The town of Cacheu is situated in territory of the Papel people. The name is of Bainuk origin: "i.e. Caticheu, meaning 'the place where we rest'."
Cacheu was one of the earliest European colonial settlements in sub-saharan Africa, due to its strategic location on the Cacheu river. Cacheu developed a European/Afro-European population from the late fifteenth century through informal settlement of Cape Verdian and Portuguese traders, adventurers and outcasts (lancados). The authorities in mainland Portugal also sent to Cacheu degredados - people condemned to exile for a variety of offences.
For most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Cacheu was the official slave trading point for the Portuguese in the Upper Guinea region - the point at which the Portuguese crown endeavoured to ensure that duties on all slaves exported were paid.
Notable buildings in Cacheu include the Portuguese-built 16th century fort, dating from the period when Cacheu was a centre for the slave trade.
^Philip J. Havik, Silences and Soundbites: The Gendered Dynamics of Trade and Brokerage in the Pre-colonial Guinea Bissau Region (LIT Verlag Münster, 2004; ISBN 3825877094), p. 57, citing Cissoko, paper presentation at 5th Centenary Conference 'Cacheu, Cidade Antiga', Cacheu, 1988.
^Disney, AR (2009). A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 51–55.