officially Republic of Cape Verde
Island republic, central Atlantic Ocean.
Lying 385 mi (620 km) off the western coast of Senegal, it consists of 10 islands and five islets. Area: 1,557 sq mi (4,033 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 453,000. Capital: Praia . More than two-thirds of its population is Creole (mixed origin); the remainder are European and black African. Languages: Portuguese (official), Crioulo (a Portuguese dialect). Religions: Roman Catholicism (official), Protestantism. Currency: Cape Verde escudo. The mountainous windward islands are craggy and furrowed by erosion; the flat leeward islands are largely plains and lowlands. The islands are volcanic in origin. Fogo Island has an active volcano that erupted in 1951; it is also the location of the highest peak, which rises 9,281 ft (2,829 m). The largest of the other islands are Santo Antão, São Vincente, and São Nicolau. Cape Verde has a developing mixed economy based largely on agriculture, though tourism has been promoted. It is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of state is the president and its head of government, the prime minister. When visited by the Portuguese 145660, the islands were uninhabited. In 1460 Diogo Gomes sighted and named Maio and São Tiago, and in 1462 the first settlers landed on São Tiago, founding the city of Ribeira Grande. The city's importance grew with the development of the slave trade, and its wealth attracted pirates so often that it was abandoned after 1712. The prosperity of the Portuguese-controlled islands vanished with the decline of the slave trade in the 19th century, but later improved because of their position on the great trade routes between Europe, South America, and South Africa. In 1951 the colony became an overseas province of Portugal. Many islanders preferred outright independence, and it was finally granted in 1975. Once associated politically with Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde split from it in 1981.