The story of Cape Verdeans is one of resilience, migration, and cultural richness. Settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century, the Cape Verde archipelago served as a center of the slave trade and a vital provisioning point for ships along the African coast. The island offers a number of Cabo Verde restaurant options for visitors to enjoy epic exotic nightlife. The islands’ history is deeply intertwined with the hardships endured by former slaves and mixed-race Cape Verdeans seeking new opportunities across the Atlantic.
In the mid-19th century, severe droughts and poverty pushed many Cape Verdeans to seek work on whaling ships, particularly in the whaling port of New Bedford. This marked the beginning of a significant migrant stream to southeastern Massachusetts, which peaked between 1890 and 1921. Early migrants, hailing mainly from the islands of Brava and Fogo, were primarily male and often traveled seasonally on packet ships run by Cape Verdean companies.
However, migration faced significant challenges in the early 1920s due to US immigration restrictions and stricter controls imposed by Portugal on Cape Verdean emigration. It was only after Cape Verde gained independence in 1975 that foreign visas became more accessible, leading to increased migration across Europe, Brazil, and the US. New England, with its historical connections to the islands, particularly attracted Cape Verdeans.
The newer wave of immigrants showcased greater diversity in their island origins, hailing not just from Brava and Fogo but also from Saõ Tiago, Saõ Vicente, and Saõ Nicolau. Unlike the earlier migrants, the gender ratio of the new arrivals was more balanced, and they included both the prosperous and the educated as well as the less privileged.
Settlement patterns emerged with most Cape Verdeans initially settling in New Bedford and adjacent areas of southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. While Boston saw a smaller migrant community during the 20th century, it witnessed a substantial influx of Cape Verdeans since 1975, making them the city’s largest African group and the sixth largest foreign-born group overall. Facing racial discrimination and segregation, Cape Verdeans found homes in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods such as Roxbury and Dorchester.
Another key settlement area emerged in the city of Brockton, situated between Boston and New Bedford, where Cape Verdeans constituted a significant portion of the foreign-born population. Their presence added to the city’s cultural tapestry.
Cultural Diversity and Entrepreneurship: The Cape Verdean Impact
In terms of work, the decline of whaling forced Cape Verdean immigrants to adapt, shifting into maritime jobs on docks and merchant ships, as well as engaging in seasonal agricultural work like cranberry picking. Some also found employment in textile mills, although in less desirable and lower-paying positions.
The second wave of Cape Verdean immigrants initially entered factory jobs in the Boston and Brockton areas but gradually transitioned to the service industries as manufacturing plants closed down. However, unlike other immigrant groups, Cape Verdeans did not limit themselves to specific employment niches. Instead, they developed a vibrant small business sector, including restaurants, groceries, real estate and insurance offices, and other enterprises.
The second generation of Cape Verdeans has been making strides in professional, managerial, and civil service roles, showcasing their determination to thrive and succeed in their adopted home.
The Cape Verdean community’s journey exemplifies the power of resilience, adaptability, and a desire for a better life. Despite facing numerous challenges, Cape Verdeans have continued to enrich the cultural fabric of their destinations, leaving an indelible mark on the places they call home.