Mindelo, São Vicente
Cape Verde’s cultural capital is said to be in Mindelo on the island São Vicente, once home to the barefoot diva, the late Cesária Évora, the islands’ best-known singer. It’s also famous for its colourful Brazilian-influenced carnival held here each February. It’s here in the city’s cool bistros and bars, locals and savvy travellers gather to listen to morna, the islands’ traditional music, while sipping grogue, the local rum-like drink.
A few years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon there, wandering through the back streets, photographing the people and the wonderful architecture, a reminder of its colonial past. There’ a sense of history and faded glory about many of the buildings.
Wandering down the cobbled back streets, I chatted with a family playing the game of wuri. Everyone I met was happy to be photographed as they went about their daily life. As you can probably tell, it’s a very laid back place.
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The city hugs the crescent-shaped Porto Grande Harbour set against a stunning backdrop of rugged mountains. Down by the waterfront, hundreds of boys were practising the local martial art of capoeira. It’s said to have been developed by slaves in Brazil, who fooled their masters into thinking it was a dance when really they were practising self-defence. It’s fabulous to watch. The Torre de Belém, by the harbour, is a scaled-down replica of the 15th-century tower that overlooks Lisbon’s port. There’s a fascinating museum inside about the history of the island. Check out nearby fish market, which lies just beyond Torre de Belém, with a jetty right by it where fishermen unload their catch each day.
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Also by the marina, the swanky new Pont d’Agua, a modern glass and concrete complex of restaurants and shops lined with palm trees, is a new addition to the waterfront since I visited. For something more traditional visit the Mercado Municipal, a restored two-storey food market built in 1784 on Rua da Libertad d’Africa. Also, not to be missed is the bright pink Palácio do Povo, on Avenue Baltazar Lopes da Silva, a former government building now exhibition space. Back near the waterfront, the Centro Cultural do Mindelo on Avenue Marginal, is home to changing exhibitions by local artists and has a small shop selling local crafts, music and books.
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