Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The beautiful people of Cape Verde

Suzanna Lubrano - Famous CV singer
Like the islands on which they live, Cape Verdeans are a gorgeous people inside and out. They reflect a bewitching blend of their African and European roots. This mixture is more endearingly referred to as "creole."

There are around half a million native residents living in Cape Verde. Seventy five percent (75%) are of mixed heritage, and the rest are of African heritage.

The population is quite young with more than half under the age of 23. And nearly a third is under 15.

The literacy rate is 77% and almost 5% of GDP is spent on education which is free at the primary level. Cape Verdeans are a well educated lot and many achieve university level education.

A third of Cape Verdeans live below the poverty level. The majority enjoy a respectable standard of living and per capita income is about 2,500 euros, which is a relatively high level in Africa. By European and American standards, the standard of living is significantly lower.

But, you won't hear any Cape Verdeans complaining about living in Cape Verde - they love the place. They are not necessarily caught up with all of the material trappings to which people in first-world countries feel so entitled. Instead, they accept a simpler way of life and seem much happier for it. Now that's not to say that there aren't some wealthy Cape Verdeans - but most of those are the business owners and corporate leaders who drive the commerce of the country.

The official language is Portuguese, which is taught in the schools and spoken in formal settings. But the unofficial language spoken by all is Kriolu, an eclectic mix of Portuguese and other European languages with African. I have spoken one language all my life - English - but I have found Kriolu surprisingly easy to learn. It only took five years! Once I mustered up the courage to ask speakers to slow down their rapid fire speech, I actually could make out some of the words being spoken. LOL.

You must, however, be cautious before trying your hand at Kriolu. Many words seems to be strung together or parts of words are not pronounced. And most challenging of all is that the Kriolu spoken on each island is different in terms of words, manners of pronunciation and accents! You must believe me when I tell you that residents of one island often have trouble understanding residents of another island ... it's funny, but true! I've seen it happen many times. But in the end, the native language and its variations within such a small region only adds to the beauty and charm of the people and the place.

The primary religions are Christianity-based. You won't find any religious radicals on these islands. Life is too sweet, the place way too small, and the people much too practical for such worldly enigmas.

Now, on any given day, there are also thousands of foreigners from all over the world in Cape Verde. They come from Africa, Western and Eastern Europe, China, Brazil and America among other places to vacation or conduct business. And some come to retire as the cost of living is very low relative to first-world countries. Plus, Cape Verdeans and their descendants who live outside of Cape Verde always seem to come home for a visit every so often ... they never forget their roots ... and many of the retirees are people simply returning to their land of birth to live out their final years in peace and joy supported by their countrymen.

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