Background (history) of Ilha do Maio in Cape Verde

Maio photographs and images 5#1

Welcome to Maio, the Last Paradise

Observing a world map, The CAPE VERDE ISLANDS will appear as small specks about 500km (250 miles) from Dakar, Senegal on Africa’s West Coast. If you strain your vision even further at the southeastern corner you will see the tiny, heart-shaped island of Maio.

Maio belongs to the leeward group of islands located about 25km east of Santiago (the capital), with a surface area of 268km, the longest point (north-south) 24km and the widest point (east-west) 16 km, the highest point is Monte Penoso, with an altitude of 436 m.

In Portuguese Maio simply means May. It was on the first day of that month 1460 that the island was sighted by a Portuguese ship bound for West Africa. It was recorded that Maio had no human inhabitants at that time (Some will disagree.).

Cape Verde developed at a snail’s pace, due to the arid conditions and agricultural mismanagement. Its lack of rain and general interest had a lasting impact on growth. Maio was said to be no more than a cattle ranch with only a few families to tend the animals…however, the small island had one important, naturally-produced commodity....salt!...large, pure mounds of it for the taking (just as it is today near Vila). This one phenomenon was enough to draw the English. Then Vila was known as Porto do Engleis a name which it is often referred to today.

When the salt lost its economic appeal, the British abandoned the small island and once more it was forgotten by the world. (Note: Ironically, after hundreds of years, salt has returned as an economic venture with a new salt processing plant just north of Vila’s beach.)

The island’s lack of economic opportunities prompted mass migration of its young people...the women to the other islands and the men joined their fellow Cape Verdeans to be seamen employed by foreign companies as had their seafaring forefathers.


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Page updated: 23rd April 2012, 16:46