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The History of Praia

Africatravelling Praia

The capital of Cape Verde, an island in the Atlantic Ocean west of Senegal, Praia means "beach" in both Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole. Located on a small plateau in the southern coast of Santiago island in the Sotavento Islands group, it is the largest city of Cabo Verde and the seat of the Praia municipality. The city has an international airport and a ferry port that transports coffee, sugar cane, and tropical fruits. Praia is also a center of the fishing industry and is close to recreational area with beautiful resort beaches.

If you happen to visit Praia make sure you explore the historic landmarks of the colonial city center, such as the Presidential Palace built in the late 19th century, Albuquerque Square and Jaime Mota Barracks (Quartel Jaime Mota) that date back to 1826. The Museu Etnográfico (Ethnographic Museum) founded in 1997 is worth visiting as well.

The history of Praia goes back to 1515 when the first reference to the Port of Praia de Santa Maria was found by Sena Barcelos. That year the caravelle Santa Catarina entered the port to unload 132 African slaves. The first settlement was established at the Port of Praia by people from the villages of Alcatrazes and Ribeira Grande. At that time more and more people started leaving Alcatrazes to move to Praia because it had the port. The new settlement was growing rapidly and by 1536 it had a regular church and was the seat for several authorities.

Since 1528 the village of Praia de Santa Maria was experiencing a major growth. At that time Gomes Balieiro was its captain and governor of justice. He also made sure that the legislative chamber was functioning.

In 1544 two ships were captured in the port of Praia by French pirates. This meant that the port was a passageway for all the ships arriving to these islands, including the vessels from Sao Tome and Brazil.

In 1582 the slave trade was moved from the port of Santiago (Ribeira Grande) to Praia since it had a larger port. In addition, the port of Praia was better sheltered, had some artillery and enjoyed a convenient location that would allow the military to easily build fortifications at the coastal area.

In 1712 twelve pirate warships commanded by Jacques Cassart, dropped their anchors at the port of Praia Negra without any resistance from the local population. The militia commander Manuel Dias de Moura surrendered and was kept as a prisoner at the main church. After disembarking the pirates burned the houses and robbed the inhabitants' belongings.

In 1826 Governor-General Antonio Pusich asked the central authorities to transfer the "capital" from Praia to Sao Nicolau or Sao Antao because the population of the village was plagued by the disease.

In 1826, March 13 the two legislative chambers of the island submitted the report asking to increase the village in rank to a city, capital of the islands, and lordship of Guinea.

Because of Praia's insalubrious conditions the question of moving the "capital" from the village of Praia to Sao Vicente arose in 1835. This proposal was objected though, because the insalubrious conditions could be easily eliminated by local improvements. Another argument to consider was the fact that Santiago had more developed agriculture and bigger population.

In 1836 Governor Domingos Correia Arouca started a company with a capital of 4 million reis to construct a dock in the port of Praia. According to the project the island of Santa Marta was to be linked to land. He also organized the construction of a clock tower.

By decree of April 29, 1858, the village of Praia officially became the city bearing the name "City of Praia de Santiago".

In 1863 the construction of the dock that had started in 1859 was completed.