The history of São Vicente

by Villa St. Aubyn on September 3, 2014 No comments

We believe the best way to travel is to combine a relaxing time with discovering the history and culture of the place you are visiting, to better understand its people and their habits. This is why we decided to dedicate our first blog post to the history of São Vicente, its colonial past and post-colonial development.

Portuguese colonialism

São Vicente was discovered and colonised by the Portuguese on the 22nd January, 1462 (Saint Vincent’s feastday). However it remained uninhabited throughout most of the era of the transatlantic slave-trade. In 1795 there was an attempt to occupy the island but without much success due to the lack of water.

The British era

In the early 1800s the British established a consulate on the island and in 1838 a coal deposit was established in Porto Grande, São Vicente, where ships from England and Cardiff brought coal, used to refuel ships sailing from Europe to the Americas. Porto Grande grew into the largest port on the Atlantic, and fourth largest coaling station in the world. Seamen stopped off in Mindelo to enjoy themselves in the town’s music bars. São Vicente was also used as a switching station for the first transatlantic telegraph cable and had a Royal Mail station. The English also left their mark through a golf course, the tradition of afternoon tea and some English words which were adopted into Creole. For example, the Creole ‘xá’ meaning ‘tea’ is said to have originated from the English slang ‘char’; and ‘grogu’ – the term for the local alcoholic drink, comes from the English slang ‘grog’. However, even with the business from England, the local economy remained underdeveloped and the local people lived in poverty.

1900s to present day

The early 1900s saw a strong movement against Portuguese colonial rule. With the end of steam-driven shipping the coaling station shrank and Mindelo’s importance declined. In 1947-8 a severe drought caused the death of over 20,000 people and many more fled the island. Over the years São Vicente has seen immigration from the isle of Santo Antão and other West African countries.

Over recent years São Vicente has slowly emerged as a tourism hub with the development of an international airport, hotels and bars, and a developed marina. An increasing number of people from all over the world are now discovering the island, and the archipelago, with great enthusiasm.

Villa St. AubynThe history of São Vicente

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