Cape Verde was discovered by the Portuguese in 1460. The first discovery was the island of Boa Vista, named by the Portuguese as a result of the long time they remained at sea, without seeing any land. Then, as they arrived at the other islands, they named them after saints, namely Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Santiago.
The island of Sal was given this name because of the great salt pans. The island of Maio because they reached it in May; Fogo, for having a volcano, believed to be active at the time of their arrival. Brava Island, was so named because of its hostile and rugged appearance.
Cape Verde Islands were uninhabited when the Portuguese arrived, but soon after they began to colonize them. It was populated by natives from the west coast of Africa, the Genovese and Portuguese. Today about 75 percent of the population is Creole, a mixture of black African and Portuguese descent. The remainder of the population is mostly black Africans, with a small number of Europeans.
Cape Verde was an important depot for the Portuguese during the slave trade. The slaves were captured and taken to the islands from where they were later sent to work in the production of sugar cane, coffee and cotton fields in Brazil and the Antilles.
Thanks to their location in the mid-Atlantic shipping lanes, the islands became an important stop off location for the re-supplying of trans Atlantic shipping between the 17th and 20th centuries. The town of Mindelo, on the island of São Vicente, flourished as an important commercial centre thanks to its natural deepwater port, and as an ideal stop over location for re-fuelling ships.
Just like what happened in the Caribbean Islands, the rich Cape Verde History also had many episodes related with pirates. Sir Francis Drake who attacked Santiago on several occasions, has his name linked to the fire in the Cidade Velha, the original colonial village in Santiago Island. After pillaging what he could, Sir Francis ordered the village to be burnt down.
During the 19th century, due to economic hardship and colonial neglect, a large number of the Cape Verdean population immigrated to the United States on the whaling vessels that regularly sailed to Cape Verde in search of crews.
In 1975 the country became independent, after more than a decade of armed struggle in the jungles of Guinea-Bissau. Initially Cape Verde was ruled by a single party regime that was in power until 1991, but after this date, opted for a multiparty system.
The present population of Cape Verde Islands is approximately 450 thousand inhabitants, spread over the 9 inhabited islands. It is interesting to note that almost a million of Cape Verdeans live outside of their native Islands of which 500,000 in the USA alone.