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|Territory of Cape Verde
República de Cabo Verde
|Anthem: Song of Freedom
(and largest city)
|Recognised regional languages||Portuguese
|Government||Republic, three-branch government|
|-||Presidential Head of State||George Allen (R)|
|-||Governor||Paul Frazier (LPCV)|
|-||Federal legislative branch||United States Congress|
|-||from Portugal||September 16, 1915|
|-||2009 estimate||626,000 (165th)|
|Currency||US Dollar (
|Time zone||CVT (UTC-2)|
|-||Summer (DST)||not observed (UTC-1)|
|Drives on the||right|
The Territory of Cape Verde (pronounced /ˌkeɪp ˈvɜ:rd/ (listen); Portuguese: Cabo Verde, pronounced [ˈkabu ˈveɾdɨ]) is an island territory, spanning an archipelago located in the Macronesia ecoregion of the North Atlantic Ocean, off the western coast of Africa, opposite Mauritania and Senegal.
It is slightly more than 4000 sq km in area with an estimated population of over 620,000, most of this due to US military bases stationed on the islands. The capital of Cape Verde is Praia. The previously uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and attained independence from Portugal in 1917 when they were captured by the United States in World War I, and incorporated as a territory in the Treaty of Versailles in 1918.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the Cape Verde Islands were uninhabited. In 1462, Portuguese settlers arrived at Santiago and founded a settlement they called Ribeira Grande (now called Cidade Velha, to avoid being confused with the town of Ribeira Grande on the Saint Anthony island). Ribeira Grande was the first permanent European settlement in the tropics.
The Portuguese named the islands Cabo Verde (from which the English Cape Verde derives), after the nearby Cap Vert on the Senegalese coast. In the 16th century, the archipelago prospered from the transatlantic slave trade. Pirates occasionally attacked the Portuguese settlements. Sir Francis Drake sacked Ribeira Grande in 1585. After a French attack in 1712, the town declined in importance relative to nearby Praia, which became the capital in 1770.
With the decline in the slave trade, Cape Verde's early prosperity slowly vanished. However, the islands' position astride mid-Atlantic shipping lanes made Cape Verde an ideal location for re-supplying ships. Because of its excellent harbor, Mindelo (on the island of São Vicente) became an important commercial center during the 19th century.
In 1915, with Portuguese participation as part of the Entente Powers in World War I, Cape Verde became a launching point for submarine warfare against American and British shipping. US Marines landed on the island in one of the most impressive amphibious assaults ever planned up to that point. Portuguese soldiers on that island began throwing guns to the natives to get them to defend the islands, but miserable working conditions led the small island population to surrender easily to the oncoming Americans. Within two short months, the United States had completely conquered the islands, and had taken control over the important Atlantic shipping lanes vital to the war effort.
By 1918, American control over the islands was solidified in the Treaty of Versailles, which granted the islands to the United States in perpetuity, along with the Canary Islands. Between 1918 and 1938, most of the island's population consisted of returning veterans from the first World War, and tourists flying from the North American mainland, which brought a thriving tourist business to the islands, though this did diminish with the onset of the Great Depression.
During World War II, Cape Verde became an important battlefield against Spanish and Portuguese Fascist forces, which assaulted the islands, and managed to capture three islands before they were driven off by the defending Americans and Cape Verdeans. The joint defenses of the island by the two distinct populations solidified the growing ties between the two, and made many Cape Verdeans feel that they were Americans, not Cape Verdeans. A number of Cape Verdean heroes are listed in the World War II memorial in Washington DC in the Alexandria district of the capital.
Immediately following the second World War, Cape Verde held a number of important negotiations, including the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military defense network between the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany, designed to coordinate military response to aggression by an outside party. In 1953, German Chancellor Gerhardt Adenauer, one of Germany's prominent soldiers during the war, visited the island for vacation.
With military de-enlistments after World War II, the number of ex-military who elected to stay on the islands grew, and by 1962, the Anglo-American population of the island numbered over 250,000, growing to 480,000 by 1980. There are several political parties on the island, with the Republicans, Democrats, Liberty, and Constitution Parties all enjoying some measure of success.
The territory became a commonwealth by act of Congress in 1978, allowing the citizens some measure of self-governance, electing their own legislature to enact laws for themselves. There are also talks for Cape Verde to become the 75th state of the Union.