Demographics of Cape Verde

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This article is about the demographic features of the population of Cape Verde, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

The Cape Verde archipelago was uninhabited when the Portuguese discovered it in 1456. African slaves were brought to the islands to work on Portuguese plantations. As a result, Cape Verdeans are mulattos (mestiços in Portuguese), who have mixed African and European origins. European ancestors also include Spanish and Italian seamen who were granted land by the Portuguese Empire, followed by Portuguese settlers, exiles, and Portuguese Jews who were victims of the Inquisition. Many foreigners from other parts of the world settled Cape Verde as their permanent country. Most of them were Dutch, French, British (English), Arab and Jewish (from Lebanon and Morocco), Chinese (especially from Macau), American, and Brazilian (including people of Portuguese and African descent). All of these have been absorbed into the mestiço population.

Statistics from Portuguese administration in the sixties stated that the racial composition of the inhabitants was 78% of mestiços, 21% of “Africans” (i.e. blacks) and 1% of “Europeans” (i.e. whites). Those figures have been overused in several sites, in spite of not being up to date. Since the independence in 1975 the official statistics in Cape Verde have no longer made statistics based on racial groups. Official sources[1] only states “the majority of the population is mulatto” (“…maioritariamente mestiça…”) without stating any number. Ethnically, Cape Verdeans see themselves as a single group, regardless of being mulatto, black or white.

Survival in a country with few natural resources has historically induced Cape Verdeans to emigrate. In fact, of the more than 1 million people of Cape Verdean ancestry in the world, only a little more than one-third actually live on the islands. Some 500,000 people of Cape Verdean ancestry live in the United States, mainly in New England. Many people of Cape Verdean ancestry also live in Portugal, Netherlands, France, Italy, Argentina, and Senegal. Cape Verdean populations also settled Spain, Germany, Canada, and other CPLP countries (Angola, Brazil and Guinea-Bissau). Since after independence from Portugal in 1975, a number of Cape Verdean students continued to be admitted every year at Portuguese high schools, polytechnical institutes and universities, through bilateral agreements between the Portuguese Government and the Cape Verdean Government.

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