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Officially known as the Republic of Cabo Verde, Cape Verde is an Atlantic Ocean country 385 miles off the coast of Senegal, Africa. It consists of a group of ten islands, nine of which are inhabited. Together, the islands have an area of 1,557 square-miles, a little larger than Rhode Island.

Santiago is Cape Verde's largest island, and the one on which half the country's population resides. Santiago is between Maio and Fogo, and is one of the Sotavento group of islands. It was the first to be settled, and Cape Verde's capital city, Praia, is on Santiago. Most of the island is mountainous, although the southeastern portion is flatter.

Santo Antão is the largest of the Barlavento group of islands and the second largest in Cape Verde. Made up entirely of volcanic material, its highest point is Tope de Coroa, and the island is divided north to south by a mountain range that was once nearly impenetrable.

The nearest to the African mainland, the island of Boa Vista has a desert-like appearance, with little in the way of vegetation. The island is mostly flat, but it does have some mountains. Its people survive through date farming, subsistence agriculture, and tourism, its beaches being the chief attraction.

Fogo is the most noticeable of the Sotavento group of Cape Verde islands. Not the largest, its prominence stems from the height of its largest mountain, Pico do Fogo, which rises to nearly 10,000 feet. Volcanic eruptions have occurred on Fogo as recently as 1951, 1995, and 2014. In 1680, a volcanic eruption on Fogo continued for a few years.

Situated between Santa Luzia and Sal, São Nicolau is one of the Barlavento group of islands in Cape Verde. The island is mountainous, with flat areas along the coast and in the central portion of the island.

Located south of Boa Vista and east of Santiago, Maio is the eastermost of the Cape Verde Islands. Known for sandy beaches and a large forest. Once mined heavily for salt, today Maio is largely agricultural, its residents growing beans, corn, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. Coconuts and papayas are also grown.

Located between Santo Antão and Santa Luzia, São Vicente is one of the Barlavento islands. Roughly rectangular in shape, the island is mountainous, except in the north-central, central, eastern, and northern sections. Trees were scarce on São Vicente until the mid-1900s and, although efforts at reforestation are underway, most of the island remains deforested.

Sal is one of the Barlavento islands in northern Cape Verde, and home to the country's chief airport. The island was known as Llana until salt deposits were discovered in the late 1700s. Along with Boa Vista and Maio, Sal is one of the three sandy easter islands of Cape Verde. Fairly flat, the island did not have many trees until recently, when they began appearing along its dry streams and on riverbeds.

With a land area of 26 square-miles, Brava is the smallest inhabited island in Cape Verde. Although whaling was once an important industry for island residents, today the island is largely agricultural. North of Brava are two small islands with four uninhabited islets.

Santa Luzia is an uninhabited island with a land area of 14 square-miles. One of the Barlavento islands, Santa Luzia is separated from São Vicente by a channel. Home to a small population in the 1800s, today most of the island is a protected area.

The Cape Verde islands were uninhabited when they were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 1400s. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the islands were used a hub for slave trading, and also attracted pirates and privateers. With the end of the slave trade, the islands went through a long period of decline, but eventually grew to become an important shipping center. Independence from Portugal was achieved peaceably in 1975.

Today, Cape Verde is a representative democracy with a stable economy, based largely on tourism, with light manufacturing and fisheries. The country is a member of the United Nations and the African Union.

Portuguese is the official language of Cape Verde, while Cape Verdean Creole is used locally. Most Cape Verdeans are of mixed European and African descent, European ancestors being Portuguese, as well as Spanish and Italian seamen. Approximately 95% of the Cape Verde population are Christian, most of them being Roman Catholic, with a small population of Protestants and Muslims. Historically, there were Jewish settlements on the islands but they do not register as a significant population group today. Recent immigrants include Chinese, Latin Americans, and newly arrived Europeans.

Burglary and theft are common in Cape Verde, although murders are concentrated in its largest population centers of Praia and Mindelo. Much of the crime is attributed to street children.



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