Transcending European roots: a difficult task for Cape-Verdean intellectuals since 19th century
Luciana Laura Contarino Sparta (Universidad de Buenos Aires)
Paper short abstract:
Unlike in other Portuguese colonies, European education spread in Cape Verde islands. Literate people gave birth to intellectual movements that fought against colonial oppression, but also distinguished themselves from other Africans and built Cape-Verdean identity stressing on European roots.
Paper long abstract:
It would be true to assert that, inside Portuguese empire, Cape-Verdean people benefited from a much more developed and extended educational system in comparison to other colonies. Anyway, it is also true that people who were granted an early access to schools since 19th century had to pay a price for it: they were compelled to delete a shared past with other Africans, related to slavery and oppression, no matter if they belonged to a creole population that descended from European settlers and enslaved continental African women. The first generation of mestizos could achieve father's recognition by means of correcting maternally inherited "blood defects", what included the commitment of chasing fugitive slaves. Literate people covered the lowest administrative positions in Cape Verde colonial government. They also gave birth to local intellectual groups, the Nativistas, who emerged during the last half of 19th century, and the Claridosos, in the inter-war period. Both of them claimed against hunger and lack of opportunities that most of the population suffered in a territory signed by cyclic droughts and absence of official initiatives. At the same time, they worked in the construction of Cape-Verdean nationalism searching a specificity that could distinguish themselves from other Africans and from Europeans at the same time. Our purpose is to analyse these processes of identity building that always fluctuated between two extremes and implied a tension that never could be overcome. Even facing independence as colonized subjects, to define themselves as Europeans appeared clearly as a valid option.