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21 July 2011

Jews of Cape Verde

The history of the Jews of Cape Verde is a most interesting story. Located off the western coast of Africa, the Republic of Cape Verde is a group of ten islands which gained their Independence from Portugal in 1975. As a result of the almost 500 years of Portuguese rule, today there are virtually no Jews, the country is mostly all Catholic, but that was not always the case.
From the time of the Spanish Inquisition up until the late 1800's Cape Verde became a safe haven for Jews who were fleeing either religious persecution or simply wanted the opportunity to have stability in their personal and economic life.
The first Jews to arrive in Cape Verde, those from Gibraltar, landed on the island of Sao Tiago. Those Jews were then forced to live in the Ghetto in the capital city of Praia. Even though they were forced into the ghettos, they did maintain some rights, and in fact became very influential traders and businessmen. They were allowed to trade as long as they didn't compete with any of the established Portuguese trading companies. By the middle of the 1500's the Portuguese government had begun using the island of Santo Antao has a place to send convicts, most of these being Jews. In 1672, the inquisition made its way to Cape Verde, which caused the Jewish traders to have their merchandise seized. This caused many of the Jews to hide their true identities.In the late 1700's the Inquisition had subsided to the point that many families were able to reclaim their Jewish heritage openly. Later in the late 1800's Jews began arriving in Cape Verde from places such as Morocco. These Moroccan Jews, like those of hundreds of years earlier were fleeing persecution and trying to establish their businesses. The majority of the Jews from Morocco traded in hides and pelts and some in the coal industry. They established their homes on the islands of Santiago, San Vincent and Santo Antao.
Today, one would find it difficult to find any resemblance of a Jewish community on Cape Verde, most immigrated to Israel or other locations long ago. There are however Jewish Cemeteries on some of the islands. One group of descendants of the Jews who once lived in Cape Verde have formed a nonprofit organization with the hope of keeping the memory of the Sephardic families of Cape Verde alive.



That organization, The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project. Inc (http://capeverdejewishheritage.org/about-2/), hopes to restore the cemeteries, and document with research the lives of those who immigrated to Cape Verde from Morocco and Gibraltar.


Please visit their website, the work to preserve the histories of those who have gone before must continue.

2 comments:

  1. I hadn't hear before about cape verde and doing it sounds great , But i ask myself how their food are ?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It sound like a great place , Maybe someday we could know about it.

    ReplyDelete