia

‘Tarrafal’ is located 70 km from the city of ‘Praia’. The ‘Colónia Penal’ was known as the old prison built in 1936 to house political prisoners and social outcasts from Portugal and its colonies. The bay of ‘Tarrafal’ is a paradisiacal place, it has a beach of clear waters and white sand flanked by numerous coconut trees.

Baía do Tarrafal Créditos: Cabo Verde Safari Baía do Tarrafal Créditos: Cabo Verde Safari

There are other places of rare beauty such as ‘São Jorge’ which lye at the end of the high ‘Pico de Antonia’, here its located the only botanic garden in the country. ‘Rui Vaz’, halfway from the highest point of the island, has a panoramic view unequalled. The second city of Santiago is located in the town of ‘Assomada’, it’s about 50 km away from the beach. Its market is one of the most well known and where you can find the Museum of ‘Tabanka’.

Cachoeira em São Jorge dos Órgãos Créditos: Cabo Verde Safari Cachoeira em São Jorge dos Órgãos Créditos: Cabo Verde Safari

On the island of Santiago one can attend numerous traditional events. One of those events is the manufacture of ‘grogue’, an extremely strong local drink maybe compared to a tropical-flavoured pear brandy. In rural environments is still manufactured in a handcrafted device mechanism that is used to crush sugar cane and is moved only by the strength of animals such as oxen or donkeys. The ‘Tabanca’ which are street demonstrations of a Christian festivals merged to an African environment that gives it another animosity, the role players wear colourful clothes, there’s a hot rhythm, cheerful songs and dances, all this accompanied by the familiar drum roll marking compass to the sound of búzios. (a large cornucopian shaped sea shell).

Trapitche artesanal no Interior de Santiago Créditos: Elysa Trapitche artesanal no Interior de Santiago Créditos: Elysa

The ‘Batuque’ is usually done in the house backyard. A group of women gathered themselves into a circle usually seated on chairs or on the floor, and by clapping or tapping on a piece of cloth, creates a contagious rhythm, these women are called ‘batucadeiras’. There is also a main singer that speaks out in rhimes local storiess or in the past used to pass out messsages against the Portuguese regime, these singers sing first and immediatly are repated in choorus by the rest of ‘ Batucadeiras’. Another women puts a cloth around the hip and goes in the middle to dance. Initially the dance is quiet, made only with the swing of the body. As the ‘batucadeiras’ increase the rhythm, the dancer moves, and will increase the hip movement into a point where it gives out te impressiion that its separated from the upper torso whixh its incredibly still , one could place a glas of water in the girl head and itr wouldn tilt., this hip movement is known locally as ‘ku tornu’, when the women or girl ends, she retreats tto her place and gives place to another women. This cultural phenomenon wwas a strong objection to the first setlers.

Batucadeiras de Santiago Batucadeiras de Santiago

In addition to the more tasty dishes of fish and seafood, main dish of gastronomy of Santiago is ‘cachupa’. Is prepared with a wide variety of meat, corn, beans, yuca, sweet potato, pumpkin but its recipee depends mostly on the monetary capacity of its people, so there is the ‘Cachupa Rica’ (rich cachupa) and ‘Cachupa pobre’ (poor cachupa), it’s common to have a typical breakfast with a plate of cachupa from previous day sautéed with fried egg on top. today is commonly served in cafes, restaurants and hotels, is the national dish.

Place Categories: Islands.

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