So much could be said for the island of São Vicente, but this island is unquestionably great for the city life. The buzzing capital, Mindelo, is a melting pot of cultures that welcomes any newcomers upon arrival to make them feel at home. Come nighttime, there may not be a more electric and exciting atmosphere found in the islands than in Mindelo where the music, arts and dance create a wonderful feel-good culture. To get away from the city, one can walk, cycle or horseback ride around the countryside or windsurf on the beaches known for marine activities. São Vicente is located in the Windward (Barlavento) group of islands to the east of Sao Nicolau and west of Santa Luzia.
A Cultural Center
Several attempts were made to populate the island in order to use large tracts of grazing land for raising cattle. But the future of Sao Vicente would only begin to take shape in 1838, when an English company chose the natural port of Sao Vicente to build a coal crossing the Atlantic Ocean. By 1850 five coal companies were established at Mindelo. These five later merged into a single company, Millers & Nephew, while the company Cory Brothers & Co., established in 1875, joined it and thereby increased the population of the island by attracting and employing people from the neighboring islands of Santo Antao and Sao Nicolau.
Port activity was to reach its highest point in 1889, the year in which the entry of 1,927 long-haul merchant vessels was first recorded. From that date on there was a marked decline in activity. In what was a relatively slow process, Porto Grande became unable to compete with the ports of Las Palmas and Dakar. The dynamics of Porto Grande meant that trade operated on the island, which became the gateway to the archipelago for the outside world. Today, Sao Vicente’s economic development is still base on trade and on services provided for oceangoing vessels, ship repair, and fuel supply.
Bringing us to the city of Mindelo with its port tradition, the remarkably cheerful and open people, the community of musicians and artists, craftwork, intensive night life, the Carnival and Festival in Baia das Gatas, the wide ranges of sports to play, Laginha beach and the exciting Sao Pedro beach. All this brings us to the most cultural and Cosmopolitan Island of the area, it fascinates for the beauty of its city, Mindelo, and for the friendliness of its people, which results from the meeting of citizens from all latitudes.
Characterized by the beautiful bay of Porto Grande, Mindelo is a universal city, where culture and habits have blended and continue to blend, and where the friendly population welcomes new arrivals, and makes them feel at home. The Avenida Marginal (promenade) embraces the city and suggests a walk, caressed by the fresh sea breeze, while every step is a discovery: architecture with an English imprint, monuments which recall the colonial past, wide and inviting roads, between one shop and another, spaces open for a drink and a snack, children are never lacking to indicate in all languages the most varied places to visit. With good access and strictly townie atmosphere, Mindelo provides a familiar sensation of safety and tranquility.
Nights in Mindelo are perhaps the greatest tourist attraction of this island. Day fades into Night while the impressive Monte de Cara at the entrance to the bay darkens and the plucking of a guitar, the cry of a violin and a melodious voice emerge to sweetly lull those who, called by the refrain, gradually draw nearer. The attraction of Mindelo nights increases, with the warm and graceful swaying of the beautiful Creole girls, and lasts until dawn, while the contagious Cabo Verde morna and Brazilian rhythms lull those present, inebriated by the savoring of a good bafa of sea-food accompanied by a beer or whisky. Music, dance and gastronomy, a perfect mix in the nights of Mindelo, are always to be found in the various restaurants.
Cabo Verde music has found here the apex of expression, from the very famous composer B. Leza to the present muse Cesaria Evora, without forgetting other important exponents of national culture, such as Bana, Luis Morais, Chico Serra, Franck Cavaquinho, Manuel d’Novas, and the younger Bau and Tito Paris. Animated discos can be found all around, in the city and in the surroundings, with one peculiarity: each one of them has a special day, chosen by the majority of people.
Points of Interest
Baia das Gatas – At only ten minutes from the city, there is an authentic natural pool of enormous dimensions, with unique conditions for bathing which can be done while sleeping, so tranquil are the waters and absent of any peril. On the other side of the beach, the coast offers good fishing possibilities.
Sao Pedro – Near to the Airport there is one of the best beaches in the world for speed-windsurfing, which has already been tested by great champions.
Calhau – Fifteen minutes from the city, it is chosen as the ideal spot as fishing grounds, but also has a beach for swimmers. On Sundays, the tourist complex Chez Louthcha attracts the whole attention of Mindelo.
Monte Verde – From its almost 700 meters which form the highest point of the island, the whole city of Mindelo can be admired. Halfway between Baia das Gatas and the city, its mild climate calls for a visit.
Cultural Events – The peculiarity of the zone around Mindelo animates its festas which attract many local people as well as foreigners. Further to the traditional religious and popular feasts of S.Joao and S. Pedro, the greatest interest is towards Carnival and the Festival of Baia das Gatas, not to mention New Year’s Eve. Carnival, which attracts and mobilizes the whole city, is the best and the grandest of the country and attracts the attention of the many tourists which include Cabo Verde in their February itinerary. Creativity, color, art and a lot of music make Carnival a strong tourist attraction on the island and in the whole country. The second weekend of August is dedicated to the International Music Festival, on the beautiful beach of Baia das Gatas. In the presence of the greatest Cabo Verde artists, and important names of international music, more than 20,000 people attend the Festival which has already become an important appointment in the national tourist itinerary.
Mindelo, a cultural center – The city of Mindelo is a cultural center in which intellectual concerns and artistic expression, especially music, have always proved worthy of a special place. Sao Vicente’s institute has been the passage of several generations of Cabo-verdean writers and thinkers, a source of pride for Mindelo dwellers. Its community of intellectuals, artists, and musicians make Mindelo, for many people, the cultural capital of the country.
Proletarian character – The port activity of Sao Vicente lent the people of Mindelo a markedly proletarian character, a characteristic that marks them out from the rest of the population of the archipelago.
Anglicism – English traders, businessmen and technicians brought to Mindelo’s daily life many of their habits and customs, such as drinking whisky, gin and tonic and taking five-o-clock-tea. The Creole language of Sao Vicente took in Anglicism’s that are still used to this day. Various types of sports like golf, cricket, football and tennis were brought to Mindelo by the English, who founded the first sports clubs on the island and set an example speedily followed by the locals and transmitted to the other islands.